Freshers 2020: A guide to packing

Image description: A person with a packing box on their head.

Looking up ‘What to take to university’ on Google can be pretty overwhelming. From lists of only 15 items that seem to assume that university accommodation is a hotel, to articles implying that you should bring the entirety of IKEA, it all seems very chaotic. 

To make things a bit easier, I’ve scoured some of these websites and come up with a (hopefully) clear list of what you may want to bring in Michaelmas Term 2020! 

Documents and Papers

  • Passport
  • ID
  • Biometric Residence Permit or Visa (for internationals!)
  • Acceptance letter
  • Student Finance documents
  • Financial letters from college/university (i.e. scholarship or bursary letters)
  • Debit card(s) – 
    • Setting up a student bank account before starting university is a good plan, as you don’t want to be researching which bank offers the best overdraft deal with an essay due
  • Vaccination info (or a digital copy at least)
  • Discount cards – whether this is a 16-25 railcard or a Boots card


  • Bath towel (1-2)
  • Hand towel
  • Dressing gown (to stay warm in cold accommodation, or for ensuring a higher level of dignity during a 1am fire drill)
  • Toothbrush
  • You can get toiletries like toothpaste etc. when you get to university, but stocking up on shampoo from somewhere like Wilko’s can be a good way to save money
  • Flip-flops are good if your bathroom is communal!
  • Hairbrush/comb
  • Hairdryer
  • Hairband(s)
  • Make-up (if you wear it)
    • Reusable make-up pads can be a more eco-friendly alternative to makeup wipes.
  • Nail-cutters etc.
  • Tweezers
  • Plasters
  • Razor (if you shave)
  • Period products 
  • Contraceptives e.g. pill
  • Painkillers/medication
  • Washbag – useful for transporting toiletries to a shared bathroom, or just keeping things tidy.
  • Bathmat (1-2 depending on how frequently you do laundry)



  • Phone
  • Laptop
    • If you need a new laptop for uni, buying a refurbished one online can be a lot cheaper. Make sure you’re buying from a legitimate website though!
    • A protective case
  • Headphones or earphones
    • These can be essential for working in the library or blocking out external noise when you’re trying to focus.
  • Chargers for computer, phone etc.


  • A portable speaker can be a nice extra – good for hosting pres or providing the perfect soundtrack for cooking pasta (again)
  • If you’re a fan, bring an ethernet cable.

Kitchen (if applicable) or Kitchen-in-your-bedroom

  • Many lists have recipe books. To be honest, I have never opened my student recipe book, but BBC Good Food is in my favourites. If you want to travel light, go for digital recipes instead, or take pictures of your favourite recipes from cookbooks.
  • Knives, forks, spoons and teaspoons (1-2 of each will probably do!)
  • Plate (1-2)
  • Bowl (1-2)
  • Mugs (2-3 is a good number in my experience)
  • Glass (1-2)
  • Sharp knife (serrated and/or non-serrated depending on your bread choices)
  • Scissors 
  • Tupperwares (1-2)
  • Bottle opener
    • You can get one of those magical all in one corkscrew/bottle openers for £3.00 at Wilko’s
  • Chopping board
    • Although the eco-warrior in me loves wooden ones, a plastic one may be more hygienic and also retains flavours less aggressively if you cut up a lot of onions. Choose wisely.
  • Kitchen tongs
    • I’ve used these as a spatula substitute too
  • Big spoon/ladle
  • Frying pan 
  • Saucepan with lid
  • Colander
  • Measuring jug
  • Can opener
  • Peeler
  • Cheese grater (love of my life)
  • Whisk
  • Baking tray
  • Oven gloves
  • Tea towels (2-3)
  • If you drink coffee – Some kind of coffee maker. Wilkinsons does a 1 cup cafetiere for £5.
  • Washing up brush/J-cloths
    • Some people like a sponge, but J-cloths can go through the washing machine easily, don’t take up much space, and are multifunctional. J-cloths are the BEST. You can get these at the Tesco Express in Oxford if you don’t have spares lying around at home.

Quite a few of the packing lists I read had things like foil, washing up liquid etc. on them. Although some things may be cheaper to buy outside of Oxford, you can save a lot of space and aggravation by buying these things when you’re at uni.


  • One set of sheets and a spare
    • Although you could technically get away with one duvet and pillow cover, it’s nice to have the ability to change your bedsheets even when you don’t have time to put a wash on. 
  • Pillow and duvet
    •  I also like a warm blanket for a cosy evening study. If you have a vacuum bag lying around, these save a lot of space when transporting bedding. *CHECK THE SIZE OF YOUR BED BEFORE PURCHASING NEW BED LINEN*
  • Hangers for clothes
  • Reusable shopping bag/laundry bag
    • Some people like a laundry hamper, but a reusable shopping bag works just as well. And it’s easy to carry to and from washing machines.
  • Some kind of mirror
    • A small one may do, but if you’re into fashion maybe opt for a longer one (It can also make a dark room appear brighter!) Most bathrooms provide a small mirror
  • Alarm clock/phone with alarm
  • Earplugs – good for blocking out noises from your neighbour that you don’t want to hear (you can probably get this from Boots in Oxford though!)
  • Clothes airer/horse (if your college allows you to dry clothes in your room)
  • Pictures of family/friends/pets
    • Pushpins – Every single university room seems to have a corkboard. I don’t know why this is a thing. It is.
  • Any jewellery/sunglasses/assorted accessories
  • Kettle
    •  If you haven’t got a kitchen, a kettle can be a good way to a) gain kettle-less friends and b) have a late night cuppa while you study


  • Mattress protector – You could check how comfy your bed is before you get one, as some colleges have much newer mattresses, but I got one of these for my second year and it revolutionised my naps.
  • Hot water bottle if you’re a fan or struggle with menstrual cramps or other pain.
  • 1-2 books for recreational reading (if you’re a reader)
    • I always bring more than I have time to read. There are loads of brilliant bookshops in Oxford, so don’t go overboard. The Last Bookshop in Jericho is excellent, and offers discounted books because of small misprints or ‘boring’ covers.


  • Reusable facemask (1-3) – It’s probably a good plan to pack more than one, just in case you don’t get a chance to wash one between uses.
  • Bring the clothes you want to wear – a lot of these lists say jeans, t-shirts etc. Bring clothes that are weather appropriate and that you want to wear. You probably don’t need your shorts in winter. You know what clothes you like. Bring them.
  • Underwear – I’d suggest bringing more socks than you think you’ll need because sometimes you just don’t have time to do laundry.
  • A warm coat – Oxford can get pretty cold!
  • Waterproof coat
  • Pyjamas (1-2 pairs) 
  • Formal clothesSome formal clothes for fancier events.
    • If you don’t have anything for formal events, there are a couple of charity shops in Oxford, and Ebay can also be great if you have time on your side. 
  • Smart shoessee above
  • Trainers/comfy everyday shoes
  • Slippers/warm socks
  • Shopping bag!
  • Gym/swimming gearIf you’re an exercise fan
  • Bag for nights out (unless you have big pockets) – keep your friends close, and your phone/id/wallet closer
  • Clothes for whatever activity you might sign up for at the (probably virtual) Freshers’ fair – although there are lots of shops in Oxford, so don’t necessarily worry about going and buying stuff beforehand.


  • Pens/pencils
  • Ruler for STEM students (or other ruler-demanding subjects like music)
  • Rubber
  • Pencil sharpener if your subject uses pencils
  • The three S’s – scissors, stapler and staples
  • Highlighters
  • Writing paper (You don’t need loads, they do have paper in Oxford)
  • Folder(s) if you’re a master of organisation
  • Diary/planner/Google calendar
  • Post-it notes
  • Calculator for STEM/calculating bills
  • Textbooks


  • Backpack/bag – for carrying heavy books around Oxford
  • Umbrella  – for the horrible rainy weather of England

Extra (general):

  • Fairylights – may be a cliche, but I’ve had some since the beginning of uni, and they are the BEST. My college only allows battery-powered ones for fire safety, so check with your college!
  • An extra lamp – If you’re someone who doesn’t thrive in darker spaces, an extra lamp may not go amiss
  • Any decorations you want – A plant collection can spice up a room, purify the air, and improve the oxygen levels! Succulents are hard to kill.
  • Any musical instruments you wish to bring – do remember that you have neighbours so maybe keep the bagpipes at home.
  • KeepCup for hot drinks–  They sell these all over Oxford – lots of Oxford’s libraries allow you to bring hot drinks in, but only in these cups currently. They sell them all over Oxford, so never fear if you don’t have one. Your college may even do its own branded one.
  • Pack of cards – if you like poker
  • Snacks to bribe friends – Greggs has just opened in Oxford
  • Yoga Mat – Yoga is a great way to relax in a busy term (there are lots of free online yoga classes). If a mat is a bit expensive though, carpeted floors work too.
  • Reusable water bottle
  • A reed diffuser can be a good way to make your room a little fancier. Febreze works too.
  • Extension lead(s)VERY useful. You never know how many plug sockets your room will have, or how accessible they will be.
  • Hobby-related things, like a camera or paint


  • Buying supplies for freshers can be exciting for some and very nerve-wracking for others, especially if money is an issue. Please look into financial aid on both the college and university level if this is the case, as there are many bursaries and scholarships available to students which you may be eligible for.
  • I made the stupid mistake of buying lots of books that I didn’t need for my course. If you do need to buy books beforehand, sites like Abebooks can offer discounted prices. Also, many colleges provide book grants to cover book purchases up to a certain amount of money, so look into what your college/department offers on this front.
  • Check what your college provides!
    • Most colleges will have information on what is included in accommodation (and what you can and can’t bring)
    • This may depend on how rooms are balloted, so you may want to hold off on buying stuff until this information is released.
      • For instance, my college had specifications on what kind of mini-fridge you could bring, and also stated that they would provide desk lamps.
  • It may be a good plan to check where your accommodation is in relation to local supermarkets. If you’re far away from a local shop, then it may be worth planning a shop out so that you can get it out of the way quickly for Freshers’ week.

Student Discount/budgeting resources, tips and links:

  • Save the Student –
    • Save the Student also has loads of tips for budgeting
  • Student
  • Many shops offer 10% or more off as a student discount, so make sure to ask at the till!
  • Nanovert – I’ve just heard of nanovert, which is a platform where you advertise for a business by sticking it on your Instagram – e.g. a cup of coffee from an affiliated coffee shop, and you can get money/freebies in return. 
  • I personally found that having something like a Monzo card was very helpful with budgeting, as you can set a weekly/monthly budget, and it keeps you updated on how much you are spending.

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