Moving out of accommodation: International student edition

Student moving out of halls.

Student Engagement Ambassador, Florencia, shares advice on moving out of accommodation for students that are travelling out of the country with their possessions.

Moving houses can be stressful, and dorms and shared houses are no exception. However, it doesn’t have to be! I have moved multiple times, from apartments and dorms, within the UK and internationally. I can say that planning and preparation make a whole world of difference, making the entire process much less painful. In this blog, I share some tips for moving out of accommodation. I will centre mostly on people who are travelling out of the country. This can apply to international students moving back home or any student who has to leave the country.

What should you take?

Check how much you can carry. If you are moving within the UK, you may have access to a vehicle that can store a lot of things. However, if you are travelling by plane, you will be restricted to a much smaller capacity. This includes how many bags you can take with you to the airport and their size and weight.

What I like to do is to separate my things in to three groups:

  1. Items I must take away.
  2. Items I do not need.
  3. Items I am unsure about.

Items you must take: 

I pack them, leaving only what I need for the last couple of days. This step is done at the end, but it is a good idea to assess if it fits in the bag with time

Items you are unsure about:

After packing everything I know I need. I’ll choose what I can take from my “unsure pile” based on what I need and the space I have left. On the plus side, this is an excellent chance to do some spring cleaning!

Some things to keep in mind:

If your country is close to the UK, you may consider shipping some of your things. I recommend doing this with books. However, keep in mind that shipping prices can vary a lot depending on the length of the trip and the country, and some items may be subjected to additional taxes. The reason I suggest books is because they are pretty heavy and generally tax-free as some countries have exceptions and special shipping for printed material.

Try to be practical. What do you really need? Do you really need to take pots and pans, or can you get some when you arrive? Sometimes taking items can be more expensive and wasteful than getting new ones upon arrival, particularly if you are going back home where you already have some of these items.

Plan your meals with the goal of finishing everything you have. You can always give whatever is left to friends or donate through apps like Olio. For the last day before you leave, consider getting an easy meal that does not require much cutlery like take-out or a ready meal.

Items you do not need:

Firstly, gifting things you can’t take to friends who may be interested may be the easiest option. If you live in dorms, the halls also provide an opportunity to donate items to the British Heart Foundation. If you prefer any other charity, you can take your items there. However, this donation opportunity is much easier as you can leave the items at a donation box generally located at your reception.

Selling your unwanted goods is a possibility. However, make sure to check if your visa allows it. Tier-4 international student Visa considers selling items online as self-employment so it is not allowed.

If you must discard items, you can use the facilities provided by the university for widely recyclable items, glass, and clothes. Other items can be dropped at the recycling centre located or points throughout the city such as:

  • Writing material and ink cartridges: Ryman Stationery.
  • Medication blisters: Superdrug.
  • Boots recycle program: For non-recyclable cosmetic packages.
  • Clothes and shoe recycling: Textile recycling bank.
  • Check for more information about what you can recycle here: Re3cyclopedia app /Terracycle.

Don’t travel with plants. Travelling with plants is possible, but for most countries, it is very complicated. I recommend donating your plants to friends or a community garden. You can also ask the university student garden for help.

Packing tips

Generally, you will be limited to one carry-on bag and one or two bags for checking in. Make sure all your bags are in working order before starting to pack. I had the experience of realising one of my bags was destroyed a couple of weeks before moving out. It made the whole experience much more stressful, but luckily since I checked with time, I was able to replace it.

Don’t waste any space. Place small items inside any empty place you can. For example, putting socks and underwear inside shoes. You can also use your clothes to protect fragile items instead of getting bubble wrap.

Checked-in bags:

Take everything you can’t take in your carry-on bag. This includes liquids and sharp objects. Make sure to wash your clothes before packing them as they will be lighter. To make room in your bag, roll your clothes. Rolled clothes take less space and become less wrinkled than folded ones. Don’t put anything too valuable in the check-in bag as it can be stolen.

Carry-on bag: 

Take the items you need on the day before moving and during your trip. Also, take valuable items and things you can’t do without. These items can be cash, technology, phone charger, documentation, medication, masks, etc. Remember that there are items that can’t be checked (like some batteries), so make sure to put them in your carry-on bag.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Try to wear your heaviest clothes (e.g., shoes) while staying comfortable.
  • A hand scale may be very useful to make sure you are staying within the permitted weight.

Cleaning tips

Order is key. Cleaning can be much easier if you order it correctly. Start removing items with time. It does not need to be all done on the last day. If you start giving away/donating items slowly, the process is much easier. Pack everything and clean the room once it is empty. Cleaning an empty table is much easier than one full of things. Put all the trash together and take it last so you can make sure you are not leaving anything behind.

Before travelling:

Make sure you have all the documentation needed to travel. This is not just the passport and boarding pass but also making sure you meet all the migration requirements. Do you need a Visa? Covid-19 testing? Special mask? Passenger location form? Make sure you have everything you need. It is very stressful and expensive to have to do at the airport.

Make sure to give your contact information to anybody who may need it and that you have everyone’s phone/email just in case. It may be more complicated to get them once you are away.

Make sure to let everyone pertinent know you are leaving. This may be by cancelling UK-based services or changing delivery addresses. Some of these things can be online, so if you forget, you can do it when you arrive. As you will receive your security deposit approximately one month after you move out, it is recommendable not to close your bank account until you receive it. However, if you must, make sure to let the accommodations know the new account to which you want them to send the security deposit.

Plan what you will do when you arrive. Will somebody be waiting for you at the airport? Do you know what to do once you are there?

Travelling to the airport: 

If you are able, try spending the last night before leaving at a friend’s place. This will make it easier as you won’t have to think about what to do with the bedding the day you leave. If you are unable, I would recommend making sure everything is ready the night before, leaving only the most essential items out for the following morning. Wake up early and put what’s left away/discard.

Consider arriving at the airport with plenty of time. Generally, the airline will let you know how early you should be. For international travel, three hours is recommended. Most airlines will have an app to speed the process and keep updated. Make sure to check the train schedule if you are travelling by train or the traffic if you are travelling by car.

Make sure you can carry all your bags to the airport. If you have a friend to drop you in their car, it can be very useful. However, if you don’t have access to a car, you can certainly use a train or bus. Just make sure to consider that you will be carrying bags when estimating time.

The actual plane trip:

Try to wear comfortable clothes when you are travelling. If you can wear something heavy, I would recommend it as it will take space and weight from your luggage. Consider not just the plane travel itself, but also the travel to it and possible layovers. Carry snacks and/or food, an empty bottle you fill with water, and anything you need to make the travel more comfortable. Try to keep your documentation and cash close to your body to avoid losing them. Sometimes you are moving to a country with completely different weather from the one you are leaving. I have done this several times. My recommendation is not just to check the estimated temperature at arrival, but also to travel with the clothing for the coldest weather. You can carry them with you or in your carry-on bag if it is uncomfortable. This will avoid the hassle of having to wait until you get your bags to find comfortable clothing for colder weather.

Lastly, try to relax. Moving is always unpredictable and something will always go wrong. Try to breathe and relax and concentrate on trying to find a way to deal with it. Planning with time helps, but don’t fret too much trying to plan every possible situation. Asking your friends for help is also very useful. It can make the whole experience more relaxing and enjoyable. You may feel a little sad when moving away. It is normal, it is a big change. Just try to concentrate on what’s coming. This is a new chapter in your life. It does not mean you are leaving everything behind. You can keep in touch with friends. I certainly have and of course, you can also come back again!

Remember to check charities and recycling centres for places to donate/discard items and check out our ‘Moving out of Halls with Dal Huai’ blog for tips on moving within the UK.

I’ve also written a blog with more information about recycling if you are interested in finding out more!

By Florencia Botta

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