It is extremely exciting choosing which university to go to. You may even start to imagine yourself living in an entirely new town, city or even country for the next few years. But how do you know how far away from home to move for university?
Every student is unique and no one university experience fits all, so I’m afraid I can’t just tell you the answer. I have some friends who very rarely visit home and others who go home every weekend, and that’s the thing about university, you really can tailor it to who you are and what will make you happiest. Here are a few factors to help you decide how far away you might want to move:
A common misconception is that you have to move far away to gain your independence – that’s not true. No matter how far you move away for university you will learn to look after yourself and you will become very independent. However, moving far away can mean that you find yourself without a local support system of friends and family. Therefore, if you are someone who would prefer to have a more accessible support system then it may be best to look at universities that are a little closer to home. You will still have your independence, but also find it easier to connect with family and friends.
If you choose to go to university further away from home it is worth bearing in that it will cost more to get home. This will restrict how often you can go back during the academic year (no quick trips to do your laundry!) and will also mean that traveling home for appointments, such as at the dentist, isn’t feasible. So, if you do decide to move further away don’t forget to arrange alternative services within your first few weeks at university.
That said, if you do decide on a university that’s further away but find you also want to go home often, don’t worry too much. If you are organised about when you want to travel and book in advance then you can travel by train or National Express quite cheaply, especially if you buy a 16-25 railcard or a Young Persons Coachcard, which both give you 1/3 off tickets.
Some students find it easier to settle in and develop their social group if they have a completely fresh start in a new place. You may feel more comfortable establishing and making time for new friendships when you don’t have to worry about giving enough time to old ones.
On the other hand, some students feel more comfortable going to university with a pre-existing network of friends to rely upon and see throughout the semester. In my case, there are a lot of people from my school who also attend my university and I have found that in this situation you definitely don’t see them all the time and you do have space to establish new friendships. Plus, seeing familiar faces around campus can be quite reassuring, especially in your first year.
A radically different culture can affect whether you enjoy living somewhere, so it’s important that you not only research the university that you are looking at but also its location to establish whether you’ll be comfortable there. If you go to university somewhere with a similar culture to your home town, then the synergies between cultural norms may help you to settle in and feel at ease. Additionally, if you go to university very close to home then you will already have knowledge of the surrounding area. This can help you feel more confident in your first few weeks, and you can even invite new friends to places that you know!
That said, university is one of the best times in your life to move away and experience a new place, and to expand your horizons before you settle down. So if you think you would enjoy heading somewhere new, it’s worth giving it a go while you have the freedom to.
Many students feel that the only option when going to university is to move out of their family home, even when attending a local university. There are benefits to moving into university accommodation, such as living with your peers or being close to your lectures and seminars, but it isn’t for everyone. I know many students who commute to university and it is definitely a viable option if you want to go to a local university, particularly if you want to save money.
What should I do then?
Choosing where you want to move for university is a big decision and you may start to feel stressed about making the ‘perfect’ choice. However, there really isn’t a perfect decision and no one can tell you what will be best for you. You will develop, change and adapt during your time at university and you will find a way to make university work for you. Besides if you choose something that really doesn’t work for you, it’s never too late to change – a friend of mine decided that she didn’t like being at university at the other end of the country, so transferred to one closer to home. Just remember, there are many different ways to live at university and there is definitely no right or wrong choice, so as long as you choose what is right for you, you will have a great time!
By Olivia O.