A brief introduction to adulting

Tu Duong
Created: 2 weeks, 3 days ago
Last modified: 1 week, 5 days ago

No one will be there telling you what to do, and you will need to decide what you want to delve deeper into. Many students might find this exhilarating, while others might feel slightly nervous with the volume of freedom they have. The university will give you a lecture timetable, but you will have to schedule your supervision (Cambridge) or tutorial (Oxford) times. As a Humanities student, I have 8 hours of lectures per week – this number will vary depending on your subject, with STEM students likely to have more lectures and lab time. The first part of semi-adulting would be using this “free” time wisely. It is very tempting to scroll on TikTok endlessly, but make sure you hold yourself accountable to finish your work and do your reading. I recommend getting a friend to work with you and getting screen time limits to prevent you from doom scrolling (even though you will most likely press "ignore for today").

You need to eat! It is very easy to forget to eat (I have done this) when there is no one around to shout at you that it is dinnertime. At Cambridge, remembering to eat can simply mean going to the dining hall. All colleges in Cambridge are catered accommodation, and you can charge the meal onto your student card. However, some people (myself included) prefer to cook their own meals which adds another layer to that semi-adulting life. You will need to do your grocery shopping and learn how to portion - which I don't think I will ever succeed in doing. It is very easy to end up cooking a meal for six when you are the only one eating! I would recommend learning to cook a few simple dishes and looking at prices for certain food supplies to help yourself budget and not have to survive on pesto pasta. Set an alarm to remind yourself to eat as well!

I dread this part of semi-adult life. For some, going to university will be the first time they do their own laundry. You will have to go out and buy your own detergent capsules and laundry powder, you will have to figure out how to use the laundry machine, how you will pay, and what your laundry setting would be since these settings vary between machines. Once you work out how washing machines and dryers work, you will have to figure out how different clothing pieces are washed. You will have to separate your whites (and pastels) and your darks (deep-coloured), check the tag on each piece of clothing just to find out some of your sweaters can’t be put into the dryer while other clothing items need to be washed at a specific temperature. Once you sort the piles out, you figure out that one pile will not fill up the washing machine, making you feel like doing laundry is a waste of money. I probably don't have a tip for making the process less annoying but familiarizing yourself with all the washing symbols and accepting that you will not always be able to adhere to the washing instructions for the pieces of clothing are starting points. Just try your best with laundry! One final reminder: your bed sheets and towels need washing regularly (fortnightly or monthly)!

As an international student, one of my earliest “adulting” experiences was going to the bank and opening a bank account. This process often involves preparing the documents (your BRP, passport, and depending on the bank, a letter of confirmation from the school) and filling out the application form. The major problem I had with the application form involved getting my name right (which was a bit complicated with how names are ordered in my country). If ever in doubt, ask your tutor, people at the bank, or even members of the JCR – they will be there to help you. Since rent and college charges are paid through direct debits, setting it up was also something I was slightly scared of – but it is much easier than expected, so do ask for help if you need to. Make sure to have enough money in your account before the payment due date.

This leads me to budgeting. Everyone's budget is different, but it is a good idea to have a rough budget for your weekly spending or at least a set of things you would allow yourself to pay for – just to prevent overspending. Try out for the first few weeks to see what works for you, and try your best to stick to it. In Cambridge, it is highly recommended that you don't work during term time, and this might mean your budget will be tight. If you ever face any financial difficulties, it is advised that you reach out to the Tutorial Office to see if there is any help available. Every college has bursaries, funds, and scholarships which can help to alleviate the financial pressure.

University is where you will slowly learn some key aspects of adult life – cooking, doing laundry, time management, handling freedom, and taking care of yourself. It will always be a learning journey and a process of trial and error – but don't be afraid to reach out for help. There will always be someone you can turn to whether that be your tutor, director of studies, senior tutor, the JCR members, the porters, or the nurses. Ask questions if you have any, and I hope you enjoy your first steps in becoming an adult!