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The prospect of living on your own as a student, especially if you’re out of home for the first time, can be a little daunting. Cooking, cleaning, travelling, budgeting, socialising and studying at the same time can be a tricky mix - but the truth is that preparing yourself is half the battle.

Must-haves for Moving Out

With the little things taken care of, you’ll have the time to work on making new friends, exploring your campus and city. It’ll make adjusting to your new life for the next few years so much easier, so, we’ve set out some ideas to set your mind at ease and prepare you for the exciting life of a university student.

A new living space comes with a sense of freedom, especially if you’re living alone, but also more responsibilities. Maybe you’re used to cooking meals, cleaning kitchens and bathrooms, washing dishes, doing laundry, and exhausting yourself with everyday chores, but if you’re not so familiar, you might be asking yourself, “What would I need to survive as an independent student living in a flat?”

Home and Kitchenware

Let’s start with the essentials to make sure your housekeeping bases are covered. It’s great to come prepared with everyday household items, the little things that your parents usually buy – which are way more valuable now that you’re taking on the responsibility of looking after yourself. 

These items would fit well, alongside our detailed shopping list:

  • Crockery: Bowls, mugs, side-plates, dinner-plates.
  • Cutlery: Knives, forks, spoons, spatulas.
  • Cleaning supplies: Dish soap, sponges, kitchen cloths. 
  • Bug sprays
  • Bin bags
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic containers with lids for delicious leftovers
  • Extension cords and chargers
  • Laundry bag and liquid 
  • Towels and shower mats 
  • Tin and bottle openers 
  • Pots and pans 
  • Microwave, toaster and kettle (if required).
  • Dishwashing liquid and surface cleaning detergents



Style and Wardrobe

In terms of your style and wardrobe, it’s better to pack light and wash often, but it’s also crucial to come prepared for all kinds of weather and activities. Comfortable casual clothes for attending classes and working at home is a solid starting point. In addition, an outfit or two for going out with friends and something slightly more formal for potential part time job interviews or special occasions is necessary.

Cape Town’s winter weather makes jerseys and rain jackets a necessary choice for your suitcase, as well as flip-flops and bathing suits for a day at the beach or a dip in the pool in the warmer months. 

Some recommended clothes include:

  • Winter: Beanie, leg warmers, jeans and tracksuit pants, raincoat, long sleeve tees, jerseys, gloves(optional).
  • Summer: A couple pairs of shorts, flip-flops, short sleeve tees, swimming trunks/bathing suits.
  • General: Comfortable casual clothes for class and studying and a formal outfit for special occasions.

Remember to bring hangers to suspend your clothes in your cupboards (these can also come in handy for drying clothes if you don’t have access to a tumble dryer or washing line).



Medication and Self-care

Making space for medication and other personal care items is also a wise idea. Whether your choice is allopathic or homeopathic meds, immune boosters and supplements to stave off colds and the flu are vital parts of your survival kit. 

Similarly, tablets for pain, headaches and stress are also items to check off your list. As you become accustomed to your new lifestyle they’re good to have “just-in-case”.

A small list for a trip to the pharmacy: 

  • Headaches and pain: Grandpa, Nurofen, Myprodol, Panado.
  • Burns: Burn creams or gel patches. 
  • Illnesses like colds and flu: Vitamin C tablets or effervescents, Sinutab, Tylenol. 
  • Personal care items(things you might use in the bathroom): Shavers and shaving cream, feminine hygiene products, makeup, body lotion, nail clippers.

Bathroom Basics

In addition to personal care products, basics for the bathroom may include:

  • A shower/bath mat
  • Hand towel
  • Body towel
  • Hand Wash
  • Body wash, shampoo and conditioner
  • Toilet cleaner (like Duck)
  • Bleach or mixed use cleaning detergent like Mr Muscle
  • Toilet brush and plunger
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste 
  • Cleaning cloth and mop


Dinner Ideas

Chipping in for bulk grocery hauls and creating cheap but delicious meal ideas are great ways to bond with your new roommates. If you’re looking for more savvy, money saving tips for students, you should check out our article, “13 Sneaky Ways To Save Money As A Student (Today)“.

Student life often means that you can’t afford to go out all the time, so making meals at home has to be just as tasty and interesting. Following recipes is a fantastic way to experiment and grow your cooking knowledge, whether you’re new to cooking or just looking to devise meals on a budget, we have some ideas:

  • Chicken Curry: A wholesome meal with rice, spices, chicken and rotis (add some lentils if you’re feeling adventurous).
  • Chili con carne: A mix of mince, onions, kidney beans, tomatoes and herbs served with rice.
  • Mac and cheese: A classic dish composed of macaroni pasta and melted cheese. Serve with chopped bacon bits for extra enjoyment.  
  • Chicken breasts and rice: A simple but tasty homemade meal. Chicken breasts are relatively inexpensive and when paired with some mixed herbs or spices, they are really tasty and can be diced and pan fried, or cooked whole in the oven. If you want to change things up, add some potatoes to your oven tray and let them roast until they turn golden brown.
  • Pasta and tinned sauces: Pasta can be one of the cheapest items to buy at the supermarket. Basic spaghetti paired with a tinned chopped tomato and onion sauce is a cheap meal that only takes about 20 minutes to make. If you’re feeling more adventurous, make your own tomato sauce and consider adding diced sausages or your choice of meat.

Stationery Supplies

We’ve covered almost all of the basics, except one of the most important aspects of being a student – having the right stationery to prepare you for your classes and deadlines. 

Being organised while studying at a university level is important. Unlike high school, there aren’t teachers to coach you about keeping your notes organised or handing in tasks on time. 

Therefore, a good idea is to make sure that you have all the correct tools to stay on top of your workload. Vital items may include:

  • A laptop
  • Lever arch files
  • Exam pad or a notebook.
  • Pens, pencils and fine liners
  • Highlighters and permanent markers.
  • Calculator
  • Rulers, erasers and glue sticks.
  • A small white board for organising your deadlines at home(optional).



A stationery list will differ with regard to the course for which you’re enrolled. More creative degrees might require additional pieces of stationery such as:

  • Lino and cutting tools.
  • Paints and watercolours.
  • An array of different pencil grades (HB – 6B).
  • Copic markers and coloured pencils.
  • Large papers (A1/A2) and canvases.
  • Sketch pads or tablets for digital design.

Adding a calendar is great if you struggle to keep up-to-date with your assignments. Obviously, smartphones have built in calendar apps but if you’re someone who enjoys a more analog approach and prefer planning your week on your desk at home, then it’s a great idea. 

The same goes for an alarm clock. At the best of times, we all struggle to crawl out of bed in the early hours, so why not make sure you’re up and ready to go in case your phone dies during the night.



If you’re a parent who’s reading our survival guide, we have a post catered just for you. Calm any nerves and let us help you plan  of your child’s transition to a university lifestyle and new living situation. Check out our post, The Parent’s Guide to Student Accommodation to find out more.

Feeling overwhelmed about where to stay while completing your course? Pay us a visit!

Whether you’re studying at the University of Cape Town (UCT), Varsity College or any number of universities in the Mother City, we provide the resources you need to work alongside young, fun and dynamic learners. Our student accommodation includes WIFI, parking, secure blocks, a gym, recreational areas and a stunning view of Table Mountain. Check out our exciting student apartments!

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