Your guide to enjoying university while living at home

Starting university is a big life change, but making that transition while living at home can take some getting used to. SOAS Students' Union co-presidents Jamal Akram and Reem Walid are here to share their advice and top tips on commuting in London, setting up a study space at home and making the most of social life on campus. 

SOAS Students' Union co-presidents Reem Walid and Jamal Akram
SOAS Students' Union co-presidents Reem Walid (democracy and education) and Jamal Akram (equality and liberation). 

"Are you moving out?"

We're sure you've been asked this 100 times before starting university. You have the answer, but you may not have the guide. If you live at home but are worried about FOMO and distractions or feel like you are missing out on the full university experience, we want to help you feel ready to start your life at SOAS with a few tips.

Make use of your commuting time in London 

Jamal: Living at home means TFL will become your new best friend. For some people, who live on the outskirts of London, it might take an average of 2 hours every day going to and from uni every day, which adds up to around 10 hours every week - that's like watching the first five Harry Potter films without any breaks.

When you see it like that, you begin to understand that such valuable time needs to be used wisely, especially during the busyness of uni life. Invest in some noise-cancelling headphones if you want a peaceful, uninterrupted journey. Pick a podcast and enjoy it on the way to university. It's either that or the deafening sounds of the tube and random NPCs conversations.

Reem: If podcasts aren’t your thing, there are a million other things you can do that are a productive use of time. I found it helpful to study on my way there and then do something fun on the way back, like read a book or pick a hobby. It can give you time to wind down before you get back to home life.

Create a routine at home

Reem: When you live elsewhere, home is a place to relax with family during the holidays, but when you study from home, you don’t have that clear-cut differentiation.  

The lack of differentiation was something I struggled with for quite a while, but towards the end, I realised the most important thing was setting a routine and sticking to it. When studying at home, set an alarm and give yourself a section of the day to work with a designated lunch break. That way, you hold yourself accountable and still establish some separation between studying and home - so when it hits the evening, you can shut your laptop and relax with your family guilt-free!

Jamal: One of the first things you should do is establish a designated study space within your home. This area should be quiet, comfortable, and free from distractions. Having a defined study space will make it easier to stay focused and productive. Keep your desk clean of clothes and dust, so you can get in the right headspace to work. 

Also, remember that living at home means sharing your space with family members who may not fully understand the demands of university life. Open and honest communication is crucial. Discuss your academic goals and schedule with your family to ensure they know your commitments and can support you. 

Don’t let yourself get in a rut about being at university while living from home. I did it like that all three years and wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Be savvy and save money on travel 

Reem: You may be saving money living at home, but travel costs can rack up. They will likely become one of your main outgoings during term time, but there are ways to make it less expensive.

Look at your timetable and plan when you'll be coming to campus. If you're going to travel five days a week during peak times, buy a weekly travel card. If not, the best life hack is to buy a national railcard and connect it to your Oyster, as all pay-as-you-go travel outside peak times is 1/3 off. It saved me A LOT of money during the third year, and I was left wishing someone had told me earlier. 

Making the most of university life  

Jamal: University life while living at home can be a bit different from those in accommodation. To prevent FOMO, I'd recommend making the most of your opportunities, as there are so many social things to do on campus.

Being part of university societies and being on a committee for society is an amazing way to meet people. These people have similar interests, so you already have something to chat about!  I remember making time to go to a range of SOAS Islamic Society events during COVID-19 and meeting people I still speak to regularly today. I spent probably the best 3-years of my life at SOAS, where I grew and learned so much and made friends for life.

Reem: And remember, don’t let yourself get in a rut about being at university while living from home. I did it like that all 3-years and wouldn’t have it any other way. With every situation, there are difficulties, and you can still make the most of university life, but the most important thing is to put yourself out there and enjoy the fact that you go home to a nice shower and a comfy bed!

The Students' Union is here to support you to make your time at SOAS the best it can be - as part of a welcoming, inclusive and active student community. Come to events, join one of 100+ societies to meet others and unwind on campus at the Junior Common Room (JCR).

About the authors

Co-presidents Jamal and Reem are democratically elected officers for the SOAS Students' Union. Jamal Akram studied Law at SOAS and is now a co-president for equality and liberation. Reem Walid studied Politics and International Relations at SOAS and is now a co-president for democracy and education.