Going off to university is one of the most challenging and exciting moments for our children – but it’s also extremely challenging and exciting for us. It’s the first time we properly glimpse their independence – as much as they love us, they no longer need us anymore and they are ready to face the big bad world.
At the helm of this big life adjustment (for both them and us), there is the university move-in day. This is the day you’ve probably been thinking about (maybe even dreading) for the whole summer, and perhaps even for their whole lives. You say goodbye – not for good, but sometimes it feels like it – and it’s often a hectic, emotional blur.
If you’re not sure what to expect on that big day, we give you the run-down of what awaits you as you cart your child off to university, and move them into their halls or shared houses. If you’ve already taken your kids to uni, you’ll know these stages all too well…
Stage 1: Leaving the house
No doubt you will be leaving early, and you’ve probably not had much sleep, so the morning is sure to be a very tired, very busy one. Fortunately, you won’t have to tackle the dreaded getting-them-up chore, because they’ll probably be eager as can be to get going. You’ll be shouting at them to remember things as they pack up the last of their belongings, and you’ll try to stay calm when they repeatedly run upstairs to grab things they’ve forgotten. It’ll be all hands on-deck loading their things into the car – if you have a daughter, you’ll likely panic that all her clothes are simply NOT going to fit, but somehow it all does. As you close their bedroom door, almost-empty aside from their teddy bears (which they refuse to take) and childhood books, you’ll probably start to get emotional. Don’t worry – the emotions have only just begun!
Stage 2: In the car
Once everything is fully packed and you are securely squished under cushions, lamps and clothes dryers, you will probably panic that you have forgotten things, and demand a run-through of the uni checklist. Duvet – check; ID – check; huge bag containing every kind of medication they could ever need – check. The uni-move-in car-journey is likely to consist mainly of, a) shouting at the sat-nav, b) complaining about the traffic and c) being forced to listen to your son’s hip-hop music. It is the last time you’ll see him for a few weeks, after all.
Stage 3: Arriving at accommodation
Arriving at the university is the most daunting but exciting part. Your child will be desperately looking out the window as you arrive, trying to suss out the new arrivals and getting the first glimpse of their home for the year. You, meanwhile, will also be passing judgement on these new arrivals – you hope that sensible-looking boy in the nicely-ironed shirt will become his new best friend, and you really hope that derelict-looking building is not their halls. Entering into the accommodation, you will quietly assess the room for cleanliness and health and safety. “Make sure you don’t hang wet clothes in your bedroom as you’ll make it damp!” you’ll say, as your child rolls their eyes and leaves you to unpack while they suss out their new neighbours.
STAGE 4: Unpacking
The first thing you will do is make their bed – it won’t feel like a home until the bed is made. They’ll probably already be gallivanting off down the halls, knocking on doors and making new friends. You can feel them slipping away already! When they finally come back in to ‘give you a hand’, they’ll probably leave you to do all the heavy lifting while they engage in the fun stuff, like putting the photos up, unpacking the snacks and alcohol they’ve bought, and chatting away with their new neighbours, sharing stories about their gap years and party holidays.
STAGE 5: Saying goodbye
You’ll probably linger as long as possible, fussing in their room, folding their towels and hanging their fairy lights, to avoid this exact moment. “Mum, I’m going to go with Sarah and Joe to explore campus now” will probably be your cue to leave, let them settle in and enjoy their Freshers week. “Don’t drink too much”, you’ll say, and you’ll remind them to have fun, be safe and stay in contact. “Yes, yes, I will”, they’ll reassure you, and there’s nothing you can do but believe them. “Remember you can always come home” – this is probably the moment the tears will start flowing (if they haven’t already).
STAGE 6: The car journey home
As soon as you get into the car, you’ll already be missing them and worrying about how they’ll get on. For the entire journey, you’ll have to resist texting them and checking up on them – you know they’ll text you if they need to, and they’re probably already having the time of their lives! Arriving home, you’ll definitely feel like you’ve walked into a half-empty nest – but don’t worry, there are reasons to embrace it!