Staying at uni this Christmas? Here’s how to make the most of the time

11th December 2020
Christmas cookies

Recent headlines have focused on the mission to get students home safely for Christmas – with widespread testing and a special ‘student travel window’ running from 3 to 9 December. But what about those who’ve chosen to stay in their university accommodation over the festive period? Don’tworry, you haven’t been forgotten!

You won’t be alone, either – many students often choose to stay put over the Christmas break, due to ongoing placements, the cost of travelling home and even because they want to stay and celebrate with uni housemates.

There are plenty of perks to staying at your uni digs in December – not least because you won’t have to battle your siblings for power over the remote control! And, as student Rika Safrina told Times Higher Education:

“Christmas is the time of the year when we can relish an empty, peaceful campus for a while…Now you can take a longer shower, try cooking new recipes, turn the music up a little bit and dance crazily.”

Sounds fun, right?

It’s worth noting that the Christmas break could be longer than usual this year, as the Government  is encouraging students to stagger their journeys back to university. And although it’s great to have a break from lectures and deadlines, it’s important to stay motivated and look after your mental health during this time. 

Here are some ideas to help you make the most of your time – whether you have flatmates for company or are flying solo.

1. Reach out to others

Trust us, it won’t be just you who has made the decision to stay at uni at Christmas. If no one in your flat is staying, it doesn’t mean you can’t connect with fellow students – you might even make some new friends! Socialising may be very different at the moment, but there are lots of ways you can stay connected during this time. 

While how you can mix with others depends on the ‘Tier' you’re in, you can always reach out virtually. And remember that those in Tiers 2 and 3 can socialise in a group of up to six in outdoor public spaces – so why not arrange a wander in the local park with others who are staying over at Christmas? Your university’s students’ union will also likely have some events on – so be sure to check out their website.

If your flatmates are also planning to stick around (win, win!), plan in lots of activities – check out our recent blog on 18 fun things you can do as a flat – part 1 and part 2.

2. Decorate your room and flat

While it might not reach the lofty heights of your mum’s festive decorating, you can still have a good stab at Christmas decorating on a student budget – and you won’t have to endure the torment of untangling those pesky tree lights, either!

Getting creative is always fun, plus adding some festive cheer to your student accommodation will make everything feel cosier. Here are three quick and easy decorations you can make yourself:

  • Paper snowflakes – This is also a cool way to recycle old paper, but don’t use your course notes just yet! 
  • Cork reindeer – Save your mulled wine corks and get creative with some twigs or cocktail sticks!
  • Green and red paper chains – An effective (and cheap) way of filling the space with festive colour.

And, for students in Alliance House in London, your recycled decorations have even more power – DM us pictures of you getting crafty with recycled Christmas decorations, and we’ll send decorations to homeless shelters in your area. For more information, check out our Sanctuary Students Facebook page.

3. Get your food supplies ordered ASAP

Remember to order your festive food and treats early – especially if you’re planning a Christmas feast with all the trimmings. Talking of which, here are some of our favourite Christmas dinner recipes:

4. Embrace the festive activities

Nothing will get you in the festive mood quite like putting on some cheesy Christmas tunes, getting your baking on, and then settling in for a viewing of Home Alone with the aforementioned baked goods!

At Sanctuary Students, we love a bit of festive baking, and for those of you who have signed up for the first round of Big Night In, we can’t wait to see your gingerbread houses! Don’t forget to tag us on Facebook and Instagram with videos and pictures of your creations using the hashtag #sancstudentsbignightin for your chance to win a £100 Amazon voucher.

You can also use your baking powers for good via our #12DaysOfGoodwill social media campaign. Dinwiddy House and Denmark Road students – for every picture we receive of cakes you’ve made, we’ll buy a gift for The Childhood Trust – The Met Christmas Tree Appeal (Dinwiddy) or 10 selection boxes to Wood Street Mission (Denmark Road). For more information, check out our Sanctuary Students Facebook page.

5. Stay in contact

Make sure that you arrange some festive catch-ups to bring you closer to your loved ones while you’re away – just because you’re not at home, it doesn’t mean you can’t join in with everyone! Remember that your friends and family are only a call/text/WhatsApp/FaceTime away. If your flatmates have gone home, be sure to check in with them as well – why not show them your decorating efforts?

6. Keep up a routine

Another way of staying motivated during the Christmas break is to have a routine. Sure, you might not have much uni work on, but there are plenty of other things you can incorporate into your day. Try to keep to the same times for waking up and going to bed. Although it can feel good to lounge in your pyjamas with a festive film occasionally, long-term it’s much better for your health and mental well-being to get showered and dressed.

And why not use the time to try something new? Learn a new language, try a new recipe or test-drive a new fitness regime. Our recent blog: 10 ways to look after your mental health if you’re self-isolating has some great tips – it was written for those who are self-isolating but many of the tips will still apply.

You could also use your free time to make a difference to those who are less fortunate – such as donating to a food bank. For Preston students that donate food to the Salvation Army food bank, we will match your generosity by donating duvets to the Foxton Centre, a local charity who support homeless adults and young people. For more information on our #12DaysOfGoodwill campaign, check out our Sanctuary Students Facebook page.

7. Go exploring

We understand the first weeks of university were a whirlwind and you might not have had the chance to explore your local surroundings properly yet. So why not be a tourist and go out to see the local sights? Depending on what tier you’re in, many local places should be open, including shops and museums (in Tiers 1 and 2). Plus. if you’re feeling homesick, getting out there and making your new city or town feel more “familiar” can help!

Our student accommodation is centrally located, so there’ll be plenty to do on your doorstep. For inspiration on where to explore in your university town, view our range of city guides.

You can also check out our blog about coping while living away from home.

8. Get some rest!

The start of the university year can always be busy and even overwhelming at times, and 2020 has been particularly unusual. Use the time over Christmas to recharge your batteries and embrace the downtime – it’ll soon be busy and noisy again!

9. Know where you can get support

If you’re alone in your flat this Christmas, it’s particularly important to care for your mental health and look out for any feelings of loneliness and homesickness. Hopefully, the above suggestions will help you connect with others and keep busy during this time, but if you’re feeling low, it’s important you don’t suffer in silence. Talk it through with someone – whether it’s a friend, family member, your GP or university tutor, sharing your feelings will help.

There are plenty of avenues of support you can turn to, including our Student Advice Line from our partners at Health Assured. At Sanctuary Students, your health is our priority, and that’s why we offer professional support to help you with any problems you may face from stress and depression to financial issues and coping. The phone line is open day and night, 365 days a year, and everything you discuss is kept confidential, so there’s nothing to worry about. Call the freephone number on 0800 030 5182 – we’re here as often as you need us for as long as you like.

Make sure your university knows your plans to stay at Christmas– the Government says they are working with providers to help ensure that students staying in their university accommodation over the winter break are supported, including those who are self-isolating.

Making the most of the Christmas break

To conclude, then – whether you celebrate Christmas or not, you shouldn’t miss out on the festive holiday just because you’re staying at university. So whack on a bit of Mariah, go exploring and get some rest – everyone will be back before you know it!