Ok, so I think we can all safely say that this year isn’t exactly the university year we had planned, whether you’re in first year and were looking forward to a year of crazy night out stories (everyone ends up with a traffic cone in their flat at some point), or you’re a final year student like me who just wanted to do everything Exeter has to offer before leaving. (Don’t talk to me about Christmas balls, I WILL cry).
But this year doesn’t have to be a boring one. We might not be able to go to Fever for a sweaty night out, or even to a café with all our course mates (I mean, we can’t even go to campus on the regular…), but there are still plenty of fun things to do with your housemates to help you stay connected and happy. Whether you need to pass the time in between Zoom calls, or have a fun night in to help you forget about the fact that you just accidentally split your tea down yourself on your Teams meeting (we’ve all done it), this blog post has got you covered. We got 99 problems (including a pandemic), but having fun despite a 10PM curfew sure ain’t one of them.
- Munch on a bit of Brunch
In my personal experience, there isn’t much a good brunch can solve, and what better than a homemade one? Ok, so I know we all love a good Boston Tea Party trip, but if you make your own at home you can wear your pyjamas and get unlimited coffees – absolute gamechanger.
I’m thinking pancakes with allll the toppings – go on, I’m giving you permission to be wild and treat yourself to a house Co-op trip: Think fresh fruit, honey, yoghurt, nut butters, lemon, sugar, Nutella, or switch it up and go for a savoury option. We all know that online learning can get a bit dull, so this is the ultimate way to cheer yourself up and spend some quality time with your housemates before starting work for the day. After all, pancakes = productivity (definitely my motto).
- Study Break in Style
Afternoon slump? Nothing a hot chocolate can’t fix. And I don’t just mean a bog standard, more milk than chocolate kind of deal – nope. Fix a date/time with your housemates and make sure you’re prepared to make hot chocolates better than any café you know… whip out the squirty cream, grab the marshmallows - to hell with it, go wild and buy any chocolate of your choice to decorate them with. I promise you won’t be disappointed! Even if you’ve got a busy day of Zoom-ing and course reading, knowing that at 4PM you’re going on a virtual café trip will power you through! Whether it’s for 30 mins or an hour and 30 mins, make the most of it and have a good ol’ natter with your besties. The work can wait. Remember: just because you can’t leave the house as much doesn’t mean you can’t have some decent study breaks!
- Escape for a Day
You’ve had a hard week packed full of essays and group work calls, and now that it’s the weekend it’s time to relax! Get your housemates together and make the most of a day/morning/afternoon off – jump on the train and go on an adventure to Exmouth, Topsham, or one of the other beautiful places in Devon. Just remember your mask and plenty of hand sanitiser!
- Decorate, decorate, decorate
As we’re all going to spending a lot more time at home, why not make your flat/house the cosiest it can possibly be? It’s a hard time to be away from home at the moment, so find a time when no one’s needed virtually, and get your housemates together to spend an hour or two making your living space as comfy and homely as you can. Get out the fairylights, bunting, cushions, and photos, and have a good catch up while you decide how best to jazz up your new home! Having a nice living environment is so important when you’re living and studying in the same place, and if you’re struggling, I promise this will make the world of a difference to your mental health. Fairylights really do help.
- PIZZA TIME
When you’ve got a long day of course work ahead of you, having something fun to look forward to with your housemates in the evening makes everything seem better, so why not go all Italian and have a homemade pizza night! If you’re feeling properly GBBO go for it and make the dough too (https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/bread-recipes/basic-pizza/ - this one is fail safe!), but if you’re feeling a little lazier, Sainsbury’s do an amazing ready-made pizza dough – roll out, add your toppings, whack it in the oven and you’re away! Get the music on and enjoy spending an evening with your housemates chatting and relaxing, whilst trying to make the most delicious pizzas possible! Go as simple or as fancy as you like with ingredients – my favourites are a mixture of tomato puree and passata for the base topped off with sundried tomatoes, mozzarella, Parma ham and plenty of salt and pep!
- Cocktail Night
Just because clubs are closed doesn’t mean you can’t have a drink or two, get a bit silly, and have a giggle! Club together with your house and see what spirits/mixers you have, and get creative! You could make traditional cocktails or come up with your own special in-house blend (naughty). The ultimate way to unwind after a day sat at your desk.
No, I’m not talking to the dog, I’m talking to you! It might feel a bit middle-aged (no hiking pole included though), but try to find a time in the day where some/all of your housemates can join you for a walk. Whether you go for 20 mins or an hour, getting out and breathing in the fresh air always makes everything feel better. After all, everyone needs space to have a good moan sometimes. When everything is online, it’s so important for your emotional wellbeing to get outside and remember that the real world still exists – it always helps get your stresses back in proportion too. Go on a specific route, or just wander and get to know the city better! Whilst the Quay is beautiful, Exeter also has some lovely parks, including Heavitree, Hamlin Lane, Belmont, and Mincinglake Valley Park. Take a break from the screen and enjoy the Autumn colours. If no one’s free, use it as an opportunity to have some you time and enjoy the peace. You could also listen to a podcast, or ring family/friends at home for a catch up.
- GBBO here we come
We all need a break from work sometimes, and doing some baking with your house is the best way to destress! Find a recipe that you all really want to make (come on, it’s got to have some chocolate in it), and spend an afternoon getting creative and having fun in the kitchen! Baking is such a good way to relax, plus you get something yummy to nibble at the end… It’s always going to be a win win. If you’re not up for making anything too complicated, or you don’t have many ingredients, make a simple crumble (plums and cinnamon is a winning combo), and pop on a film to watch while you munch! Everyone likes a crumble, and pudding is the best reward at the end of a long day. PS, if you have any leftover crumble topping whack it in the freezer for instant crumble another day – your future self (and housemates) will be eternally grateful.
- Friday night? Takeaway night
Sometimes you want to cook, sometimes you just… really can’t face it after staring at a screen all day?? Grab your housemates, get out Deliveroo and order a tasty meal to celebrate making it till the end of the week! Life is hard at the moment, and we all deserve a Friday night pick me up as a little pat on the back. Be lazy and enjoy it.
- Treat yo’self – with a pamper night!
Indulge in some self-care with style. Get one person on the spa music, someone else can chop the cucumbers (my eye bags at this point are probably beyond cucumbers, but we can try), and get the face masks at the ready! Lie back, relax, and pretend you’re in an expensive spa and not squidged on the sofa with your feet resting on someone’s clothes airer. And don’t forget the snacks!
If you’re struggling for inspiration for fun things to do that aren’t affected by the 10pm curfew, you need look no further than this list! Find a time when you’re all free, and make the most of this strange time and spend it really getting to know your flat/house, and make some memories! After all, now when you’re older now you’ll have plenty of stories about that time in your third year at university when you all made enough pizzas to sink a ship because you were living through a pandemic, so why not??