How to make your dorm room feel like home
Moving away from home to study abroad is both an exciting and nerve-wracking right of passage. If it’s your first time leaving friends, family, and the creature comforts of home, adjusting might take some time — and that’s absolutely normal. It’s important to give yourself time to get to know your new city, make friends, and find the positives.
One thing that will help you settle in, is having a cozy and comfortable place to call home. Whether you’re staying in a dorm room, student residence, or host family, here are a few ideas to make your room feel like home.
1. Hang photos
Photos are the cheapest and easiest way to make a space your own. Print out some photos of your friends, family, and pets from home and stick them up with Blu-Tack (as it doesn’t damage walls). When you’re feeling homesick, it’ll remind you of just how many people love you at home, they’ll all be waiting for you when you return.
2. Bring your own bedding
Dorm room beds are not always known for their luxurious bedding. So swap out any scratchy sheets and blankets for your own. If you have room in your suitcase, bring your faves from home, otherwise head down to the shops and pick up a new set you love. Having somewhere cozy and comfy to sleep every night will do wonders for your sleep hygiene and mood.
Living out of a suitcase is not only annoying, but it will prevent you from feeling settled. Take the time to unpack your clothes, arrange your things, and pack away your suitcase so that the space feels like you really live there. If your room doesn’t have a cupboard, grab a cheap garment rack from IKEA, or some clear storage containers on wheels that you can store under your bed.
4. Pack your creature comforts
While you might not sleep with a teddy anymore, there is bound to be something that you can squeeze into your suitcase that reminds you of home. It might be a fluffy dressing gown, a favorite coffee cup or tea variety, your pillow, or some comfy slippers. Those simple creature comforts will make a world of difference while you’re spending hours in your room studying.
5. Stock up on snacks
As an Australian, I never go overseas without two things in my suitcase — vegemite and Tim Tams. A bite of vegemite toast for breakfast and a Tim Tam before bed are all I need to help me overcome any homesickness.
So before you move away, and especially if you’re moving abroad, stock up on your favorite snacks and treats so you’ve always got a taste of home. And if you run out, care packages filled with snacks from home are always a great mood booster.
6. Create some privacy
If you’re sharing a dorm room, finding privacy can be a big challenge, and may even become a source of tension. So keep the peace with your roommate by giving each other some privacy. You can achieve this by bringing in a freestanding room divider or creating one using furniture, such as a garment rack or coat rack.
You could also talk to your roommate about setting up a roster where you each have some time to speak with friends or family back home, or just study in peace.
7. Get a mattress topper
If you’re a bit like Goldilocks and find your mattress is too thin, too hard, or too lumpy and you just can’t get comfortable, there’s a simple fix. Grab a mattress topper from any homeware store and simply slip it over the mattress. It’s a cost-effective way to get extra comfort and warmth and help you get a better night's sleep.
8. Care for something
A 2021 study found that 75% of first-year college students experienced some level of pet separation anxiety. If you’re used to having a loving companion by your side, this can be a big change. And while we’re not recommending you get a pet cat or dog while you’re away studying (a dorm room is no place for a pet), having something small like a plant or a succulent that needs regular love and attention will help you feel settled in your new home.
Alternatively, you could sign up to volunteer to walk dogs at an animal shelter or pet sit for a neighbor if you are really missing the love of an animal.
With just a few tweaks here and there, you'll be on your way to settling right into your home away from home.