Student grade materials sound like what the beginner should use, but sadly student grade materials seldom allow you to achieve results that will inspire you to continue studying.
Professional grade paper and paint sound intimidating. Get over it.
If you are serious about learning the medium of watercolor you need to use good paper and good paint.
Paper that comes in pads and loose sheets of paper are two different animals.
Watercolor paper has sizing on it. When you put water on the paper you dissolve a little of that sizing.
If you stretch your paper - meaning you wet it and put it on a surface either stapling or taping down you wash away some of the sizing.
Pads of paper (not blocks) have a hard sizing, no deckle on the edges and the sizing does not seem to dissolve uniformly.
I use 140lb cold press cotton rag paper when I paint wet on wet.
Some people like 300 lb paper. It is good for dry brush and limited wetting - but the amount of cotton fiber in the paper is a sponge so that extreme wetting takes a while to dry.
Most loose sheet watercolor paper is 22" X30" inches in size. If you paint small you can tear this paper and have 4 sheets to work on. The half sheets torn from 22" X 30" are close to the golden mean in dimension.
You can buy the loose sheets in 5 and 10 sheet increments from a number of online retailers with discounts for shipping.
Good pigment is also important. Student grade pigments seldom have the pigment density you need. Watercolor dries 30% lighter than it looks wet on cotton rag paper. You need all the pigment you can get.
Learn your colors, develop your palette, keep it limited and buy big tubes of professional grade paint.
Don't scrimp on these if you are a serious student.
You want your efforts to inspire you to continue. It is a process that builds on itself. Bite the bullet and make a commitment to aspire to improve your materials and in so doing your end product will improve.
Get a good palette with a cover. Choose one that has deep wells and a large mixing area in the middle. It doesn't have to have 30 wells - it fact fewer is better for your limited palette. If the palette is plastic you will want to scrub the mixing area with a scrubber that removes the shine from the plastic so it will be easier to mix in that area.
I want you to succeed but if your materials are not up to the task you will not be happy with the results.
To paint - you need to use paint. It is that simple.
Workshop in Sylva and Franklin in September - check the info and come paint with me.