Loughborough is a town in England with a huge university and not a huge noticeable hitchhiking scene!
Loughborough is right next to the M1, so pretty easy to travel on North or South. It's 3 miles out the center to get to the entrance to the M1, but if you walk down this road, west out of the city (Ashby Road, A512), you could try hitching along the way. There's a service station 3/4 of the way down this road which could be good. Just before the turn off for Snells Brook Lane. Alternatively you could catch the bus 126/127/129 to Shepshed, and ask to be dropped off near the entrance to the M1. (This is before you arrive in the town Shepshed.) You should see it, it's a big roundabout.
You can choose which side of the roundabout you'd like to hitch from, people coming out of Loughborough or people coming from out of Shepshed. Out of Shepshed there seems to be more lorries, and out of Loughborough more cars. There's a good spot to stand from the Shepshed direction (The other side of the roundabout to Loughborough), where there's a layby outside a motorway services depot.
It's well worth trying to get a lift just to the next service station going South, 'Leicester Forest East', which is a big (ish) service station with a bridge to the other side of the road, near Leicester. Good place to hitch to London.
OR going North there's a big service station at junction 23A, which could be good.
West towards Birmingham/Wales/The South West
Walk out of the town down Ashby Road, A512 in the direction of Ashby, and there's a service station before the M1 and before Shepshed, just before the turning for Snells Brook Lane. This is around 2 miles out of Loughborough. You could catch a bus (126/127/129) in the direction Shepshed and stop once you see the service station. The roundabout at Ashby could be a better place to hitchhike from so if you could chance at getting a ride there.
North towards Nottingham
Most cars from Loughborough heading to Nottingham won't go on the M1, but by the smaller road A60 (Loughborough Road). The road starts by Loughborough train station and preceeds through a bunch of small villages before Nottingham. There's a bus stop with a layby next to the train station which could be a good spot.
South towards Leicester by the A6
The best way to Leicester is probably by the A6, if you don't want to try and walk out of the town and go by the M1. You might have to village hop but you'll probably find a ride straight to Leicester. To reach a place to hitch, head east out of town on the A6, past the AA center on your right, and past Shelthorpe road on your right, and then you're basically out of town and can start hitching, there are traffic lights and bus stops you can stand at. Or if you're more near to Shelthorpe, the bypass Epinal Way which turns into Ling Road will take you the same way. You could try just after the McDonalds.
Places to avoid
It's well known but really try and get out of the center of the town before starting to hitchhike and you'll have way better luck.
Accommodation and Sleep
Queens Park in the center of town has a bandstand which could provide some shelter or lots of dark corners where you could put your tent. Park wardens lock the gates at sunset and open again in the morning. It's usually really quiet at night. If you walk around the park by the Leisure centers there are easy places to jump over the gate, but it's not too high everywhere else. If you'd rather be outside of the town, then the Outwoods are beautiful and easy to camp in, as are Bluebell woods, or even go as far as Beacon Hill for a really nice area of woodland. Also potentially around Charnwood water could be nice to wild camp. Plus it's on the road to Leicester near good hitching spots!
Other useful info
Skipping food (finding waste food in supermarket bins) is pretty easy in Loughborough, and not many people seem to do it. Behind Iceland, farmfoods and elf foods have all proved good in the past. There's a fruit and vegetable market on Thursdays and Saturdays which you could ask at.