I’ve been at college for a year now, and let’s just say I’m kind of a pro *flips hair over shoulder.* Well, maybe. But I do like to think that I’ve learned a couple of things and that these little tidbits of advice might help those of you heading off to college.
• Eat right when your dining hall opens, especially at dinner. Food that’s been sitting out for a while on hot plates won’t taste as good as it did when it first came out, and it has a greater chance of going… well, not BAD, but not great, and you don’t want to upset your stomach. Also, it’s way easier to find a seat or a table for you and your friends!
• If you’re responsible for your own food, Tupperware is the new altar at which you should worship. Get yourself a variety of sizes (you never know what you’ll have to store) and try not to keep foods with a lot of garlic in them; try to take out the garlic you’ve cooked with before you put the leftovers away (assuming the garlic is separate from the food, not blended in), otherwise the Tupperware can hold the smell of garlic long afterwards. Pick one day (Sunday usually works best) to do all your cooking for the week (check out this great Refinery29 article for tips).
• If you’re eating in a dining hall or you own a kettle, invest in a good to-go cup. Not only are disposable coffee cups incredibly wasteful, but having a to-go cup is a great way of guaranteeing yourself a near-constant stream of your favorite hot beverage. (See what I punned there? *wink*)
• Is your dining hall coffee kind of unbearable? Mine is awful. A simple way to make it much more potable is to mix in a packet of hot chocolate (thankfully, my dining hall leaves those out at the tea station) — or, if that isn’t available, use chocolate milk. Dining hall mochas are the new vogue.
• Ladies/people with vaginas, remember your iron. You need it! An easy way to integrate iron into your diet without having to take supplements is to occasionally think about what you eat (crazy, right?!). Dark green veggies (spinach, kale, chard), fish (although often a less stellar option in college dining halls), red meat, and beans are all excellent sources of iron. For me, this usually means a healthy bowl of spinach salad at dinner.
• And I’m guessing you don’t wanna gain that Freshman 15… Here are a couple things you can do:
- When you pick up your plate, fill it with at least half veggies and fruits before going for that awesome mac-n-cheese or stuffed chicken. I know, I know, a lot of you will groan at this, but like it or not, you’re supposed to eat fruits and veggies for a reason. They’re very good for you. Another tip: Eat a mixture of cooked and uncooked veggies over the course of the day since different nutrients are present in different raw/cooked foods.
- When you eat in the dining hall, don’t use a tray. This might be difficult in dining halls where trays are mandatory, but using a tray makes it all the more likely for you to pick up food that you won’t eat or more food than you’re actually hungry for. Going trayless also decreases food waste (which is the reason why my college got rid of trays) and prevents you from loading up on dessert before you’ve even finished your dinner. Stick to your plate.
- Speaking of chicken, remember your protein. No matter your diet, you’ll always need a healthy dose of protein a day. Whether that means eggs at breakfast, tofu at lunch, or beef at dinner, make sure you’re getting what you need to keep yourself going.
• Finally, keep your dorm snacks in a plastic bin with a good lid. Wanna know why? Mice.
We all know that schools are just breeding grounds for an unimaginable number of colds and coughs and God knows what else. But before cold season hits, there are a couple things you should know…
• In the long run, antibacterial hand sanitizer creates more bacteria than it kills. Yup. You heard me. So put away the Purell. All that hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes do is eliminate the weak, unevolved bacteria that can’t handle antibacterial pressure, leaving behind bacteria that can. What does that mean? Superbacteria — with capes and everything. But in all seriousness, stop being so afraid of germs. Germs are actually good for you. They strengthen your immune system and your overall well-being. So just… chill. Sometimes I drink an Emergen-C if I’m feeling not-so-hot or before I hop on a plane, but I ditched hand sanitizer a long time ago and so should you. Besides, what’s so scary about washing your hands?
• There are several ways to support your immune system using more “natural” methods, if that’s something you’re concerned about. I’ve found that drinking either apple cider vinegar (or, as my friends like to refer to it, ‘ACV’) or green tea is an excellent way of boosting your immune system — although, of course, ACV isn’t quite as tasty as green tea. Don’t believe me? Well, good thing there’s some research about this. The acetic acid in ACV comes with a flock of health benefits, many of them stomach-oriented. Although, I have to admit I only handled drinking a daily glass of (diluted!!) ACV for a couple of months before I turned to green tea and started drinking 2-3 cups of it a day instead. And I will say, I noticed a clear difference once I’d been drinking green tea in a dedicated way for a couple of weeks. Some really nasty bugs hit my school right near the end of the year, and I managed to avoid them completely along with the beginning-of-summer-vacation cold that I’d caught every year of high school. Plus, I love tea, so I enjoy drinking it, whereas I struggled to down the ACV right after hopping out of bed in the morning, like any sane human would.
• Don’t. Share. Drinks. Just don’t. Or, at least, don’t share them all the time. Once, the entire girls volleyball team at my high school got mono because they all drank from each others’ water bottles, which made for an interesting semifinal game. Yeah. So don’t.
• Mental health is a very real thing. My mom had a rule for me that we actually adopted from one of the other moms — 1 mental health day a semester. I think this can be a good rule for anyone; although, of course, it depends on the attendance restrictions at your school, on whether or not you’re painfully Type-A, or whether missing one class would turn into a slippery slope. This actually isn’t something I did at all during my freshman year — I didn’t feel like I needed to — but one of my friends had a difficult second semester and needed some extra time for herself. And, never be afraid to talk to someone. Colleges nowadays are bursting at the seams with help and resources, whether at a peer or a staff level.
• Even if exercise isn’t a part of your “normal,” at-home regimen, don’t forget to get yourself moving. The whole 10,000-steps revolution thing has actually really helped me put my physical health into perspective. I used to think that unless I went to the gym every day, I wasn’t doing enough, I wasn’t getting enough “exercise.” But, I have a walking campus, and I realized that I was walking more than the daily average almost every day. There also might be unconventional methods of exercise that you might not have thought about. For example, I do ballroom dance, and I have friends who participate in fencing club, and both are excellent ways to exercise. Remember: Just because you aren’t spending an hour on a treadmill every morning doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong!
• If you use quarters for laundry, boy do I have a life-changing hack for you. Keep your laundry quarters in an empty mini-M&Ms tube (a tube of mini-M&Ms is something like $2, and you can usually find them at the grocery store gossip-mag-and-gum stand at the checkout). Quarters fit perfectly, and one tube holds at least two rolls of quarters. Also: 1 roll of quarters = $10, in case you trade in cash.
• Even if you’re a heavy sleeper, invest in some earplugs. There might be some Friday or Saturday nights where you have to get up early for some extracurricular or other, and if that’s the case, you don’t want to be woken up by all the noise of people partying in your dorm. Now, I’m a light sleeper, so I sleep with earplugs every night (I can even be woken up by the AC turning on), but my roommate is a pretty heavy sleeper. She isn’t easily woken up and can go back to sleep pretty quickly. But, there was one time this past year when earplugs would’ve saved her some trauma. One Thursday morning, I woke up to my usual 6:30 alarm to find my roommate lying bolt-awake in bed, her eyes the size of dinner plates and looking angry. She usually gets up an hour after I do, so I was shocked to see her so awake, and I asked her if she was okay. She didn’t say anything, but slowly raised her arm to point an accusing finger at the ceiling. Then she muttered: “At three. In the morning. They woke me up. And I couldn’t go back to sleep.” I raised an eyebrow: “Who?” The guys who lived above us were usually pretty silent. She turned to look at me and said, “Kevin. And Lily.* Having sex. Loud, gross, drunk sex. They just wouldn’t stop.” I was speechless. I gaped at her. She stared at the ceiling for another moment, then shuddered and pulled her duvet over her head. So, earplugs. Always good. *names changed, obviously.
• Don’t underestimate the power of a good lanyard. I know there’s a lot of buzz about how lame lanyards are, but it’s very helpful to have your keys on something… well, not bulky, but something bigger than your actual keys. I like my little lanyard because if my keys are at the bottom of my bag and I grab a strand of my lanyard, one swift yank later, my keys are in my hand. I’m not saying you’re required to get a lanyard, but do put something on your key ring that’ll make it easier to find.
• Two words: Command. Strips. Ugh. I’m in love with them. They come with hooks of every size, and the strips themselves help you come up with lots of space-saving hacks. My favorite one at the moment: Use Command strips to secure the flat side of your surge protector/extension cord to the underside of your desk (I fixed mine to the footboard). It keeps your cords out from under your feet and it’s super easy to turn the strip on and off whenever you’d like.
• If the top light in your room sucks, or you can’t find any good indoor light strands to decorate your room with, check out the outdoor area at your local Wal-Mart or K-Mart (or anywhere else that deals in these things). You’ll find hanging light strands that not only look nice, but they’ll give off a good amount of light and they won’t be as fragile as indoor light strands. And, if you do your shopping at the end of the summer, like I did, they’ll probably be on sale.
• Chances are, if you live in a double room or bigger, you will be sexiled at some point. It’s just the way college works. But, make sure you talk to your roommate(s) right at the beginning of the year to establish a policy, i.e. how much of a warning you need, limits on how late they can have someone over, etc. Two girls on my hall last year actually had a double warning method in case one of them didn’t see the other one’s “can i have the room for a lil while thanx” text in time. When they had someone over, they would flip over the whiteboard on their door as a signal. And, two other girls had a similar method; they would draw a winky face on their whiteboard as a back-up. Some of the many benefits of having a whiteboard on your door.
So, there you have it. Some of my advice on surviving college. I could go on, but I don’t want to bore you, and besides, you’re at COLLEGE. Don’t sit here reading my waffle; go be a college student! It’s pretty great.