Things No One Tells You About College.

My younger brother is starting college this fall, an he and his friends have been asking for a list of things they should have in their dorms aside from the obvious, and of course I can’t help but attempt imparting knowledge at his face. THINGS TO TAKE TO A DORM THAT NOBODY MENTIONS

Small vacuum cleaner: Either a stick vac or a little hand held. You WILL drop things, and eventually you’ll have crumbs everywhere. You’ll make more than a few friends if you’re the only one on the hall with a vacuum cleaner.

Swiffer (if you have a tiled floor): In the winter, you’ll somehow manage to track mud, dirt, and salt in. And if you spill something sticky on your floor (you will), this is loads easier than wiping things down with water and tissues.

Lysol spray/wipes: Someone in your hall will get sick, and that will start a chain reaction of EVERYONE IN THE HALL GETTING THE PLAGUE. There is no avoiding it. But when your roommate gets sick, or the guy two doors down starts sniffling, whip out the germ killer and try to contain the epidemic. You will be hailed as a hero. Also good for if you leave for the weekend and your roommate doesn’t. You never know what’s going on all over you shit when you’re gone.

Lockbox: This is especially important if you don’t take your computer to class and everywhere you go. It’s not hard to break into a dorm room. People steal shit. Put your shit in a lockbox and hide the lockbox (or else that will get stolen too).

Pyrex containers: You know the Tupperware-esque containers made of glass instead of plastic? Get a few of those. They can be microwaved, and then you can store your leftovers in one go. And they’re easy to clean.

Dish soap: Get a small bottle to wash out the Pyrex containers, plus the bowls/mugs/cups you’ve got.

Small fan: If you can’t control the room temperature of have a rude roommate who won’t compromise and insists on having the room feel like the Sahara desert. Also good for drowning out noises from that one person in the hall who comes home at 2am and insists on chatting on their phone on the top of their lungs all the way down the hall.

Brita pitcher/extra filter: Dorm water is disgusting. Filter it before you use it to cook, make coffee, or drink. May also help to have a reusable water bottle because buying bottled water on campus is a ripoff and college towns don’t always have the best water. Also, some dorms have free filtered water machines in the lobby (mine did. It was awesome) and you can fill up before class.

THINGS ABOUT FIRST YEAR THAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

-For things like cans of pop, ramen, and other snack that you and your friends all tend to eat, make friends with someone who has a wholesale club membership, and go buy them in bulk and split the cost. But take advantage of your meal plan. Find out if you weekly allowance rolls over (mine didn’t and I never used it all) or if it has to be used up in the week. If that’s the case, find out where on campus you can use your meal plan, sometimes you can buy a few boxes of juice or other food for one meal exchange.

Set a bedtime for yourself. The first few months in the dorms is really weird and it feels like you’re supposed to stay up late and either study all the time or party all the time. Don’t be afraid to be the first person to go to bed. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.

Set homework time. Come back from class and relax, and then sit down and work, or go straight to the library or another quiet place to get things done. Since you live and study at the same place, unless you’ve been to boarding school, it’s gonna be hard to make yourself follow any sort of schedule.

Do laundry once a week. Doesn’t matter how much stuff you have to do. Pick a day and time, and treat it like any other commitment. It gives you some regularity, and dorms are small, so if it starts to pile up it’s gonna overwhelm the room fast.

Make friends with your roommate, but don’t push it. If they don’t want to be friends, keep it civil. Just keep up some sort of relationship so that you can somewhat depend on them. In case you get locked out, or run out of something important, or desperately need a ride somewhere. Also set some ground rules, like no overnight guests (trust me, make this a rule at the very beginning. Aside from the potential awkwardness, a lot of times it just isn’t allowed and you can get penalized if the RA finds out.) or no loud music/audio after 10pm.

-Get to know your RA. They’re not just an enforcer. They’re a student too, and can offer some pretty helpful advice about the building, and the school. My freshman year RA is still a good friend of mine, and was super helpful when we had an issue with someone on our hall.

Get to know a few people in your hall, especially if they’re outside your major. My best friends now all lived on my hall freshman year. I lived off campus with one of those girls each year of college, and the others joined us for my last year. The people you live with will know you better than anyone else. And if they’re outside your major, the temptation to constantly talk about school is gone, and you have other things to talk about. This is the main reason I don’t like Honors Dorms or major specific dorms. That leads people down a rabbit hole of self-doubt and worry because they’re all taking the same classes and are in some form of competition with each other.

-Don’t call home at first. You’ll be homesick, that’s a given. But give yourself a few days before you call or Skype. You’ll be able to handle it better. And don’t go home every single weekend your freshman year. That’s when everyone is making friends and going out and bonding, and you really don’t want to miss out. If you absolutely have to be home, go either once a month or every other. My freshman year I didn’t go home at all, because I was across the country. If you’re feeling homesick, text a sibling. Your parents’ first impulse will be to coddle and baby you and offer to come get you, your sibling will remind you that you that you can handle this shit, so get over yourself.

Keep in touch with your high school friends. You’ll find that soon you’re only really in touch with one or two. And they’re the ones making an effort to talk to you.  A lot of high school friendships end spring semester of your first year in college. Be prepared for that, and don’t be too upset. You don’t need them anymore, and the friends you’re making now, some of them are going to be your friends for the rest of your life. When I was going to a really rough time the year after I finished college, it was my freshman dorm mates getting me through it, not my high school best friend, who had stopped talking to me.

Join a club that has nothing to do with your academic major. It brings you close to people who are interested in the same thing as you, but who you may not have met otherwise.

Don’t be afraid to eat dinner alone. Sure, there are always groups of people going to the dining hall in swarms, chattering about banal bullshit like frat parties and chapter meetings, but don’t be afraid to be there alone. There’s no shame in having different eating schedules with your friends. Bring a book, sit with someone new (this is only okay in the first two weeks of the semester, otherwise it’s a little weird), do your thing.

Register your bike with campus police. It will likely get stolen. A friend of mine got his bike stolen seven times in one semester. Registering it with campus police may not get it back, but it will help if you have it insured or if it’s found and someone is claiming it’s theirs (happened to my friend).

Make friends with older students. They’ll subliminally help you get your study habit straightened out, can offer advice on professors, and can just generally be there for you. Since I got into a lot of upper level classes freshman year thanks to my AP credits, I made friends with a lot of older students and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

Get to know your professors. If you’re planning on needing recommendation letters for jobs, grad school, or internships, find a few professors within your major department that you like, and take every class they offer. Get to know them, raise your hand in class, keep it professional and courteous, go to office hours, and when you ask for a rec in three years, they’ll jump your request up to the top of the pile.

Have fun. It’s school, you have to study, yes, but remember that how you feel now will affect how you feel about your career path. If you’re miserable doing it now, you won’t want to do it for a living when you have to. Take care of yourself. If that means changing your major or picking up a minor, carefully consider it and then go for it. It sounds cliché, but you really need to find what you’re passionate about.

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Neighbors, Trains, or Earthquakes: the Mystery of the Shaking Apartment.

My second year in university I was able to move out of the dorms and into an apartment. Originally, Kat was going to live with us, so Anna and I signed leases for a three bedroom apartment off campus. But then things happened and Kat had to stay in the dorms, so Anna and I found a third roommate, a girl Anna had a lab with and who seemed normal at the time. That’s a story for another day.

The apartment itself was nice. Three bedrooms, three bathrooms, washer and dryer in the unit, and a shuttle to campus that usually worked. We checked it out a few times, and everything was fine.

And then we moved in.

We were both super excited, and on move in day got out keys and dragged our loads of stuff up three flights of very steep stairs. Our parents left, Anna’s to go home and my mom to go to my godmother’s house for the night, and we commenced our wild unpacking.

Suddenly everything started shaking. Anna and I looked at each other over boxes and bins, and groaned as we heard a train whistle come through the open balcony door. We hoped (in vain) that this was a rare occurrence, or that the trains only came through in the morning.

Fortunately, the trains were on a predictable schedule. Unfortunately, 2am was one of those scheduled times. I don’t know if it’s a normal train thing or the conductors in Oklahoma are especially sadistic, but we soon were aware of a long and wailing train whistle as it passed the student apartments every night. There was also a senior living community down the street, but I suppose after they took their hearing aids out they wouldn’t have much of a problem with the train whistles.

Aside from the train, there was a variety of things that would shake our little apartment. They boys across the hall, mostly. There were three of them, and they went up and down the stairs like a small herd of elephants. They set their fire alarm off almost every night, to the point where Anna and I would sneak takeout menus under their door and hope they took a hint. They didn’t.

Now, I’m not sure how common this next nugget of knowledge is, but Oklahoma is on a fault line. And along fault lines, it is common to get earthquakes. One night, as we were in our rooms, at our desks, I felt a small vibration, and thought nothing of it since it was around the time a train would go by anyway.

But then the shaking didn’t stop.

Either the boys across the hall were having a stair running contest at 10pm or it was an…earthquake.

The shrieks of the sorority girls crossing the parking lot ruled out the stair theory, so Anna and I did the last thing you should do during an earthquake: we ran down the stairs.

Guys, being outside, on seemingly solid ground, and feeling it shake under you is really bizarre.

It subsided in a few minutes, and we walked back upstairs. By the time we were settled back with our books, we got a text from the university’s emergency system telling us that there had in fact been an earthquake. Thanks, guys.

But yeah, that’s the story of the time we realized that the boys across the hall could shake the building just as must as a small earthquake.

The Marvelous Adventures of Team Indecisive, Part 1 of How Ever Many I Want Because This is My Blog

While I was doing my undergrad, I had the opportunity to meet [more than] two of the most incredible girls in the world. I’ve never really had super close female friends, because I grew up in a super judgy small town and apparently fat girls don’t look cute in prom pictures. But the first day I moved into the dorms at the University of Oklahoma, all of that changed. Literally within hours.

I lived on the international floor, or as they called it, the “Global Community.” The premise was that they would pair one international student into a dorm room with one American student, and they would teach each other about their cultures and traditions and all that happy camp nonsense. Really what happened was that half the girls were Chinese and half the boys were Saudi, and they all hung out in their own cliques because they all went to high school together. The first semester I didn’t have a roommate, which was awesome because I got my own room without paying for a single and I had never shared a room before in my life.

Okay. Where was I? Right. Move in day. My mom and I had shipped as much of my stuff as I could to a family friend’s house in Edmond, and flew to Oklahoma, so on move in day we loaded up the rental car and headed down to Norman. We found a parking spot in the buttcrack of nowhere because it was move in day for ALL the freshman and there were about eleven billion of us. It was also a thousand and a half degrees out because it was Oklahoma in August, and as my mom and I contemplated exactly how  we were getting all of my things from the car (in the buttcrack of nowhere) to my fourth floor dorm, I just grabbed a bag and dragged it across the parking lot. Some time later, as I was able to squeeze into an elevator to get upstairs, I was standing in my empty dorm room, a blonde head popped through my door way and chirped “Do you need help?”

That blonde head was attached to Caitlin, one of the sweetest girls in the world. She was a sophomore, so had already moved in, and she and her friends from the Baptist Student Union (more on that later) were going down the hall asking if the freshmen needed help. I blearily nodded yes, and she and her friends followed me and my mom back out to the car (in the buttcrack of nowhere), and managed to bring all my things into the dorms in one trip. It was awesome. As I was unpacking, another little (I say little, but really she’s my height. We’re all little.) blonde girl wandered down the hall to shyly say hello. This was Anna, and we have been talking on Facebook for the past few weeks in the group our RAs had made for us to get to know each other. We quietly said hello, and went back to unpacking.

Later that evening, Anna messaged me and asked if I wanted to go get dinner at the caf, since neither of us knew how our meal plans worked. I said sure, and then she asked if her roommate, Kat, could come. I said sure again, and the three of us wandered off in search of food.

We spent three hours in the caf that evening, because we could not stop talking. Kat told us about the years she had lived in the Philippines, and then about her four younger sisters. I’m pretty sure we were all best friends by the time we were shooed out by the staff.

Even though our majors were different, we were ALWAYS together. To the point where if someone saw two of us, they’d look around for the third. Anna and I ended up living together the next year, in an apartment, and then Kat joined us the next year, along with Kelly, who lived across from Kat and Anna in the dorms. The four of us went on marvelous adventures, and then I graduated. Even after graduation, I’m still close to these girls. Kat is one of the first people I turn to when I have rough decisions to make, and as a result I’ve been setting off her phone to an obnoxious extent these past few weeks. I couldn’t imagine my life without them, and even though we’ve only known each other for three and a half years, I know I’m going to be friends with them for life.

ps: Caitlin initially called us Team Indecisive because we could never make decisions about what we wanted to do. And we ran with it. I made a Facebook group and everything.