Creating a Home in College

home

by Guanani

There’s plenty of college advice floating around about leaving home and transitioning to college, but very little about what it means to create a home for yourself once you’re there.

One of the most valuable things I’ve come to learn is the importance of creating a home; without a solid place to come back to, physically and emotionally, it’s easy to feel lost, confused, and not sure how to ground all the hard work and exploration that a college experience involves. Home isn’t just something you find, but something you actively create according to your needs and values.

_____________________________________________________

Here are a few things that make a home feel like home for me:

  1. A space where you feel comfortable and relaxed.

This can be tricky if you find yourself in a loud, cramped dorm situation, but home doesn’t necessarily have to be where you’ve been assigned to live.

Look for a place where you feel calm and can unwind from the day. If you have a friend who lives in a quieter area, spend time in their dorm. Maybe there’s a pleasant spot on campus with a cool tree, or a corner in the library you can return to on a regular basis that can serve as a home away from home.

  1. Headquarters for your life.

Home is the axis that supports the rest of your life, whether that means a pit stop for snacks or a nap, a cozy corner where you can reflect, or just a place where you keep your things. Ideally home in college is conveniently near your classes, friends, and sources of food and other necessities.

The important thing is for it to be close enough that you feel connected to the greater college community while still having your own personal space.

  1. People or a community to come home to.

This has been by far the most important part of creating a home in college for me. Feeling like I belong and having people to talk to, study, and go on adventures with became easier as time went on and new friendships were formed. Living in a distinct community without your family offers you the unique opportunity to build a family of friends to support each other when things get difficult, do homework with, or just spend time together on a regular basis.

_____________________________________________________

Making a home takes time and effort.

It doesn’t happen overnight, and finding the right circumstances and strong relationships to make it happen can be hard or even frustrating in the midst of all the various challenges college brings. Home should be a focal point in the constellation of your life, something you can rely on, feel safe in, and come back to over and over again.

As you move on from living with families and discover the possibilities offered by independent living, don’t forget to consider what creating a good home means to you.

Sleep Challenge!

Importance-Of-Sleep-During-Exams-623x576

by Lucillia 

People are not lying when they talk about a lack of sleep in college.

Pulling all-nighters to study, 8 am classes and chatting with your roommate until 2am are all contributing factors. Getting a good night’s rest can be really challenging.

For me, I have always put sleep first because I have found that I am never productive when I am tired. But there is a difference between getting sleep and getting quality sleep. The latter is not something that I have been so good at prioritizing.

When I saw that the Wellness Center at my school was hosting a sleep challenge, I thought it would be a good thing to try. For this 21-day challenge, we were told to download a sleeping app that tracks the quality of your sleep. Basically, you keep your phone next to you all night and it measures your movement while you sleep.

Besides this, we were also given a calendar with different tips to help us sleep better. For the first week, our goal was to develop a routine before we go to bed. For this, they recommended doing things like brushing your teeth, putting away your phone 20 minutes before you fall asleep, getting your backpack ready for the next day and doing a light exercise before turning the lights out!

The goal for the second week was to try and wake up at the same time every morning. No matter if you have to be to work by 7 am or don’t have class until 1 pm – the consistency adds value. I have heard that this will eventually train your body to wake up at that time, even without an alarm.

Can you imagine?!

Finally, the goal for the third week was to try and get a sufficient amount of quality sleep each night.

Anyways, six days into the sleep challenge and my sleep app had calculated that my sleep quality was only 60%. I didn’t even know it was that bad. All of my graphs throughout the night told me that I was waking up about every hour, even without knowing it.

I usually go to bed at a decent time every night, so my goals going forward are to put my phone away 20 minutes before I lay down and to see what I can do to stay in a deeper sleep throughout the night.

Any other ideas for a good night’s sleep? Feel free to comment and let me know!

Also, the app is called Sleep Cycle (for iPhone), for anyone interested in tracking how well they sleep and joining the challenge!

Apartment Living – Freshman Year

apartment

by Lulu

“I’m actually living in an apartment with three other girls!”

“Wait, so are you a freshman?”

I completely understand the reasons people may assume I’m not a freshman due to my living circumstances; however, I indeed am a freshman. The reason I’m living in an apartment is because there was a huge number of incoming first year students who wanted to live on campus.

There are only nine residence halls and over 5,700 seeking housing at the U of M – Twin Cities.

Although I applied for housing in early April, I didn’t receive my housing assignment until late August. Even then, I was assigned to expanded living with students much older than me. My family and I felt like the situation wasn’t ideal and would not have been a great match. I was initially bummed about the situation because I was hoping to gain the freshman experience in the dorms and live in “Superblock” where all freshmen live; however, I’m extremely grateful to be living in an apartment in Dinkytown with three amazing roommates.

During the first week on campus, I was reminded of the few disadvantages of being in an apartment. Even though I live right in the heart of Dinkytown, I was placed in a Welcome Week group with commuter students. It wasn’t the best situation, because I was looking forward to meeting other freshmen nearby and this week was designed for that opportunity exactly.

Afterwards, it just wasn’t as easy to meet other freshman friends as it would have been living in the dorms. However, I have definitely found a lot of great friends through various connections as a result of making an effort to meet new people and willingly putting myself out there.

In general, the main difference is being even more independent than living in a dorm. In addition to finding a balance, transitioning into college life, and settling in, I have more responsibilities such as paying for monthly rent and utilities. At first, it was a bit of a foreign concept to have to buy everyday living items like paper towels, toiletries, kitchen appliances, and other similar things; however, in being able to say that I hadn’t had to purchase those items prior is pure privilege. I’m very fortunate to have a meal plan, because I don’t have to worry about cooking and buying groceries.

Don’t get me wrong, though, because living in an apartment has numerous perks that I’m very grateful for.

There is a lot more space, so there wasn’t as much of a concern for packing items and worrying about it all fitting into a cramped dorm room. I have the privilege of having a bathroom with a tub and shower rather than a communal bathroom for the entire floor. Additionally, there is a laundry machine and dryer in my unit, so I don’t have to stress about stolen clothes or waiting my turn.

Overall, I’m living in a great apartment with gorgeous views of the downtown skyline and Dinkytown. I couldn’t be more thankful.

Finding A College That Fits

 It Doesn’t Need To Feel Like Searching For A Needle In A Haystack

college search

by Cara

When it was time to decide which colleges to add to my list, the first big decision I made was between attending a 2-year community college or a 4-year college. I knew from the start that I wanted to attend a 4-year college, but I also applied to one community college. Thankfully, because of scholarships, I was able to attend the type of school I desired, but community colleges can be a great way to save money before transferring to a four-year school.

I didn’t add any colleges to my list solely because they were public or private. I think it’s a good idea to include some of each when making your list. Public universities offer lower rates to in-state students, but many private colleges have more scholarship funding to offer.

Big schools can mean more major and minor offerings, a larger amount of resources and opportunities, and an abundance of school spirit at sporting events. Small schools can offer smaller class sizes and a more close-knit community of students.

I chose a medium sized school, University of St. Thomas, because I felt like it offered me the best of both worlds. The class sizes are small enough where the professors can get to know you, there’s a sense of community, and I’m still able to enjoy the type of school spirit I desired.

Having a general idea of what I wanted to major in helped me narrow down my list. My interests are in journalism and marketing, so I researched both programs at each college to which I applied. Keep in mind that the college you attend doesn’t have to be ranked number one in the subject you want to study in order for you to receive a quality education. Personalized attention that a small program may offer, compared to a larger well-known program, and the amount of hands on experience available are more important.

I choose a school with an urban location because I love living in a major metropolitan area. I’ve lived in Minneapolis my whole life, so moving to St. Paul for college has allowed to stay close to my family while still enjoying my independence and a new city.

The communications industry is something I’m interested in so I knew it would be easier to find internship opportunities in a big city rather than a rural location. There’s always something to do on the weekend whether it’s going to the mall, an art museum, or the movies. Getting there is never a problem because of the public transportation system in the Twin Cities. There can be plenty to do on campus, but I considered where I’d be able to spend my free time in the city before I made my decision.

After I decided which factors would determine the colleges I’d put on my list, I needed a way to find a list of colleges. The College Search feature on the College Board website is a great way to generate a list of schools that meet your criteria. You can even indicate how important each factor is in case the colleges you’ll consider must have an urban location, but even though you’d like a small school body you don’t want to eliminate all larger colleges.

I’d recommend having 5-7 schools on your list, so when May of senior year arrives you have enough options. With so many options available the college search can be overwhelming at times, but because I decided which factors were important to me in the beginning I was able to end up at the college that fits me best.

Feel free to leave me a comment if you have questions. Best of luck in your search!

From One World to the Next in Less Than Four Hours

Dorm room

by Elliane

I think it is safe to say that my college move-in day was not a “typical” day, if anyone can say they had a normal move-in. This summer I worked as a camp counselor at a summer camp about an hour and a half away from Montreal, Quebec, where I go to college.

My contract was ending on Sunday, August 24 at 4 pm. Move-in day was Saturday, August 23.

The whole time I was at camp I was pretty nonchalant about moving in a day late, but on the inside I was freaking out! What if everyone made friends on the first night and there was no one left when I got there? Would it be awkward to have my mom there if everyone has moved in? What would my room be like?

Of course, I shouldn’t have been worried, but who wouldn’t be? My mom picked me up at camp promptly at 4 pm and we rushed off (as fast as you can rush in traffic) to McGill University. I was bouncing up and down just wanting to arrive!

When we did get there I signed my lease, got my key, and a room inspection sheet. The two of us decided it would probably be best to go up and see the room prior to hauling my things up.

McGill campus view

The good view from my friend’s room across the hall! The dining room is the round building.

My dorm is on the sixth floor out of seven and all the way at the end of the hallway. On my door was a little sign that had my name, Ellie, and a just little things note that read “When you see your food coming in a restaurant.” I turned to my mom and said “They know me already!” (I really like food.)

Because my room is a corner room, it is “bigger” than the others. Ha! Although it is more spacious than my friends’ rooms there are some awkwardly placed shelves and most of the furniture is nailed down so I had to keep it exactly how it looked. We checked everything out for a minute or two and then went to unpack the car.

Now this is where it got stressful in a couple of ways. First off, my dorm is on Mount Royal (Mount-Royal -> Mont-Real -> Montreal!) so you have to hike up to it. Then there are stairs to climb to get to the actual building as well. After walking up and down a couple times to the foyer we brought my things up to my dorm.

During this whole back and forth there was a crowd of people outside the main doors. Each time we would try to enter they would hardly budge. To me it wasn’t much of a bother because these were potential friends, and also distracted college students. Of course when another girl who was moving in introduced herself, my mom decided to call out the people blocking the doors outside. I was mortified because she was talking about the people I had to make friends with!

I won’t go into complete detail, but remember that on your move-in day your parents are probably tired, sad, and if it’s about 80 degrees out like it was for my day, hot.

My biggest tip is not to unpack everything, but to immediately make your bed because you won’t want to do it when it’s dark out and late at night!

After all my belongings were in my room, we went for dinner and unwound a bit. My Mom dropped me back off at Gardner Hall, my dorm, and that was it, moving in was over.

After living with seven other girls in a cabin for a month this summer it was a shock and somewhat lonely transition to living on my own. I wouldn’t recommend going from one world to another without stopping on neutral ground (home) but it is not impossible.

You will make friends, and you will find your hairbrush/ toothbrush/ spoons/ or whatever it is you can’t seem to find. Guaranteed you will think you’ve lost your keys, hopefully you haven’t, but don’t panic, just retrace your steps! Happy unpacking!

Here is my master list of things you need or your college dorm room and tips for move-in:

Necessities

  • cereal
  • a fan
  • sticky squares (for putting pictures on walls)
  • a lamp (or 2)
  • a carpet (the floors are hard and cold, a rug warms things up!)
  • sunscreen

 Tips

  • Make your bed before you leave. You don’t know the joy of coming home to a made bed until you actually feel it.
  • Take deep breaths, take time for yourself.
  • Go explore your floor or building. Everyone is in the same position as you, tremptious (nervous but excited, not a real word, but very useful)
  • Do talk to your parents/friends back home. It’s not clingy, it’s nice!
  • Smile!
  • Leave your door open and venture out of your room to meet the people on your floor.
  • Stock up on food for those times you need a little snack, or even a full meal (it happens).
  • Put up something from home, and then another thing, and then at least 10 more. Decorations are the key to making your place feel like your place.