Monday, November 22, 2010

Items may have shifted during flight.

Pay very, very close attention. I'm about to teach you a valuable lesson.

Acceptable things to put in overhead racks:

Small suitcases

Duffel bags


Purses which will shift around and spill all of their contents

The occasional guitar (only if accompanied with a smile while boarding)

Unacceptable things to put in overhead racks:

Your child

The flight attendant

Open drink/food containers (rude!)

The above lists are terrifically important for people who are flying home for Thanksgiving, because it's a short break. And to save yourself money and time, you should only bring one carry-on bag. Seriously, it doesn't matter how much stuff you have. Only having a carry-on means you don't have to pay for check bags, and even if they're free you don't have to wait at the baggage claim. If your flights get messed up, you can walk past a gate and board the closest, fastest flight home without worrying about your bags following you.

You really only need your carry-on and a personal item (read: two carry-ons in the form of a suitcase and duffel or backpack if you're a heavy packer. A carry-on and a purse if you're a woman). You'll be home for 6 days, tops. That's not a lot of clothes.

Last year, I fit all of my dirty laundry from about 5 weeks into one suitcase small enough for the overhead rack. You can too. That's all the affirmation you should need.

Just pray that, like one friend who took my advice, this isn't the one time someone stops you to go through your bag. You might consider a canvas laundry bag inside the suitcase just to keep incriminating clothing out of sight.

Happy Turkey Coma (whether you fall into it on your couch on in the school dorm cafeteria)!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"F" is for friends who do stuff together!

Let's look back for a second my earlier post in which my mother told me I wouldn't make any friends at college.

(Slight exaggeration).

Here's a slightly different angle on that story: The reason I was so upset was, of course, because I feared that she was right. I feared four years of Friday nights with nowhere to be, too much sleep, and a lot of weight loss because the gym is open when social avenues are not. I feared being plopped down alone in the middle of a strange place, and eventually leaving alone from it and not caring at all. I feared not hugging anyone but my family at graduation.

All of these fears are totally legitimate for anyone going to college close or far away--they're just a little more accentuated for those of us who know we won't have our high school friends close by to fall back on.

(Although let me clarify, by no means did I lose sleep about them during senior year. I wasn't too worried.)

Here's the deal: chances are overwhelmingly good that you will make friends in college. Personally, I lucked out--I literally walked around the corner one day during orientation, and there they were! A group of people who had just met, liked each other, and liked me. You might be lucky enough to get such a pre-formed family of friends, and if so then you will spend the year growing even closer to some of them as you explore the things you actually have in common that make you all work as a group.

Or, you might have to work a little harder to find them. I have friends now that I had to "develop," if you will (don't picture backhoes). Relationships take time and that's fine, but don't be terrified to ask someone to have lunch with you. Food is a good excuse to talk and bond and soon you'll be taking roadtrips and stealing laundry together.

How do you meet them, you might ask? Here's the answer you will hear a million times: get involved. Really. Find an organization that does what you love, and go to it, especially if it meets consistently. This gives you scheduled time to hang out with people who have the same interests as you, and gets you past some awkward small talk about what you might have in common. If a group that seems to do, in name, all the things you ever hoped and dreamed, but doesn't actually meet that often or have a setup open to conversation, then by all means still go to it. But go to other things as well. If it doesn't meet that often you have no excuse for time :)

Finally, don't stress about friendship. It may not be something you can check off on your college to-do list by the end of August, but it's not a checklist anyway. It's shenanigans and food and coffee and late nights in the dorms watching bad movies. And it will happen for you if you look for it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Almost there

By some miracle, we are already less than two weeks away from Thanksgiving (and, for those of us going home, only about a week and a half). This is not only crunch time for the semester--ie, for me, two huge group projects, two papers, and an exam--but also the time when students are likely to go crazy and give up. We're so close to 5 glorious days of no school that if we can just barely survive until then, we'll be ok. And sometimes "barely surviving" doesn't involve doing homework.

Suggestion #1--do your homework. Seriously. These weeks are crazy, but you are in face here to work and it will make the break that much better. Especially for those of us going home. Don't rely on airport time to get your work done. Wireless is spotty and/or expensive depending on where you go, and electronics-less takeoff and landing take a big chunk of time out of anything you might work on. The last thing you want is to be looking forward to a good break with your family and then be stuck doing homework. Times at home are brief and rare, and actually taking the time to prepare for them will make them even better. Focus on your friends and family rather than your projects.

Suggestion #2--don't lose heart. Homesickness can get much more acute when you're close to being done with it, but rather than spending your days pining away for home-cooked pies and twiddling your thumbs, get some time with the people you love at college. Remind yourself of the good things here as well as looking forward to the trip home.

For those of us not going home for Thanksgiving, fear not! Christmas break is literally 3 weeks after the Great Turkey Day. That's eleven less than you have already been here! And honestly, two things will happen. Either you will have so little time with final projects and exams that you don't even have a chance to miss home, or you will magically have classes with easy/no finals and have tons of time on your hand. Finals-less finals week is my favorite time of the semester. You get time to relax, recharge, and hang out until all hours with your other lucky friends (plus the occasional meal with the sleepless unlucky ones).

Besides, cheer up. Christmas carols are coming soon :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Another interruption

Again, I'm taking a brief hiatus from my usual pseudo-advice posts to lean towards a pseudo-anecdote post.

You might remember my post about missing Dunkin' Donuts. A short summary for the non-clickers or forgetful among you: basically, it consisted of a rant about Oklahoma having no Dunkies (whereas in New England you literally can't drive for 5 minutes without passing one). Somewhere in there I mentioned that I wanted hot chocolate and a double chocolate donut from them.

I made that post on a Tuesday night. The next Monday, there was a package at my door. With this inside:

That's right. My mother mailed me Dunkies. She put the hot chocolate in a mason jar, but sent me the original cup for the full experience. And she sealed the deal with a cutesy marketing-ploy trick-or-treat bag.

Oh the joy of donuts. And of having your mother care about you.

Which brings me to a somewhat relevant point: contact with people from home. Now, this obviously varies from person to person. Not everyone likes Dunkies, and not everyone's mother would mail them some if said person did. Shoot, not everyone likes their mother, for that matter.

But let me speak a moment for those of us who do. Yes, you will them; there's really no way around it. So here are the bright sides:

1. We live in an age of technology. You can skype, and get the full video effect of seeing their face. You can call when you're free, or text at any time. (Let's be real. You text in class).
2. We live in an age of technology. You can fly home fairly easily, and fairly cheaply. See my post on traveling for tips.
3. We live in an age of technology. So anytime you send or receive something not using that technology (say...a package of Dunkies), it means that much more :)