College is supposed to be the best time of your life right? Endless nights out, meeting new and exciting people, finally being on your own. There are no limitations, no rules, no standards to live up to. Best of all, no parents right?
Almost right. When the graduation funds run dry, and mom and dad send you packing, a diet of ramen noodles and Sunday coupon clipping seem like the magic spell to end the curse of low income.
I soon realized, as did many of my peers, that there is a cost to being free. Frankly, being on my own has opened my eyes to how dependent I was on others, and there is a list of things that I wish I would have been taught, or warned of, before I packed my bags and caught the earliest bus out of town.
For instance, the cost of laundry. It’s going to cost me $2.50 just to do one load of whites??? Heck, I can wear that pair of underwear for a couple more days … this shirt isn’t too dirty … oh, this towel barely was used, I can use it for another week. It is sad, but how many times have you thought to yourself these things? When at home, laundry was as simple as placing the detergent in the little slot in the machine and pushing a little button that magically sang a jingle when it was time to throw everything into the dryer.
Solution: In college, finding the time to trudge down to the damp basement, let alone the necessary amount of quarters to run the washer and dryer, is anything but a nightmare. Heaven forbid your one quarter short and half an hour late to change your clothes over to the dryer. To solve this, just ask for your paycheck in quarters or keep a change jar in your car.
But what about when you need a new party shirt? Have no fear because Goodwill is near! One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, especially if that treasure is a fairly new designer dress for $20. Shopping at discount and thrift stores can be like sifting through a gold mine. Yes, the clothes may be worn and, yes, the dish set may be cracked, but why pay an arm and a leg for something that you can buy almost new for a quarter and a penny? No one will know where your hip, knee-high boots were bought nor which kitchen store the pots and pans were found. It’ll be our little secret.
If you are like me, you will start to crave home cooked meals. Everyone misses the scheduled five o’clock dinner time featuring mom’s made-from-scratch lasagna. Let’s face it, the local dining hall’s personal pizzas have personally made me miss home even more. Heck, we are paying more than an arm and a leg to attend school, why not serve up some nice juicy steaks or real, soft cookies; not the chocolate-disguised bricks that everyone leaves crumbled in the stairwell. Although, the freedom of selection is about the only upper-hand in the situation. Nothing beats having a choice over a “you either eat what I make or don’t eat at all.”
Finding places that serve food as good as mom’s home cooking can often be impossible, if not out of price range. When $0.12 ramen noodles just aren’t making the cut, bring out the old coffee pot. Besides making coffee, which is cheaper than the daily Starbuck’s run, a coffee pot can also be used to make several “gourmet” foods.
Solution: One trick I learned is that the burner of a coffee pot can be used just like a regular stove top and, when covered with foil, can make grilled cheese, baked salmon and even small cookies. When turned on and the lid open, raw vegetables can be steamed in the filter basket. Soup, nacho cheese dip, macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, mashed potatoes, gravy and other canned foods can be boiled or warmed up in the coffee pot itself on the burner. Who knew the coffee pot was the 21st century version of a conventional oven?
Oh the amount of freedom…..fredom….bredom….boredom. Yes, I have to admit, I have found myself bored and laying on the floor having a staring contest with the ceiling. Looking back, it was the ten o’clock inning held under the stadium lights, the nights that I said I was bored of watching my 39-year-old dad running back and forth frantically from first to second base, shouting and pulling at his hair (or what was left of it) like a mad man, that places in the top five memories that I wish I could re-live. I’d rather sit at endless baseball games and soccer games than feel like I am wasting my time. I mean, I don’t think I will be able to see my dad run that fast ever again.
Solution: To solve the boredom problem here at college, I simply have one word for you: Netflix.
Of course the biggest problem in college is belonging, finding that group of friends that you can take along with you for the next four years. While in college, simply finding a place to belong, a friend, can be a battle in itself. The friends that you grew up with and hung out with during high school are miles away, and now you are meeting people from across the nation. Besides the fact that you are living out of plastic containers, moving from place to place and trying to determine a future career, finding a sense of belonging can be hard. It’s not easy finding a home away from home, but finding a sense of belonging, another home to settle down in, can make being a college student even better.
Solution: Just be yourself. I promise you, there is a club for everything on the college campus. In to anime? Yep, we have an anime club. Like playing poker? Join the frat brothers on Wednesday nights to play a game. Like to sing and dance? Sure, we have a drama club for you. College is the best place to try new things and dive into your own personality, find out who you really are. It is probably the most important four years of your life, the most adventuring that you will ever do into the center of who you are as person. Just promise me you won’t get lost searching for yourself. Finding your way back to the light may have you as lost and dazed as Harry searching for the Goblet of Fire. (Yes, I did just make a Harry Potter reference and, yes, I am sure there is a club for Potter lovers too.)
(Kayla Handy is a Clarion University student contributor to VenangoExtra.com & ClarionExtra.com. Email Kayla at firstname.lastname@example.org.)