With another semester coming to an end I find myself reflecting on the things I wish I would have done differently. Luckily I am not graduating yet so there is still time to make changes. By no means am I an expert, but I want to offer a few recommendations for making the most out of college.
Schedule Early Classes. A great thing about course scheduling is that you can make your schedule whatever you want it to be. Most students choose to make their school days begin around noon, or 1pm, so that they can sleep in, and until recently, I looked at it from that perspective too. This semester, the only availability for a class I needed was at 8 in the morning every single day, and to be honest, I couldn’t be happier with it. Sure, getting up that early is still really tough, but its benefits outweigh anything that a 1pm schedule could get me. Waking up early lets you not only get all your work out of the way, it also allows you to explore any interests that would normally just be too time consuming. So if you ever wanted to try kickboxing, rock climbing, or maybe even salsa dancing, do yourself a favor, and actually give yourself the time to do all of that. Which brings me to my next point.
Try out new clubs and hobbies. There are a ton of them out there. Whether they’re related to the outdoors, or volunteer services, or even just fashion clubs, they get you out of your room, and into a crowd of people with similar interests to your own. On top of that, they can help you forget about school stress for a while and can get you into those industries you always wanted to work for or learn about.
Stay Fit. This is a really general statement, I know. But doing anything physical will help in ways you wouldn’t even imagine. Staying fit doesn’t necessarily mean going for long runs every day, or even working out at the gym. Doing anything that keeps your body active works for me, whether it’s playing football, rugby, or going on hiking trips, just make yourself sweat every once in awhile. Not only will it help you live longer, and feel more confident about yourself, staying active also helps you relax and think more clearly.
Take at least one class a semester that interests you. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. As an engineering major, I know that classes that you need to take can get pretty monotonous. But it’s always nice to have a class, any class, even one that doesn’t count towards your credits, that just lets you relax and learn about something that always seemed interesting to you.
Don’t just follow the crowd. I know the college cliche is to overwork yourself on weekdays and party on weekends. I know a decent amount of students in my dorm that follow that as a law, but honestly, making that your entire life is really boring. College is what you make of it, not what people tell you about it. People will tell you that college is a time to try new things, and meet new people, but that does not necessarily mean work and party. Do it your way, not the way of others.
Stay in touch with campus life. I went to a puppy parade last weekend. A puppy parade. That in itself should make you jump on your university’s website to see what’s being held this week. About a week ago, male students had a “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event, in which men actually walked a mile in high heels. From random things like that to cool community service events, a whole lot goes on around campus, so go check it out, you never know what you might find.
Remember how quickly high school flew by? Well, with more responsibility and opportunities, you can bet that college will come and go even faster. You don’t want to be walking across the stage on graduation day wishing you could do things differently. What advice would you give yourself as a freshman?
As students, we all know that our lack of budget and time doesn’t exactly add up to being a whiz in the kitchen, but that doesn’t have to mean greasy fast food for every meal. My roommates and I love to cook, and have perfected a handful of meal ideas that are both budget friendly and time efficient.
-Strawberries and Cream waffles: Begin by toasting a frozen waffle. I like Kashi multigrain waffles- they’re delicious and healthier than the alternative! Spread low fat cream cheese on the waffle and top with slices of fresh strawberries. Such a delicious combination that tastes so indulgent and will fuel you for your long day of classes!
-Three-ingredient Banana Pancakes: Mash 1 banana in a bowl. Add 2 eggs and ½ cup of instant oats. Mix together, pour, and flip! And there you have it- delicious, fluffy pancakes in less than 10 minutes time.
-Pesto Pizza: This is definitely a favorite amongst my roommates and I. Start with a whole-wheat wrap and spread with a thin layer of pesto (you can make your own, or buy some at the store). Top the pizza with whatever you have in the fridge! My favorite toppings are feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, olives, and grilled chicken. Drizzle to top with a little bit of olive oil, and pop it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes or until the crust begins to crisp on the edges.
-Homemade White Bean Dip: Start with a can of your favorite white beans and drain- I usually go with great northern beans or navy beans. In a food processor or small blender, add beans, a tablespoon of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth and serve with pita bread and fresh veggies for dipping!
- Greek Yogurt Chicken Breast: I absolutely love cooking with Greek yogurt because it makes dishes creamy, without adding tons of calories. Start with a cup of plain Greek yogurt and add a tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Season the mixture with whatever you have on hand (I usually add garlic and basil). Coat your boneless, skinless chicken breasts with the yogurt and let it marinate for 2 hours. Cook the chicken at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, and enjoy! Serve with steamed veggies and brown rice.
But, now that I’m footing the bill, shopping goes a little differently. I’m frugal and picky. I need to make sure that whatever I’m buying meets a list of highly thought out requirements.
1) It’s inexpensive (or on sale)
2) It’s delicious (nutritious is a bonus, but not a requirement)
If an item doesn’t make the cut, it can’t go in the cart. Now, I thought that my college shopping techniques were subtle—There could be a million reasons why 90% of the cart was pasta or carbs. However, despite my attempts to conceal my budgetary grocery needs, clerks at checkout knew instantly that I was a student.
I was surprised at first. I wasn’t wearing my school shirt. I didn’t use my school I.D to pay. How did they know that I was a college student, on a college budget?
Let’s examine my cart:
Case of Soda
Macaroni and Cheese (at least 3 boxes)
Gallon of Skim Milk
Bow Tie Noodles
Chips and Salsa
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised after all.
In between working, taking classes, and trying to enjoy summer, it’s hard to find time to shop and afford the kinds of groceries you really want. Yes, I would love steak, or tons of fresh produce. But, it’s easier and cheaper to buy cheaper and stick to one or ton items from the “fresh” section. Plus, did you know there are about a million ways to prepare bowtie pasta?
Although I’m embarrassed that the guy at the check out called me out on my Chef Boyardee raviolis and ramen noodles, it doesn’t change what I like to eat and shop for. Sure it’s not the healthiest or the most balanced—but those things can be altered. Ingredients can be added, side dishes can be prepared. However, grocery budgets don’t just appear. While you’re in college do the best to eat balanced meals, but also remember that you’re only young once. I’m pretty sure I can only get away with buying spaghettios for so much longer—I might as well take advantage of it while I can.
It’s like freshman year all over again…the dreaded thought of weight gain. In a foreign country with an entirely different diet than the States, it can be hard to maintain your weight and fitness—especially when you have to juggle class, exploring your new home, and venturing off on the weekends to new places! Not to mention having a host mom who likes to fill your plate with three courses at 8 pm. Others try to save money or avoid the weight sitch entirely by eating infrequently and as little as possible—no buono!
Food is an important part of every culture. Italy is all about the pasta, bread and vegetables, versus Americans chowing down on hotdogs and hamburgers. But if you look around Italy, you’ll see mostly skinny or average weight citizens ordering light lunches and big dinners. So how can you handle a pasta lunch, and a pasta dinner followed by potatoes, meat and salad, and ending with a fruit salad? You have to keep your food quantities in perspective. Follow the culture. If they eat a lighter lunch, follow suit. You might get hungry again before dinner if you’re used to eating earlier or having a larger lunch, but give yourself some time to adjust. Grab a snack or go exploring to keep your mind off food (though passing so many little gelato stores might make it worse). After an adjustment period, you’ll be able to eat on the same schedule as the Italians, or whatever culture you’re experiencing, do.
Saving money is always a concern when abroad, but don’t let that keep you from eating! You don’t have to go to a nice restaurant every time you want to eat. Check out grocery stores—they often have cheap, already made options for lunch or ingredients to make your own. Go out to eat with a large group and try sampling a variety of dishes; by splitting the bill, you’ll still get all the flavors of your country at a lower price then trying to work your way through the restaurant’s menu on a variety of visits. Also, simply checking out the smaller cafes and lesser known restaurants on side streets could lead to big money savings—and having a secret hangout!
Besides money and weight gain, others are just concerned about pleasing their host families. When you first arrive, just talk about what you can or can’t/won’t eat and go from there. Get a sense of their eating habits—how much they eat and when they eat—and try to mimic them as much as possible. They want you to have a good time studying abroad and want to make the adjustment easier, which can mean making you feel at home with a big hearty meal. Don’t feel like you have to eat it all. Learn how to say “I’m full” or something along those lines, and politely decline. They won’t be offended and it can actually help them learn how much food they should make so it’s sufficient for the whole family.
Most importantly, you need to enjoy your abroad experience. Don’t let counting calories or coins hold you back from eating and doing what you want to do. Once you immerse yourself in the culture, measuring out everything you eat won’t matter anymore. Besides, there’s always time to lose weight if you need to or form a stricter budget for the rest of your stay. In the meantime, buon appetito!