Undergraduate College, Tips-Move in Day

Today is the day!  You are finally leaving the comfort of your own home to live in the land that is undergraduate college!  Here in the dorms, you will see and do all kinds of new and strange things (that may or may not disappoint your parents) as well as learn additional life skills not taught in school.

All those legendary (or dreadful) stories you heard from your older friends may become a part of your dorm experience during your first year of undergraduate, but how can you be sure you are fully equipped for the chaos?

Below are a few tips that I believe are necessary to prepare for when moving in.

Steps to prepare for on Move-in day

1.  Know what to bring and make a checklist

This step is obvious but will end up being the most time consuming and frustrating.

A) First, know what to bring

There is a difference between an item that you want to bring and an item that you need to bring. Knowing the difference between the two is the key to figuring out what is essential to pack. What I did was think hour by hour of what a typical day at home is like and noted down every action.  For every action or event that I do throughout the day, there is an item that corresponds with that action or event.

An example would be:

  • Action: Wake up in the morning on your bed
    • Bring items: Pillow, blanket, and bedsheets
  • Action: Use the bathroom
    • Bring items: Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, toilet paper, etc…

Another method you can use is entering every room or opening every cabinet in your home and ask yourself, “What is this room/cabinet used for and what inside this room/cabinet is useful?”

B) Second, make a checklist.

This basic bookkeeping method will ensure that you do not forget any items.

I recommend categorizing the checklist with headings such as: “Bathroom Essentials”, “Electronics”, “School Supplies,” “Kitchenware,” and so on.  That way once you start packing, your items can be placed into its individual category.

For the people who do not know where to even start, here was what I remember of my list.  (Please remember that I am a male, so the list may be longer if you are a female)

 

My Checklist

Bathroom Essentials

  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • floss
  • mouthwash
  • shampoo
  • bodywash
  • deodorant
  • shower slippers
  • towel
  • razor

Clothing

  • underwear
  • socks
  • long-sleeve shirts
  • short-sleeve shirts
  • jeans
  • shorts
  • pajamas
  • business attire
  • Shoes/sandals
  • Laundry basket
  • Laundry soap

*NOTE* Prepare for the seasonal changes.  If you are fortunate enough to live close to home, you can bring the appropriate seasonal clothing and exchange them for the next season when you visit home during holidays or long breaks.

Electronics

  • phone
  • phone charger
  • earphones
  • laptop
  • laptop charger
  • mouse
  • desk lamp
  • microwave
  • mini fridge

*NOTE* Some items may be provided in the dorm room such as a microwave and mini fridge

School Supplies

  • notebooks
  • pencils
  • pens
  • sharpie
  • highlighter
  • college-ruled paper
  • printing paper
  • paperclips
  • stapler
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • simple calculator

(I was that one guy in class who always had everything)

Kitchenware

  • bowls (In case you are feeling extra fancy with your instant ramen)
  • plate
  • spoon
  • fork
  • chopsticks
  • coffee mug
  • refillable water bottle
  • Brita water filter

*NOTE* It may not even be necessary to bring these if you have the dorm food option, but it will never hurt to bring it just in case

First Aid Kit

  • Band-Aid
  • Neosporin
  • bandages
  • Tylenol/Aspirin
  • Dayquil/Nyquil
  • rubbing alcohol

2.  Pack two to three days before Move-in day

This may not apply to everyone.  At least for me, because I had a checklist and was certain that I had all the essentials written down, I was able to pack last minute.  I only prefer to pack a few days before, rather than a few weeks before, because I used most of the items listed on a daily basis.  There would be no reason for me to constantly unpack if I still used them consistently.

 

3.  Check the weather of Move-in day

You prepared your clothing for the next few weeks, but did you prepare for the day of?  Is it going to be extremely hot on move-in day like it was mine?  Good thing you checked the weather beforehand and wore shorts.

Try not to dress too fashionable today because you will be busy walking back and forth unpacking the car, and you will want to dress comfortably when doing this.

 

4.  Double check your list

Be like Santa Claus.  Double check your list to make sure you have everything included.  To test your preparation, run down the day with only the items on your list.  If you can survive an average day with just those items, congratulations!

 

5.  Do not be stressed

You did everything you could to prepare for this day.  You followed the advice given by your older acquaintances, your family, and even me on this website.  You got this!

But even if later, you forgot to bring something or realized you did not bring enough of something else; do not stress about it.  No one of your dormmates down the hall had this day perfectly planned either.  Who knows, maybe you will meet a really cool friend because you mustered up the courage to ask them if they had any extra laundry dryer sheets (happened to me).

 

My thoughts:

This day of all days should be a memorable and rather emotional day for both you and your family.  Preparation for this day is critical but not detrimental to your success in undergraduate.  You will look back on this day as your first step towards self-independence and as you progress throughout the semester; you will learn to adapt to the changes (and drama) of college.

Stay and finish strong.

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Undergraduate College; Freshman, The awkward move-in day

I was excited to move out.  No more parents constantly watching over me and nagging me what to do or when to sleep.  I can finally be free.  But what was constantly running through my head were all the possible scenarios that could happen to me during my first few weeks in college.  What would I actually be doing at midnight? (My bedtime was 11 PM in high school.)  What do I eat when I’m hungry now that there isn’t a fridge with food constantly stocked?  What if someone approaches me and asks me to do something I have never done before?  Is it a trap or did I just reject one of the greatest life experiences that could have ever happened to me?  Unfortunately, I thought more so about these outlandish scenarios than I did about actually preparing for move-in day.

Story time.

Being a simple guy, I brought just enough.  By that, I mean I brought only the materials I used daily at home and incorporated the same lifestyle at home as my routine lifestyle in college.  Altogether, I brought only one luggage of clothing and two boxes of essential materials such as school supplies, toiletries, etc.

Once my parents and I arrived at my dorm location at my scheduled time of 2:00 PM, we checked in at the information booth and the assistants gave us a cart to help us with our luggage as well as the key to my dorm room.  As we moved in and out of the dorms, we briefly met the RA (“Residential Advisor”, which is a fancy word for the person in charge of your hall) and a few of my future hallmates.  Eventually, we had finished moving everything out of the car and unpacking everything I had.  All throughout this tedious process, I have yet to even see my roommate.

Afterward came the most anticlimactically emotional farewell to my parents.  I thought the same scenario that I see in the movies would happen where both parents and child would hug and cry when saying goodbye.  There would be an emotional story from my parents starting with “I remember when you were just a child…” or “You’re all grown up now,” but none of that happened with me.  My mom, who is somewhat emotional, hugged me and told me to study hard.  (I knew that she trusted me and knew I was responsible.)  My dad, on the other hand, extended his hand.  I reached out to shake my dad’s hand (lol) and as I grasped his hands; he looked dead into my eyes with his super serious facial expression and said, “Good job boy.”  (I felt proud but didn’t really know what to expect from him.)

About 2 hours since my arrival in the dorms, I had finished unpacking everything and was essentially “living on my own.”  As I began to arrange my desk and figure out how to connect to the school’s Wi-fi, I heard the door to my room open.  When I turned around, I saw my roommate (Let’s call him Mike) and his family enter the room carrying boxes and other move-in materials.  I greeted myself and offered my assistance in helping them carry any other materials they had leftover to bring, all while explaining that I had already finished unpacking all my belongings.  They kindly declined the offer because they too packed little and brought only the essentials.  It took them about 1-2 hours to get everything settled in, and they had a pretty basic farewell too.  (I thought that having an unemotional farewell was an Asian thing, but based on what I have seen so far, I could tell already that we would have no drama whatsoever.)  In the meantime, the RA popped into our room during the unpacking process to introduce herself and tell us about the appointed dinner gathering for our whole hall.

Around 7 PM, everyone in my hall was just about finished unpacking their stuff and started gathering outside the entrance of the hall.  There was a huge line at the entrance and everyone was mingling with their roommates and respective neighbors.  I can see most everyone was a bit anxious but still had an enjoyable time, so I tried to make small talk with my roommate asking him questions like, what high school he went to, what his major was, and what are his hobbies.  His answers were simple and straight to the point but did not really go on any further.  (Am I doing small talk wrong?  Maybe he was just not interested?)  After some awkward silences, some guys down at the end of our hall introduced themselves (let’s call them Nick and Aaron) and asked us if we could eat together at the same table for dinner.  Of course, the more the merrier.

Unfortunately, the small talk did not progress well with them either while waiting in line.  (Am I just boring or are we all coincidentally just awkward people?)  Eventually, we reached the cafeteria and all got our food.  None of us were good at conversing so I took advantage of every opportunity I could to get more food or explore the cafeteria.  After dinner, we walked back together to our respective rooms, but being the eager little freshman that I was, why would anyone settle so soon on the first day of undergraduate college?  I explored the entire four floors of the dorm by myself.  It was my goal to find every bathroom that I could in that building.  (This knowledge will come in handy one day, trust me).  By the time I finished exploring, it was about 11 PM and due to my previous sleeping habits, I was already tired at this time.  I stared at an unfamiliar ceiling that night, a little disappointed due to my expectations.  But despite what happened (more so what didn’t happen), I was excited.  I am free to act and do as I please from now on.

My thoughts:

My first day moving into the dorms was not as exciting as I had expected.  You may experience the same as me having a casual day but in a new environmental setting or you may experience one or many of those wacky scenarios I had previously thought would happen.  Whether or not your move-in day is an extraordinarily memorable experience, know that it is just the beginning.  Look forward to the uncertainty you have yet to experience.

Stay and finish strong.

High School; AP Classes

In high school, there are many types of classes you could take and each can vary in difficulty.  You could take regular, honors, or Advanced Placement (AP) biology class, for example.  However, in my small private high school, we only had the options of taking regular or AP.  AP classes were even more limited due to the small number of teachers available to teach AP in the first place.  Having strict parents, I, of course, had to enroll in as many AP classes available as early as the high school offered it.  Starting 10th grade, I enrolled in AP Calculus AB and continued to take as many AP classes as reasonably possible until the end of my senior year.

There are pros and cons to taking AP classes while in high school, but let’s start off with the positives.

Pros:

  1. AP classes count as college units.

In my first year of undergraduate college, I was able to collectively receive 32 college units due to the number of AP classes I took in high school.  Looking back at it, thirty-two incoming units as a freshman in college is a hefty number when you take into consideration that 16 units per quarter label you as a full-time student on-track to finish within four years at my university.  Those thirty-two units practically meant that I had completed 2/3 of a year of undergraduate.

  1. Smaller class = Better relationship with your teachers

In a large classroom, especially through the eyes of a teacher, you are just one of many students, so getting the attention you need is difficult. However, in a smaller sized classroom, the teachers can get to know your personality, work ethics, and distinct needs.  The most memorable teachers I had in high school (and probably the only reason why I would ever go back to visit my high school) were the ones that taught my AP classes.  My AP Literature teacher and AP Calculus teacher taught me more than just their respective subjects; they taught me valuable life lessons and disciplined me well enough to be a successful college student.

  1. Small class = Better comradery with classmates

This aspect follows the same principles as the one with the teachers.  I made new friends with people who I never thought I would ever speak with and strengthened my relationship with classmates who were originally just “acquaintances”.  Most of the new friends I made came from outside my nerdy clique.  As we suffered through the AP classes together, we deconstructed the clique wall that is typically associated with high school and saw the similarities between each other.

Cons:

  1. Classes are EXTREMELY difficult

AP classes are meant to be challenging for high school students.  You may have been a straight-A student the year before and thought the stories and workload of AP classes were just myths.  How bad could AP calculus really be?  It is just another branch of math, and you know you’re good at math because your parents, previous math teachers, and friends have told you so.  You walk into your first day of calculus class and the materials quickly go over you, but you think to yourself “Hey if I read this again at home, it will make more sense.  The teacher is just explaining too fast.”  Later that night, you go over the lecture notes and read the textbook only to realize it still doesn’t make sense.  Where do you even begin at this point?  Welcome to AP.

  1. A lot of time is required

You cannot do well on anything without spending a lot of time on it.  Reading a one-thousand-page history textbook, memorizing the unit circle, or calculating the confidence interval of winning the lottery all take time, and the amount of time spent doing any of those means less time hanging out with friends or catching up on your favorite TV show.  You will be envious of your classmates who had enough sleep during the weekdays or who were able to enjoy their weekends.  Even holiday breaks can be unenjoyable when taking AP classes so be prepared.

  1. Teachers KNOW you

Even though small sized classrooms allow for your teachers to know your individual needs, that could be a bad thing.  They could call you out in front of the class to point out your lack of performance or (what happened to me every single time) choose a ‘random’ essay from the whole stack of essays and ask the class “What did this person do wrong in this essay” as they began to read my essay aloud to the classroom.

My thoughts:

There were so many times when I wanted to quit an AP course because I saw how easy my other classmates had it in the regular class.  They had time to have fun after school, talk about the latest high school gossip news, and hang out during the weekends while I was at home studying.  But when I look back, taking an AP course developed my critical thinking abilities, prepared me for undergraduate college, allowed me to meet extraordinary people, and provided me the opportunity to become close to my high school crush.

When you pass the AP exam, you will never regret its benefits.  You may be intimidated by the amount of time required to perform well in the class, but that amount of time is necessary to master just about anything.  The challenging journey towards passing an AP class demonstrates your dedication to the subject, enhances your mentality, and reveals your work ethics.  You may have even picked up some of your lifelong friends on your way.  My advice, embrace the suck because you will never know what hidden opportunities and experiences await you in and after the AP class.

Stay and finish strong.

High School; Prom Proposal, The Calculator

Back in my high school, we did not have the typical “prom” that most public schools have.  We had what was called “Jr/Sr” (Pronounced: Junior-Senior), which basically meant that only juniors and seniors of my high school could participate in this social event.  Our Jr/Sr involved traveling to a lavish place and eating a fancy dinner (which I later realized was NOT common for most public schools).  How the students acquired their dates was the same though.  Most students proposed to one another with cheesy flowers and letters as would be for any other ordinary high school prom proposal, but this one instance was a bit different.

Story time.

I was a senior back when this happened and was good friends with this one junior girl (let’s call her Christina).  She wanted to ask out one of my senior friends (let’s call him Brian) to Jr/Sr.  Both were the top students in their class and shared similar class schedules, so she thought why not.  This proposal stood out because she had the nerdiest way of asking him out and ran through the plan with me.

First, she would approach him after math class and explain to him that she was having trouble with her graphing calculator.  Brian, being the friendly math and tech whiz that he is, would attempt to do his best to fix the problem.  Unbeknownst to him, she put in an equation on her TI-84 graphing calculator that would graph out the word “PROM” if he pressed the ‘Graph’ button, which she will consistently urge him to do while she tries to explain her situation.  It was as simple as that, but things got complicated when she tried it.

(Prepare for awkward and cringe-worthy material.)

After AP Calculus, most of the students rushed to leave for the next class.  Brian, walking out of the classroom and talking to some of his friends, was just about to do the same when Christina stopped him and started to explain to him that her calculator was acting weird.  Everything seemed to be going as planned … until one of Brian’s friends (let’s name him Jon) stepped in offering to help.  Christina then had to explain to Jon that it may just be a simple solution that only needed one person to fix.  Brian, confused by Christina’s explanation, starts to tear apart at the calculator’s battery forcing it to reset and then starts messing with the Input functions where the original equation that spelled out the word “PROM” would be displayed.  (I felt her horror and dismay from where I was standing from.  And where was I when all this was happening?  In a little corner behind the lockers trying to record what was supposed to be a sweet proposal for her to look back on.  Guess I’m deleting that video.)

Things got worse as time progressed, so Christina eventually took back the calculator, input the original “PROM” function back, pressed the ‘Graph’ button herself, and gave the calculator back to Brian.  You can see Brian’s facial expression go from confused to completely shocked (with a sprinkle of happiness) after she gave him back the calculator.  I could hear from the distance Brian saying, “Are you serious?”  Then Christina said, “Yes!” as she pulled out a rose from her backpack.  “Will you go to Jr/Sr with me, Brian?”

That was a fun experience to observe.  Christina ended up asking for the video still despite what happened, and we all had a good laugh at it at the end of Jr/Sr.  So if you are ever unsure of asking out someone using your own unique style, just know the outcome will probably be better than this proposal.

Stay and finish strong.

Parent’s Expectation: Grad School

My decision to go to graduate school was not as graceful or captivating as most people would think.  I did not have an epiphany or an insatiable desire to revolutionize the world with my ingenious mindset or anything.  I was just sort of forced to go.  Of course, I do not regret going, and I believe that the transition from undergraduate to graduate school is definitely a huge feat in someone’s life.  I just thought that there should have been a better reason to going to graduate school.

I was influenced by many factors.  One of which was the perceived notion that success would be greater if you continue to further your education.  Another was my actual desire to follow my passion, help the community, and preserve the environment for future generations.  But overall, the biggest contributor was that if my older sister went to graduate school, then so should I.  Since I grew up having strict parents with high expectations, this was the norm.  Their mindset was that if one person, one relative, or even one random person on the news can achieve something great, then so should I or everyone else.  This put a lot of pressure on me because I was not even sure if I was good enough to be admitted into any school of my choice, and I had no idea what factors would be weighed in when the graduate school admissions looked at my application.

My parents expected a brand-named school such as Harvard or Yale, but realistically I knew I had to aim lower.  Neither of them knew the difficulties that came with undergraduate college since both did not attend.  It is much easier said than done in their case.  Although I understand that my parents wanted the best for me and my future, it is difficult to explain and persuade them that not all of their expectations can be met.  I cannot get A’s in every class, maintain my health, acquire a high paying job as a student, and call or visit them every weekend without sacrificing the time required to meet another one of their expectations.  I love my parents and am humbled by the amount of sacrifice they gave for me to be able to get to where I am today but even to this day; they still expect a lot from me.  I just hope they understand that I too have limitations.

I am sure many people are in the same boat as me.  Just know that your parents are not pushing you for their own selfish reasons.  They are doing it because they want you, their beloved child(ren), to have what they could never have achieved.

Stay and finish strong.

Deciding to go to Graduate School

Although I listed multiple reasons (in Parent’s Expectations: Grad School) as to how I got persuaded into pursuing graduate school, the following is how I received that initial spark of inspiration.

Story time.

After finally deciding to leave my pursuit towards becoming a Marine Officer near the beginning of my third year of undergraduate, I was determined to just focus on completing my studies as best I possibly could.  Starting that day, I basically just went to class and studied, which is nothing different from any other undergraduate student.  As I went through the routine of going to class, studying in the library, and completing homework late at night, I (eventually) learned to love it.  Yes, the classes were more difficult and increased in difficulty as I progressed towards my upper divisions, but I loved the challenges that came with it.  I was more fascinated with chemistry (or maybe I was just less fatigued and more awake ever since leaving the Marine Officer Program) which made it easier for me to grasp the concept and in turn, allowed me to boost my GPA significantly that quarter.

As classes continued, I followed the same study routine for the following quarter and received similar results.  The last quarter of my third year was a bit different though.  There was this one class that stood out and persuaded me enough to further my education in that field.  I took an elective water chemistry class, but I thought nothing of it besides just another class that I had to pass.  However, the professor who taught the class was truly passionate about the subject.  (This is where I believe it is the teacher, not the subject or field, that will stimulate your aspirations.)  He taught in a way that not only made me “open my eyes” to the current events happening at the time but also made me scared of what might become of our future.  He made me want to do something about it.

I started to actively participate in class and went to office hours on a weekly basis not just to get answers to the homework problems but to actually speak with the professor about goals and ideas for the future.  Now all of a sudden, I became that one guy in class who always had a question or something to say (not in an annoying way, but in a curious student kind of way).  Because of this particular class (more so the professor teaching the class), I decided to choose a path related towards water reclamation and preserving the environment. I was still a few months away from having to apply to graduate school since I was only in my third year of undergraduate, but this realization was the first step towards my pursuit of graduate school and knowing what major to choose from.

Discovering your interests by inspiration from others is what worked best for me in this situation.  Everyone will get lost trying to discover themselves, but I know everyone has something they are made for. They just need help from others finding it.

Stay and finish strong.