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Starting your Dorm life: What’s Included and What to Bring

Wondering, worrying about, and overthinking what to bring to college? Well put your mind at ease, because it’s easier than you think, and after reading this you won’t be making the same mistakes so many students make, year after year.

The first and foremost tip I have for you, my classmate, is pack LIGHT, and pack just what you NEED. Roommates, their own belongings, and the bustle of college life will soon show you that a few and well-chosen essentials will be all you need to help make your time here sweet and successful.

The suites here come ready-to-go with most home furnishings: Your bedroom includes a bed frame, twin XL mattress, a chest of drawers, and a desk and chair (some rooms have shared desks and chairs). That leaves for you to bring along bed clothes (twin XL sheets, pillow, comforter), and study supplies, such as your computer, a desk lamp and headphones (personal recommendation!). A great resource provided for residents here at Trop is the 24-hour study lounge, where you have full access to a couple of desktops as well as a printer (so no need to bring one!) Some items that are easy to forget are a laundry basket and laundry supplies, which can be used in the laundry room on site. For your bathroom, you would want to bring a good amount of toilet paper, and a shower caddy to keep all your bathroom stuff organized and separated from your roomies’. Plungers are provided in the restrooms, as well as a light housekeeping service twice a month.

The living room comes similarly outfitted with couches, end/coffee tables, and a flat screen TV. Some other super-useful utilities include a microwave and mini-fridge, also for the entire suite to share. This means you can definitely bring some cup-o-noodles, cereal or late night snacks to store in the fridge or small shelves in the living room. Other than all listed above, consider bringing what makes you you: posters, photographs, or other such decorations are easy to transport and add an extra homey feeling to your new room. Also, now that you’ll be living in the beautiful little beach town of Isla Vista, a beach towel, sunscreen and a bathing suit are minimal necessities to enjoy the ocean in our backyard. Most locals around here also travel around town and on campus by foot, longboard, or bicycle (my personal choice!), so a bike or a board are definitely not going to be catching dust. (Useful tip: if you’re going to bring a bike, make SURE you buy a good U-lock for it!)

So that’s it! Check your suitcases twice to make sure you have everything you need (and not much more!), and remember that anything you’re missing can be purchased nearby or brought up the next time you go home. Don’t hesitate to call the Tropicana Front Desk for any further questions on what’s included, and get ready to start some of the best years of your life!

Packing List (in brief)

What’s Included:

  • Twin XL bed
  • Dresser
  • Desk (may be a shared desk, ask our leasing department if your room type has a shared desk due to occupancy)

What To Bring:


  • Bed clothes: Twin XL sheets, pillow, comforter
  • Laundry Basket and other laundry supplies
  • Study stuff: computer, headphones, desk lamp, stationary Clothes hangers
  • Optional: decorations, white board, shoe organizer, command strips, rugs, mirror, personal mini-fridge


  • Shower caddy
  • Toilet paper
  • Optional: bath rug, air fresheners

Other Useful Items

  • Bicycle (with U-lock!) or longboard
  • Beach towel
  • Storage bins (plastic work best!)
  • Small snacks (granola bars, cereal, or instant noodles are great)
  • Optional: gaming systems

Ted’s List of Things to Bring to UCSB

I’ve got a history of packing light. As a toddler on a family trip I threw one of my shoes out of a moving bus, and I was quite proud of myself for it. When I studied in Japan for six months I brought only a backpack packed the night before, allowing nimble navigation of the subway systems while my equally jet lagged colleagues struggled to haul whole cabinets of clothes in over sized suitcases. I think the practice has served me as well at college as it has abroad. Let’s look at Ted’s List of Things to Bring to UCSB!

  • A sturdy laundry hamper with a lid. There are flimsy laundry hampers which fold down tiny, but unless I’m taking a plane I like to use the hamper instead of luggage. Pack it with:
    • Clothes. UCSB has pleasantly warm summers and cold, often rainy winters. Don’t forget a swimsuit! If you want to use the gym on campus or in Tropicana, be sure to bring some gym shorts or basketball shorts or something. You won’t NEED any fancy clothes, but bring some if you plan to go to job fairs.
    • Two towels for bathing, and one towel for the beach or pool.
    • Laundry supplies. Keep detergent and dryer sheets in the hamper so they’re always on hand when you carry dirty clothes to the washers.
    • Sunscreen. If you plan to go to the beach a lot, bring baby-oil as well. Sometimes flecks of tar wash up on the beach, and baby-oil is the only thing that gets them off your skin.
    • Shampoo/conditioner/shaving cream.
    • A decent water-bottle with a filter. Water in Santa Barbara doesn’t taste great, and it’s worse the closer you get to the shore.
    • Chargers for electric appliances and a power strip. If you have space, two power strips. Your roommates will thank you.
    • A desk-lamp. It’s good to have private light while your roommates are asleep.
    • An alarm clock (if you can’t put one on your phone).
    • A calendar. UCSB hosts a lot of events, and if you want to advantage of them you need to track them.
  • A backpack, I wouldn’t bother bringing school supplies like pencils or notebooks. You can buy those in the student store at the UCEN. Use the extra space to pack:
    • The rest of your clothes. Fold them neatly so they’re not wrinkly when you take them out. Pack flip-flops for the beach and any shared showers.
    • A laptop. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, try a Chromebook. It just connects to the internet, but UCSB has campus-wide wifi and you can use cloud services for anything a student might need to do. I recommend Google Drive for word processing, PowerPoint, etcetera, and ShareLaTeX for professional-looking scientific document drafting. You can code for free in a variety of languages at!
    • Medications and toiletries. You can fill prescriptions at student health and buy toiletries at the student store (or 7-11, or the IV Market), but you really don’t want to spend any time without. Be sure to remember a toothbrush, toothpaste, and while you’re at it, a bag of those flossing picks. Hygiene is important.
  • A bike, scooter, or skateboard
    • On bikes: I recommend buying a cheap bike and a nice U-Lock. You’ll rarely meet a senior who hasn’t had a bike stolen. Always remember to lock up properly with your U-Lock threaded through the bike frame, one wheel, and the bike rack. (Bike racks are everywhere, so use them. Lock up somewhere else and you’ll get a ticket.) I wear a helmet, even though no one else seems to.
    • On scooters and skateboards: These aren’t as fast as bikes, and you can’t use the bike paths, but you don’t need to lock them up. Just bring them into class and stash them out of the way! This makes them convenient, especially for short trips. Helmets are great, but I’d also recommend wrist braces: there’s a dedicated skateboard lane on the main road, but people walk in a random, Brownian path through it without regard to your wrist bones.
    • Some people roller-skate or wave board or unicycle—go wild, just go safe!
    • To transport your transport, secure it to the roof of your car or stash it in the trunk. Or, buy something here! There’s a bike shop and a skate shop on Pardall.
  • A set of sheets and comforter, with a pillow.
  • And… that’s it.

If you have those things while rooming at Tropicana, you will survive. Anything else, you can buy either on-campus or at local stores. It’s important to remember you’re not moving to outer Mongolia; you’re moving into a college dorm, in a town, near a city. If you forget a water bottle, you can buy one. Last year I showed up without blankets and bought some at Target.

Ultimately, when packing for your first year at college, you should prioritize convenience over thoroughness. If your parents are helping you move in it’ll be all sappy and memorable, and you don’t want to ruin the moment by making six trips for suitcases. Bring clothes in a laundry hamper, a backpack, and maybe a bike, and it’ll take half an hour to move in. Then you can get a burrito with your folks, and make them buy you anything else you think you’ll need.

Some final thoughts:

  • When the quarter starts get a bus-sticker on your Student ID. Then you and your friends can ride the bus downtown. The #24x bus is the fastest way into Santa Barbara proper.
  • The #11 bus circuits in two directions, clockwise and counterclockwise. The #11 bus and the #6 bus are the same bus; as the #11 bus stops at the Camino Real Marketplace it becomes the #6, and as the #6 passes the other way it becomes the #11. (The #24x bus is also the #12x bus.)
  • All your school books are probably available in the student store of the UCEN. They’re on the lower floor, down the stairs are tucked all the way in the back.

Ted’s List of Places to Eat in Isla Vista

(Map Courtesy of Google Maps.)

In my first year at UCSB I gained thirty pounds, lurching from 130 to 160. Despite jogging twenty miles a week and sampling gym machines at UCSB’s Rec-Center, I couldn’t escape the ‘Freshman Fifteen.’ It caught me twice! Even when I ran marathons up the mountains to the north, I couldn’t shake the weight.

Why? Well, when you run, you’ve gotta eat, and Isla Vista’s got hungry people covered. Today let’s look at some dining options near campus.

First, I’m writing for Tropicana del Norte, so let’s discuss their cafeteria. Food is catered by College Fresh, and I can state without bias I’m looking forward to eating there again. When I moved into an apartment for the 2016-17 school year I missed the privilege of having teams of caterers make food for me. The menu changes daily, and if one day nothing appeals to you, you can walk to the back to order hamburgers and the like (or eggs made-to-order in the morning). Grab some toppings and condiments from the sandwich-making materials and you’ve got a meal. I wouldn’t eat here three meals a day seven days a week, but as a staple food-source for college students, Tropicana knows what they’re doing.

Second, let’s review UCSB’s dining halls for anyone who has a dining plan. The dining hall closest to Tropicana Del Norte is probably Carrillo, in Manzanita Village. Carrillo has the widest variety and best desserts, but only soft-serve ice-cream. Ortega and De La Guerra both have hard, scoopable ice-cream (DLG a wider selection). Ortega and DLG are quite close to one another near the Old Little Theater, and of the two I prefer DLG. Ortega offers sushi, but DLG has a build-a-burrito bar. However, Ortega occasionally has sundae bars, chili bars, or other special events I’d recommend over DLG. Check the schedule once school starts. Ortega is also the only dining hall which lets you take a box of food off the premises. (There’s another dining hall, Portola, but I’ve never been there. It’s built into off-campus student housing.)

On campus there are two Subways, a Panda Express, a Jamba Juice, and other assorted eateries, mostly in the University Center (U-Cen). I enjoy Santorini Island Grill, which serves gyros, spanakopita, shawarma, and baklava. I also enjoy the bulk candy bins at the U-Cen student store (not the book-store, but nearby), where you can satisfy your sweet-tooth and pay by the pound.

Anyone who’s been to UCSB before is waiting for me to mention FreeBirds (or, uh, FreeB!rds) World Burrito, which is near Tropicana del Norte on Pardall Road. Many campuses claim to have the first FreeB!rds, but only UCSB touts that title legitimately. FreeB!irds offers burritos, monster burritos, quesadillas, quesaritos (burritos made using quesadillas), tacos, and nachos. Opinion differs on whether it’s comparable to Chipotle, but the nearest Chipotle is miles away and FreeB!irds gives you more food per dollar, I think. Generally a monster burrito will feed a student for a day or two, and I’d recommend splitting the nachos with a friend.

Near FreeB!rds, just outside of school, there’s a third Subway, a Habit burger grill, and a Starbucks. Down Pardall there’s SilverGreens for healthy burgers and vegetarian-friendly fare, and Buddha Bowls for bread-bowls filled with soup or salad. When they scoop bread to make the bowl, they give you the scoop as garlic bread!

Quite a few restaurants serve boba, or bubble-tea. If you’ve never had them before, bobas (bobii?) are chewy little Taiwanese tapioca balls submerged in a drink. You slurp them up with a wide straw. Some people love ‘em, some people hate ‘em. Personally, I love ‘em. Maybe it’s a Californian thing, or a Millennial thing, like avocados.

Anyway, I first had boba at Hana Kitchen. Hana Kitchen sells meat-and-vegetable bowls with rice; I prefer the vegan option, which is soy-based, as the larger sizes are a bit too much meat for me to eat in one sitting. They also have interesting tacos, and taco sales on Tuesdays. Hana Kitchen sells boba and other drink-jellies in a variety of beverages like teas, milk teas, and ice-slushes. The Pho Bistro sells boba in more exotic flavors like taro root, alongside an extensive menu of vietnamese soups and noodles. My favorite restaurant name is Naan Stop, an Indian counter-service restaurant which also serves boba. True to their name, they’ve got great naan.

There’s no shortage of pizza in Isla Vista. The most famous pizza in IV would either be Woodstock’s (which also has a kiosk on campus) or Pizza-My-Heart. Pizza-My-Heart serves pizza by the slice, while Woodstock’s serves mostly whole pizzas and has event nights, like trivia night. Blaze Pizza on Pardall will build your pizza in front of you. If you’d like a more standard experience, there’s a Domino’s near IV Market next to a sushi place, Sushiya.

Finally, desserts. The well-named IV Drip sells coffee and sandwiches, but is most well-known for its ice-cream. The Equilibrium Cafe sells crepes of all kinds. Next to Domino’s, Sweet Alley sells frozen yogurt and candy by weight.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of the restaurants in IV, but I hope it helps you find places to eat with your friends in your first year at Isla Vista. There’s enough variety here for everyone to find something they enjoy. If you see me stocking up on food after a long run in preparation for an exhausted hibernation, say hi, and tell me your favorite place to eat! Did I leave it off my list?

How We Eat versus What We Eat

by Jonathan “Quiggy” Quigg

            So this is going to be my last little blurb for Tropicana, and I want to leave you with a final message that has hopefully permeated all that I’ve shared: How we eat is just as important than what we eat. Our relationship with food, our mindset, is where it all starts. Our enjoyment, our intentions, how food makes us feel, how full we are willing to get. All of these factors create a connection with food that can feel nourishing and energizing on one end of the spectrum, forced and unpleasant on the other, or somewhere in between.

            My hope was to start drawing attention to where your relationship with food currently stands. This comes from how we were raised and our experiences, and unless we bring awareness to it, tends to fly under the radar, running the show unconsciously. You may have noticed some habits that are really in line with the healthiest version of yourself, and some that don’t make you feel so good. There is no right or wrong relationship with food. Only yours, and how you chose to grow it. But we cannot make conscious choices to feel better unless we are aware of our current mindset. Awareness breeds autonomy. Autonomy to appreciate what we’ve got already and grow where there is room for more health and happiness.

            So, I hope that some of the ideas and reflections here have presented you an opportunity to get to know your relationship with food a little better, and that its given you some room to make small adjustments where you could bring a little more joy into the cafeteria.

It is absolutely a journey; there is no end destination. There is no PERFECT relationship with food or definition of healthy that you can get to, so don’t even bother striving for that because you will never feel satisfied. Rather, appreciate making small changes to improve the quality of your food mindset and you’ll improve the quality of your life overall while you are at it. We do a lot of eating as humans and it affects all areas of our lives, so why not make it a priority worth appreciating?

Thank you for listening and all the best to you, my friends!

Coffee and Sleep

By Jonathan “Quiggy” Quigg

            This week I want to bring attention to our coffee drinking habits. First of all, damn, coffee is good! So tasty and wonderful to feel that boost of energy. But how much, how often and when we drink it can have a serious impact on our sleep – something we all need yet can fall to the wayside when a lot is on our plate – or our blood is 98% caffeine.

            Caffeine blocks the release of natural chemicals that makes us feel sleepy. When that effect wears off, and our sleepy chemicals return in high quantities, we feel a crash. So, even though we may be able to crash and fall asleep after some late night sips of coffee, the caffeine remaining in our system is actually disruptive to our deep sleep. And it’s in our deep sleep that our body and mind really rejuvenate and recover. So, though our caffeine habits might seem like they don’t effect our sleep because we can fall asleep okay, they can have a serious impact on the quality of our sleep. To put it in perspective, 6 hours of good, deep sleep is going to be better than 9 hours of disrupted, caffeinated “shallow” sleep. You will wake up feeling a lot more rested, energized and ready for the day, when you get good quality, deep sleep. This doesn’t happen when we are drinking coffee late in the day.

            Caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours, meaning that the amount of it left in your system is halved every 6 hours. So if you are drinking coffee at 6pm, you still have half of that caffeine content in your body at Midnight. That’s a lot and one needs to consider the effect that may have on your sleep and your next day.

I know that it can become a vicious cycle, and one that’s hard to break out of. We need coffee to feel awake then sleep poorly and wake up needing it again to get by. But by recognizing what’s happening, there are some small adjustments we can make to get better rest.

  1. Replace with tea. Especially in the afternoon. Black tea has a fair amount of caffeine in it still and green tea might be enough on its own to give you the boost you need too.
  2. Try to set a cut off for coffee drinking time. I don’t drink after 12pm (which means ¼ of the caffeine in that cup of coffee is still in my system at Midnight when I go to sleep) – but you have to choose what is reasonable and doable for you.
  3. Limit the number of cups a day. You have to start by KNOWING how many you drink a day. If you don’t you have to start by counting. Even the act of counting can bring enough awareness to chill out a bit. From there, try drinking one less cup a day to start small.
  4. Replace some of your coffee habit with decaf. Coffee tastes good! Sometimes enjoying the taste, or the ritual, is a big part of what’s drawing us in. So this way we can still enjoy it without the negative effect on our sleep. And you may even still get a bit of a placebo effect and boost from the decaf version.
  5. Try something else to reenergize. Coffee isn’t the only way to recoup and get a boost. Go for a walk. Do some exercise. Lie down and listen to some music. Power nap. Have a dance party. Meditate. There are many natural ways to reenergize ourselves that don’t involve caffeine. If you can replace one cup of coffee a day with an alternative like this, you might notice a huge difference.

Though our relationship with coffee cannot change overnight, the hope here is to inspire an honest reflection of your habits and encouragement to start making some small adjustments in the direction of healthier habits. Your sleep will thank you.

Where Did My Food Come From?

By Jonathan “Quiggy” Quigg

Bringing mindfulness into our mealtime can increase our appreciation for food, how much we enjoy our meal, how satisfied we feel after and even how good the food tastes while we are eating it.

One simple game we can play is to ask the question: “Where did my food come from?” You can either discuss the answer out loud, in your head or take a moment to visualize before you take your first bite, or while you are chowing down.

Go back to the source. Think of all the people that worked to get that food to your plate. The farmers who grew the crops or raised the animals. Imagine the early, long days it took to grow a seed into a full-fledged plant, fruit, vegetable, grain, etc. It didn’t happen overnight, that’s for sure. Maybe the oil was made in a factory with big machines that pressed ingredients into cook-able form. How were all the ingredients transported? Who drove the trucks, boats, planes? Who worked in the kitchen to prepare the meal and turn raw ingredients into the delicious meal sitting in front of you? Use your imagination! Be curious about how your food got onto your plate, because it didn’t just magically appear (and if it did – how?!).

When we connect with the journey our food took to get to us, and appreciate the humans (and animals) who worked hard to prepare it for us, we bring a sense of gratitude into our relationship with food that is energizing. We can feel good before we even take our first bite. And each one will taste a little better as a result.