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Trips around Trop: The Beach(es) in your Backyard

Soft sand between your toes. A light ocean breeze and the bright sun’s warm caress against your back. Your beach towel awaiting your return as you catch a couple of cool waves in the shallows of the Great Pacific. You’re probably thinking, “Cool, Hawaii?” But I kid you not; this is a first-hand (and foot) experience of mine from earlier today.

Living in this little college-town definitely has its perks, and I’d be lying if I said having the Pacific Ocean in your backyard isn’t a huge one of them. Halfway through my first year at UCSB, I realized just how unique my experience here would be: when, again, in my life would I get the chance to live amongst my friends, earning a world-class education, while living practically on the beach? After this little epiphany, I stopped taking my location for granted, and began to actively (and at times obsessively) explore the myriad coastal delights surrounding me.

Pretty much any UCSB student walking on the street will know where Campus Point is; located right next to the larger on-campus residential complex (Anacapa and Santa Cruz Halls look out into the ocean), this beach is a favorite beginner’s surf spot for students and locals alike. I always like to visit the colorful tide pools near the southern end of the point, where it isn’t unusual to see squishy pink starfish during low tide (don’t touch!)

Some other popular beach access points stem from the famous Del Playa Drive, known to locals as DP, hugging the UCSB campus on one side and the ocean on the other. From Trop, this is the east way to get to the beach; when I’m really eager I walk out the door and keep walking southward until I hit DP, and then take the closest staircase down to sea. I can’t put into words how relieving and calming to see this wide expanse of water spread out in front of you, and there is something really comforting in the knowledge that the water is so close to escape to or enjoy. I often think of the ocean as this powerful protective entity that always has your back (in our case, literally!)

My latest coastal craze has been Sands Beach. Beginning at the end of DP, it extends up to Coal Oil Point, which is at the tip of a reserve dedicated to protecting the coastal ecosystem and its particularly threatened bird species, the Snowy Plover. This beach is further from the heart of IV and so often time is more pristine and less crowded than other beaches, and you’re most likely to see sunrise surfers here. There is also a trail alongside the beach, which makes it a picturesque and favorite spot for runners and yoga-doers alike. The latest fad has been bringing giant air-filled rafts to laze around in the sea with friends.

This only scratches the surface of the plentiful local seaside paradises; the list goes on and on. Additionally, as only a second year here at UCSB, I don’t pretend to know all the beaches around here, and am not a surfer in any consideration. But that’s the best part about it! Anyone here can enjoy and benefit from the beautiful beaches around us, swim or tan or jog or maybe even learn to surf. That’s my goal, and I still have two years here to look forward to. Who knows what they’ll bring!

Info on the Coal Oil Point Reserve:

UCSB Campus Map:

A Match Made in College: Prepping Yourself for Roommates

When I look back at my first year at UCSB, my mind is quickly drawn to the experiences I had with my roommates. Going into it, I was really unsure about the whole situation, since I had never really lived with “roommates.” My family was already used to my quirks and obnoxiousness, and I wasn’t sure if I would have to censor myself in order to live with…strangers. *gasp* I was certain that my new roomies would be the most judgmental cool kids in the world, and I didn’t want to seem like I was a square bear, but I also didn’t want to live in a grungy mess or have a bunch of randoms raging in my room.

Here are a few things I learned about picking and living with roommates while in college:

  1. Don’t “Lie” During Roommate Matching

    Sometimes we sprinkle in a few white lies or omit some of the less becoming details of our life experiences when we are put in social situations outside our comfort zone. We don’t want other people to think less of us, and we are exceptionally vulnerable to the perceived judgment of others when we come to a place where we have to jumpstart an entirely new social life. The only problem with trying to please other people when picking roommates is that literally, all your dirty laundry will be aired after the honeymoon phase is over. If you like to stay up late, live in an organized pigsty, and you have certain…shall we say…“vices,” don’t make it a surprise for your roommate who likes to go to bed at 9:30pm, has a place for everything and everything in it place, and who dislikes drinking and smoking. Maybe you guys would be great friends at school or in a club, but mortal enemies as roommates.

  2. Best Friends, Best Roommates?

    One thing that I personally would recommend you do is really take some time to consider living with someone who is already your best friend. Countless times, I have seen residents decide to room with their current “BFF” because they think that this will ensure they will have a good first year at school. Not always true. Being a roommate with someone is an entirely different experience from hanging out with your best bro or gal pal, and many times these friendships cannot weather the storm of what it takes to live with someone. Former BFF’s become mortal enemies after nine months of constant togetherness.

    My recommendation is that if you and a friend are going to the same college, you already know that they will be your “safety friend” in terms of having someone to hang out with, so why not try living with a new person? You can both branch out and meet new people to add to your friend circle. And who knows? The new roommates you live with may want to live with you and your best friend the following year when you move in to an apartment together.

  3. Be True to Yourself and Say Something

    If you have a problem with your roommate, whether they are playing their music too loud or you’re tired of them bringing their friends/significant other over all day every day, why not tell them? There’s nothing worse than festering feelings from unresolved conflict. If you don’t say anything, don’t think that your roommate is going to magically come to the realization on their own that you are upset. Quite the opposite! They are going to assume it’s okay to continue doing what they’re doing, and that behavior has the potential of getting worse or getting on your nerves even more.

    I would suggest trying to present the subject in a positive way. No one likes being told what to do. Just tell them in a firm, yet polite way, that a certain behavior is troubling you. Don’t forget: “please” and “thank you” go a long way.

  4. Think of Ways to be a Considerate Roommate.

    Maybe you’re thinking, “I melt faces with the volume of my sound system and I have my gf/bf over every day and my roommate never says anything. We’re cool.” Maybe your roommate and suitemates really are okay with you playing your music loud and having people over. The thing you have to remember though is the old saying: too much of a good thing can be bad. It doesn’t hurt to plug your headphones in and tell your friends you’ll see them this weekend. Let your roommates “miss” your friends and taste in music for a while.

    By being purposeful in your roommate selection, learning to communicate and being a little flexible, your chances of having a better-than-average roommate experience are high. You never know, you may just make a friend for life!

FAQs from Incoming UCSB Students

My name is Gladiola and I am a current student at UCSB, as well as the Leasing Coordinator for Tropicana Del Norte. I was able to meet many incoming students at this year’s Spring Insight event at Tropicana Del Norte’s Question and Answer table. Talking with incoming UCSB students reminded me of my own Spring Insight experience and it has made me reflect on my 3 years since that day and how I made my own decision to attend UCSB and to live at Tropicana Del Norte my Freshman year. Looking back, I am so happy about both of these decisions!

Below are some of the FAQs I receive on a regular basis, as well as from Spring Insight.

1) What is the difference between “on campus” dorms and Tropicana Del Norte?

Definitely the most Frequently Asked Question! Tropicana Del Norte is another option for Freshman housing, but Tropicana is not owned by UCSB. Instead, Tropicana is a privately owned Residence Hall, but is closely affiliated with UCSB. My first two years at UCSB I played Lacrosse, and myself and most of the UCSB Freshman Athletes lived together with other Freshman at Tropicana Del Norte. Many students, including athletes like myself, chose Tropicana Del Norte because we did not have to go through the lottery selection for our Residence Hall and risk being a mile away from main campus at Santa Catalina. Tropicana Del Norte is directly adjacent to campus, which makes it convenient to get to classes, the Rec Cen, playing fields, the stadium… pretty much everything!

Another main difference is that Tropicana Del Norte processes your housing cost separately from your “BARC” account. What’s a “BARC” account? Read on to my next FAQ and you’ll find out!

2) How does Financial Aid work?

This is a great question, because I too did not understand how the Financial Aid process worked when I started at UCSB, let alone how I could apply it to living at Tropicana Del Norte!

When you attend UCSB a Billing Accounts Receivable Collections or “BARC” account will be set up for you. All of your tuition will be charged to this account and you will be responsible for making payments to this account. If you’re receiving Financial Aid, then your disbursements will deposited in to your BARC account, which will cover your tuition costs. UCSB Campus housing is also charged to your BARC. Any unused funds from your BARC account will be sent to you in the form of a check, or deposited to your bank account directly, depending on what information you provide on your account. Tropicana Del Norte anticipates these disbursement dates and you can sign a Financial Aid Addendum to lump your monthly installments into quarterly installments. Then you’ll only need to pay Tropicana Del Norte when you receive your Financial Aid!

Need to apply to Financial Aid? Visit our Financial Aid page for instructions on how to apply for Financial Aid through FAFSA.

3) What are the meal hours for the dining hall?

Tropicana Del Norte café offers unlimited dining all day.

Monday – Thursday: 6:45 AM – 8:00 PM
Friday: 6:45 AM – 7:00 PM
Saturday & Sunday: 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM

The café is open continuously during that time. Trop Café also offers sack lunches and late night dinners for students who are on the go or have class during a meal.

UCSB’s Dinning Commons have varying hours based on the Dining Hall. All dining halls close between meal periods.

4) Can we call you?

Many parents asked… Can we call you to check on our son/daughter? Some were prompted to ask when they heard one of the mothers in the Tropicana Del Norte video tell her story about needing to get in touch with her daughter and that she was able to call the office to have our staff check in and make sure everything was okay. This is not an unusual request! Whether a student forgot to charge their phone, are busy with class, or they’re sleeping in, we understand how important it is to make sure that they are okay.

For students or parents… We’re available to talk if you have questions about anything really, whether it’s what to bring with you when you move in, how to sign up, or if you’d like to talk to any of the on-site administrators or directors… we’re here to help!

So the answer is… YES! Call us anytime!

5) What is needed to reserve a space at Trop?

Signing up for Trop is easy! There’s 4 steps to reserve your space.

Step 1. First create a MyTropAccount by going to our website and clicking on MyTropAccount in the top right corner. You will be guided through the online Application and Contract process.

Step 2. You will be asked to pay a $125 nonrefundable Application and Processing fee.

Step 3. Once paid, your application will be submitted for review and you will be invited to continue completing your contract. You’ll tell us about yourself, complete your Roommate Matching Profile, tell us your Room Preferences, provide us with your Guarantor Information, sign the contract with a digital signature, upload a photo, and upload a copy of your Guarantor’s Identification.

Step 4. Make your contract signing payments, which will reserve your space at Tropicana. Contract Signing Payments include:

Refundable Security Deposit: $350
Tropicana Student Organization fee: $150
Initial Contract Payment: $1000

Once your space is reserved, you’ll be able to get to the fun stuff: Roommate Matching! Which brings me right in to my next Question and Answer…

6) How does roommate matching work at Trop?

One of the best things about signing up to live at Trop is picking your own roomates. It’s kind of like online dating, but to find a best friend! As an incoming resident you would fill out a profile about yourself (you can use a screen name if you want to stay anonymous at first), your interests, whether you are an early bird or a night owl, etc. You can then see the profiles of other incoming residents, chat with them, exchange phone numbers or Facebook info, and then, if you decide that you’re a good match, you and your future roomie can mutually request each other. It’s actually a lot of fun, and a great way to start meeting your future Trop neighbors and friends!

7) Is there a catch?

I asked the same question when I was an incoming freshman! Tropicana Del Norte is less expensive than campus, a mile closer to main campus than Santa Catalina residence hall, and it’s seems like a really cool community! Why isn’t Tropicana filled already?…

The answer to that is easy… You haven’t signed up with us yet! Tropicana Del Norte is home to 330 hardworking and focused UCSB students who love living here! Over 80% of those residents are freshmen who chose to live at Tropicana. We’d love for you to choose to live with us too and be a part of our community next year! See some of the great memories that have been made at Trop:

Tropicana Del Norte 2013-2014 – End of the Year Video 

If you have any questions at all about what it’s like living here or how to sign up to be a part of the Trop community, I’m happy to be of assistance! I really enjoyed having the chance to talk with so many incoming Gauchos, and I hope that I’ll continue to see you next year at Tropicana Del Norte!


Have a Fun and Safe Halloween Weekend!

As many of you know, Halloween is just around the corner… BOO! Don’t be scared though, if you follow these 5 tips you’ll have a fun and safe Halloween that you’ll always remember!

1.Flat shoes means safe shoes. Wearing heels is a no-go.

You will be walking around a lot and might not have the best surface of walking. You don’t want to have to hobble back to your room because of a sprained ankle or gash on the knee from falling. Wear some cool Chuck Taylors or boots and be comfortable all night.

2.Do the buddy system thang.

People always say that “two is better than one” and this is definitely true when it comes to Halloween. You don’t want to get lost in the packs of people that come and visit. People are dressed up and Halloween always brings the crazy out, so stay safe by staying in a group. The more the merrier.

3.Know your limits and stick with them.

We all know that Halloween is a fun time to dress up and go out! If you do decide to drink, know when to stop. Just because you want to enjoy the night doesn’t mean you have to forget it. Limit yourself to one drink per hour with water in between (and don’t feel pressured to drink if you don’t want to!). 

4.R.E.S.P.E.C.T… it’s good for the soul.

While you all are having a blast and looking fabulous in your costumes make sure you remember that people are still trying to work by keeping you safe. Understand that police officers and paramedics are on high alert and don’t give them a reason to have reasonable cause. Respect the property you are on … no one likes a trouble-maker.

5.Your phone may not be your ticket to getting home.

As Halloween in IV can get a bit crowded, that also means the airwaves are getting crowded as well.  With people posting, texting, and calling 90% of the time, it will be harder and sometimes impossible to get in communication with other people. Have a plan before leaving the house and stick with it. Yes that means be prepared to have no contact with those outside of your group… even more incentive to stay in a group!

If you stick with these 5 safety tips, whether its during Halloween or anytime you venture into the Isla Vista world!  Use common sense and safety first!

How to Build a Tasty and Flavorful Mexican Salad

Being at Trop for almost 5 years… yes five, I have found ways to eat healthy and mix it up each day without going out and spending money that, lets be honest, I don’t have. Some of you might be getting to the point where a PB&J sandwich just isn’t tasting the way it used to or a salad with veggies can seem a bit blah. I have a few hints to help you make each meal healthy with taste to back it up. 

If the Trop Café is serving Mexican that night then that means you can avoid the extra calories in a tortilla or shell bowl and make a delicious Mexican Salad. 

Walk to the salad bar and scope out all the extra veggies and toppings they may have out. Build that salad to your liking. I love to mix the spinach and iceberg lettuce to add some extra nutrition with some crunch.

See if you can get some chicken or beef for you salad. Once you’ve got your protein go find some fiber… maybe black beans or peppers.

Go to the condiments area and scoop up some freshly made pico de gallo and guacamole. You can even ask a Bon Appetit employee to see if they have extra avocado in the back. Sprinkle a little bit of cheese and there you go. Sometimes they even have feta in the salad bar section to make it a little more fancy. 

No need for dressing since the pico de gallo serves as a substitute. 

If you need a little extra flavor, get some BBQ sauce and make your very own Chicken or Beef Mexican Salad!

Something that helps me get my 64 ounces of water a day is to drink a cup before I eat and a cup after I eat. Leaves me feeling full and hydrated. Especially when its nice and hot outside.

That’s just one of my favorite salads to make in the Tropicana Café… stay tuned for more delicious combinations and more fun facts about this amazing place we call home, Santa Barbara! 

xox erika

Things to Do in Santa Barbara

We are really fortunate to live in Santa Barbara where many people come to vacation! Though most of our time as students is spent in itty bitty Isla Vista, try to get out at some point over the course of the 4 years and explore your new home! Here are some ideas for your future adventures.

  1. Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts – Check out a play!
  2. Inspiration Point – Get in shape and reconnect with nature on a beautiful hike.
  3. Horseback Ride – Find a local horseback riding business and have a scenic ride around the coast!
  4. Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara – Get in touch with your inner artist.
  5. Santa Barbara Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum – Thousands of historic documents for the history buff.
  6. Santa Barbara Mission – Beautiful architecture and history.
  7. Golf Courses – Try out golfing at one of Santa Barbara’s many golf courses!
  8. Santa Barbara County Courthouse – Another architectural landmark of Santa Barbara!
  9. Santa Barbara Zoo – The SB Zoo is small, but easily the most beautiful zoo you’ll ever visit! See amazing animals and then picnic on the landscaped lawns with a gorgeous view of the ocean.
  10. State Street – Spend a day shopping and eating delicious food on what is arguably SB’s central attraction.