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 UCSB 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, desk and chair and chest of drawers. 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 (wait for it) a large FLAT SCREEN TV (what?!) 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:

  • Bed clothes: Twin XL sheets, pillow, comforter
  • Laundry Basket and other laundry supplies
  • Study stuff: computer, headphones, desk lamp, stationary Clothes hangers
  • Laundry hamper (don’t forget laundry detergent too!)
  • Optional: decorations, white board, shoe organizer, command strips, rugs, mirror, personal mini-fridge

What To Bring:

Bedroom

  • 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: DVD player, gaming systems

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?

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 https://repl.it/languages!
    • 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.

Hardest Changes to Adjust To: Saying Goodbye to Mommy and Daddy

I think we may all agree that our parents drive us crazy 99.9% of the time. We think that no one understands the anxiety and stress we have been under as we approach move in day. But believe it or not, as much anxiety and nervousness we may think we have, our parents probably have five times as many.

Think about it, their baby boy or girl is off to college. They’re off to explore living with new people, trying new things, and balancing rigorous schoolwork. For some of us, we may be 20 minutes away, 6 hours away, or even all the way across an ocean. Its normal for them to feel scared, worried, concerned for their baby girl or boy.

On move in day, that will be the day they “cut the cord.” They’re agreeing to let you make your own choices and trusting that you will take advantage of the great (and expensive) education that you are now presented with. When they try to unpack your clothes for you, make your bed, or try to introduce themselves to everyone in your suite… let them. As much as you think this new change will affect you, remember how much this will also affect them. It is their last time doing this for their baby.

As the day goes on, and it comes time to say goodbye, remember that it is okay to cry when you say goodbye. You don’t have to keep it together all the time. I promise you no one will make fun of you because everyone will be feeling the same way. But after you cry your goodbye’s remind them that you will call when you get a chance and that you will make good choices.

As the days go on, take advantage of all of the events that Trop has scheduled for us. They’re meant for us to meet new people and make the transition to a new lifestyle on our own easier. But when you get down time, make sure you send a text to mom reminding her how much you love her or remind dad of how much those talks he gave you before coming here came in handy.

I promise you that everything will be okay. If you find yourself missing mom and dad too much, remember that in a few short weeks (Thanksgiving) you will be back into their arms, enjoying mom’s homecoooked meals, and still getting lectured just like before!

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: http://coaloilpoint.ucnrs.org/

UCSB Campus Map: http://www.aw.id.ucsb.edu/maps/ucsbmap.html

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!

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