Reflecting on my first month as a student at the University of Massachusetts, I realize it has been a time of adjustment and growth. My best preparations weren’t always enough for every possibility, but I also found myself challenged, trying new things, and making connections that will help me get accustomed to life away from home and family. All that being said let’s talk about key things I learned!
I Over and Underpacked At the Same Time
Getting to college, I thought I’d brought everything I needed to survive until my next trip home. A month in, I have clothes tucked away in corners, and over half a dozen packages and envelopes have arrived at my door with items I never even considered bringing. I had managed to overpack, while underpacking at the same time.
Mistake one came from bringing too many cute summer clothes that were good for about a week into the semester. I’ve been rotating the same three or four outfits this entire time, and most of my summer clothes have been left untouched.
Mistake two was bringing too many shoes; more specifically high heels and hard-to-walk-in shoes. As a guilty lover of shoes, I packed a handful of my high heels for “special occasions” that will probably never happen. Keep it realistic; you’re most likely not going to be strutting to class in stilettos.
Then there were the things I didn’t think to pack, that I later realized I needed and had to have shipped. This included…
- My beloved yoga mat. I love sunset yoga, and I had to do it in the grass because I didn’t have my mat!
- More tissue boxes! You’re immune system hasn’t really adjusted to this whole “college thing” yet, and you’re bound to catch a cold while here.
- Snacks for when you’re too lazy to walk to the dining halls. Even though I'm a two-minute walk from Hampshire Dining Commons, sometimes even this is too long of a walk, and I'd just prefer a snack. I figured I’d just walk to the dining halls whenever I was hungry. While this is usually the case, it’s also good to have snacks in your room to grab on the go or just for when you’re too lazy to get up. Some of my favorite go-to snacks include pretzels and popcorn.
- If you do happen to forget items such as tissue boxes and snacks, the campus store hosts a lovely range of household items as well as school supplies and even has an electronics department. If you’re not finding what you need there, there’s a CVS located conveniently downtown, or public transportation to the Hampshire Mall. If that’s too much walking for you….there’s always Amazon.
Time Management is Everything
There’s a lot more freedom in college, and depending on your schedule, your classes may not even start till late afternoon. When you’re taking four, five, six classes, the work can add up quickly, and you want to make sure you’re on top of it! I’m currently taking four classes, and there’s a lot of work I’m responsible for outside of the classroom. While showing up to class is a large component, simply being there isn’t enough. Most of your work is actually outside of the classroom — whether it’s homework, or studying and taking notes on the material. As Uncle Ben once said to Peter Parker, “with great power comes great responsibility”.
The True Usefulness of Google Maps
For the first week or so, I relied on following others around, and Google Maps, to find my classes and way around campus. A month later, I still frequently use Google Maps to find my way around new parts of campus. While Waze is my favorite app for driving directions, it does not feature the walking directions that Google Maps has. Google Maps also has a “Transit” feature which connects to the PVTA bus system schedule; allowing you to find bus routes and directions. It’s definitely been my go-to app for directions since being here.
How to Dress Weather Appropriate
The Weather App has been one of my favorite apps since getting to UMass Amherst. I am constantly checking the weather to plan out what I should be wearing for the day.
New England weather can be pretty funky. Fall can go from 40-degree mornings to 70-degree afternoons — so you have to be dressed accordingly. If you’re like me, with some classes starting at 8 AM, you’re going to want to be dressing warm for that 10-15 minute walk to class. This being said — the classrooms can be really hot, especially in large lecture halls with lots of students. For this reason, I’m a big fan of layering clothes. This allows me to be nice and warm walking to class, but also gives me the ability to take off my layers and not be roasting in the lecture halls. My go-to layering is a sweater with a short sleeve or tank top underneath, and some leggings or jeans.
Being conscious of your footwear choices also becomes a must. You don’t want to be walking 15 minutes to class in $5 flip-flops from the dollar store. Been there, done that. It’s just not an enjoyable experience. You’re going to have to sometimes sacrifice style for comfort and go with the comfy sneakers. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later. My personal favorite everyday shoes are my black and white Converse sneakers.
I also highly recommend investing in a pair of waterproof shoes, rain coat, and/or umbrella. Walking to and from class unprepared for the rain can leave you a soggy mess, and just be a very unpleasant experience. If there’s a chance of rain in the forecast I pack my umbrella in my backpack, just in case.
The Importance of Keeping in Touch with Those You Love
Homesickness will almost certainly hit you at some point within your first month. For me, it was usually at random times during the day, or late at night after a long and tiring day. Homesickness is not uncommon, and many of my friends have mentioned feeling the same way. For a lot of people, college is the first time they’ve been away from home for a long period of time. For me, the longest I’d been away from home before college was one and a half weeks. Taking the time to keep in touch with those you love through text, FaceTime, or mail helps with the homesickness and keep you connected to those back home.
How to Introduce Myself
Introducing yourself is the first step to making connections, and can hold great potential. I’ve made lots of friends here just by being friendly and reaching out to those around me; whether it’s a simple “hi” in the halls, or talking to those around me during classes. One of the beauties of going to a large school like UMass Amherst, is that you always have new opportunities to introduce yourself and meet new people. It might be intimidating at first, being surrounded by strangers and not feeling like you “fit in”, but after introducing myself a few times, I found myself crossing paths with those I’d connected to quite often. Taking the time to get acquainted with teachers can help you feel more connected to them; especially if you’re in a large lecture style class. This could mean going up to them before or after class, or seeing them during office hours. Introducing yourself can open up doors you didn’t even know about and all it takes is a simple “Hello”.
Perks of Getting Involved and Trying New Things
UMass Amherst has so many other things to offer in addition to academics. The UMass Amherst Activities Expo, which happens the first week of classes, is a great place to find new clubs and organizations to join. I signed up for numerous clubs, and went to a lot of info meetings just to get a feel for the different options I had. There is no pressure to join the clubs you sign up for, and going to the first meeting gives you a feel for whether or not the club is right for you! If you missed the Activities Expo, or are looking to join later, you can check out all of the clubs through Campus Pulse. Some clubs I’m now actively involved in are Club Management Association of America (CMAA), American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), Outing Club, and Habitat for Humanity. Clubs are a great way to get involved at UMass Amherst in different areas of interest, and meet new people. Other ways to get involved include attending sporting events and other events being held around campus. Recently I went to the free Lil Tecca concert with my friends. It was a really fun experience, and I even I got a bunch of free merch! There’s always stuff to do here at UMass Amherst. Emails are sent out weekly about what’s happening on campus and you can always check out the UMass Amherst Events Calendar.
That’s what I’ve learned after my first month. I feel like these things have helped me start to get the hang of life on campus, and put me on a path to evolve with the opportunities and challenges ahead. What would you say you’ve learned so far at UMass Amherst?