Two Must-Have Apps Before Heading Off to College

Hi guys! I just have a quick post for you today. I was originally thinking I might have more to add to this list, but I really don’t keep a lot of apps on my phone. Honestly, my 16GB iPhone only holds so much data and I take far too many Instagram photos for it to contain anything but the bare necessities. I’ve found these two apps to be my most used since collge started.

Uber and Lyft // These apps would be nearly useless if I went to school in the middle of nowhere, but since I’m in Boston it’s almost necessary. Public transportation shuts down at something like 2AM (and during the winter–ha!) and taxi drivers almost always take advantage of college students, so these are great alternatives. Uber and Lyft send a car at the touch of a button. I use them pretty much interchangeably, but I check Uber first because although it’s slightly more expensive, I think their drivers are a little more thoroughly screened. However, you’ll find that a lot of drivers drive for both companies and I trust both.

Venmo // Apparently my friends from other schools haven’t heard of the glory of this app, but John introduced me a while back and it’s pretty popular in Boston. It’s the most useful app I have on my phone. You can hook it up to your bank account/debit card in the same manner as you would PayPal and send friends money at the touch of a button. I always forget who owes who money for what, and Venmo eliminates that problem by allowing me to send cash to my friends immediately after a purchase is made!

I hope this was helpful! Let me know if there are any apps you love having on your phone!

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Two Must-Have Apps Before Heading Off to College

Long Distance Relationship Tips: The End

653. That’s the number of days until May 14, 2017. Not only is that Sunday my birthday, but it’s the day after John has a college diploma in his hand (a week after I have one in mine) and we will officially no longer be a long distance couple.

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It hasn’t always been that clear cut. I go to a school where getting your undergraduate degree is expected to take five years due to time taken off to work for entire semesters at a time. For a while, I thought I wanted to go into teaching and getting my license would push me back to a December 2017 graduation. Hypothetically I could also graduate at the end of this year if I didn’t want to work anymore and was interested in graduating straight political science, but I don’t need to shorten my stay by too, too much.

There was a period of time during which I pondered the idea that after graduation John and I might spend some time in different cities. I thought the Silicon Valley might call to him and I would end up wherever I got a job and then eventually we would figure out a way to end up in the same city so we could get on with our lives. Over the past couple of years, though, I’ve learned that’s not really how long distance relationships work.

I’ve read about a lot of long distance relationships online, and while every couple is different, their stories all end the same way. Basically, if you’re in it for the long haul, you need to figure out how to be together at some point. We’re fortunate that we have such a natural point at which to make that happen. (I think. Ha!) I don’t have a crystal ball and I don’t even have a desire to so intricately plan my future that I know what city we’ll be in or what company I’ll work for, but part of loving John is trusting that both of us would do whatever it takes to be together at that point.

I know every couple does things differently, but I think that for us having an end in sight provides comfort if nothing else. I’m interested to hear the perspectives of other people in long distance relationships, so chime in if you’re so inclined! (P.S. That picture up there is from the day John and I became long distance. Our smiles didn’t stay that way for long.) Until next time!

Long Distance Relationship Tips: The End

Roommate Agreement + Printable

Happy Monday! Today I’m sharing the first of a series of college/ResLife related posts. While many of the resources in this series will cater to either college freshmen or Resident Assistants (RAs), I think a lot of tidbits can be useful for almost anyone in college or even beyond.

Today’s post is on roommate agreements. I know many schools actually require students to fill out roommate agreement contracts, and since my school doesn’t I will be providing my residents with a psuedo-contract to fill out if they would like to. This list is adapted from personal experience and from several lists I found online. It may not work for everyone or every situation, but hopefully it can give you at least an idea of where to start from.

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Download as a PDF: Two L Allison’s Roommate Guidelines Worksheet

If I’m being 100% honest, I’ve never actually used a roommate agreement myself or even thoroughly discussed the details of how we should cohabitate, but I’ve regretted not doing so every semester. The beginning of the year with a roommate is always a little bit awkward and usually conflicts don’t even arise until several weeks into the semester or even second semester which makes this a difficult topic to approach. I’m hoping to eliminate the awkwardness of these conversations by rewarding my residents for participating and so that no one is alone in approaching the topic. I think everyone has a conflict with their roommate of some sort at some point in the year and establishing guidelines from the get go can mitigate things early on.

While the details of using your roommate’s property and sleep hours are really important, my favorite part of this agreement is the last section regarding conflict resolution. It’s difficult to understand how others are used to communicating re: conflict, and I am hoping this section will help mesh communication styles early on.

Let me know if you think I should add anything for my residents! I would love to hear if anyone has ever used a roommate agreement before and if you feel like it was beneficial at all. Until next time!

Roommate Agreement + Printable

Un-Dorm Your Dorm

Most college kids break out of a dorm room by junior year, but my position as an RA has brought me back to a freshman dorm for year three. I was in an on campus apartment last year and (obviously) a freshman dorm in a different building my first year, so I’ve had a bunch of different experiences, and I’m starting to find trends in what I love to do with my dorm rooms.

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This was originally going to be a “5 tips for dorm decorating” post or something similar, but in my mind it has quickly transformed into…a plea. That sounds too harsh. Maybe a word of wisdom?

Anyway, you know how Target comes out with their ~awesome~ college section every year? And how you can be tempted to buy literally every item for your dorm room from there because they carry Twin XL and because everything coordinates? I would recommend thinking twice because it turns out when you get to college five other people on your floor will inevitably have the same comforter as you do. It’s not that Target dorm decor is a bad thing. There’s just so much more out there to choose from.

Try Ikea or World Market for bedding, a comforter, or a throw. Buy some potted plants or grab a vase from home for fresh cut flowers to brighten your room. Remind yourself of home by bringing old linens your parents have hung onto for absolutely no reason. Stay away from Pinterest boards on dorm decor and veer toward generic bedroom decor. While you can’t change your paint or furniture, you can change about everything else and the inspiration is much more mature.

I don’t mean for this post to sound judgmental and bossy because really if you would like a Target comforter, go for it. But think outside the box. You’re going to be spending a ridiculous amount of time inside these walls for the next nine months. Make it you, don’t make it Target. (I love you, Target, don’t take this all the wrong way!)

In the next few weeks, I’ll share my ~ultimate~ college packing guide that I used to shop my first year. Until next time!

Un-Dorm Your Dorm

Burnout

burn·out ˈbərnˌout/ physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.

I think most of us have been there. You know, that realization in the middle of the night that you absolutely can not go on any further. Even though you haven’t memorized all 300 vocabulary words, it’s definitely time to turn the lights out and go to bed because not only can you not cram any more information in your head, but you also feel like you literally cannot push through any longer without having some sort of mental/emotional breakdown. And that the feeling won’t go away after you take this exam tomorrow because it’s become a part of your life.

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I’m a little afraid for a lot of college students. That a lot of us experience burnout too frequently and that some of us experience burnout so drastic that we literally cannot continue. Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s great to constantly push yourself further to be all that you can be, but when it becomes exhausting to a point of misery, I don’t think it’s okay anymore.

Every summer of college so far, I’ve been thrown a million opportunities. Study abroad! Paid research! Live for free on campus as a Resident Assistant! Do an internship to build your resume! I filled myself up with these opportunities last summer. Partially because I felt like going home would be miserable, but also because I felt like I needed to do so in order to keep up with everyone else. I went for nearly two full years with virtually no extended break and it seemed great at the start, but I quickly learned that I was living an unsustainable lifestyle. (Note: I know there are no breaks in the real world. But in the real world people aren’t expected to juggle all of their extracurriculars, the pressure of success, and a full time job, especially not when they’re 20 years old. The ones who do all of that experience burnout, too.)

As a result, six or seven months ago I made the decision to leave the second half of my summer untouched. To make sure I was doing nothing except relaxing. This time, it meant going home to be with my family, going on vacation with them to Florida, and going to Austin for a week to visit John. I’m almost halfway through my self-mandated break, and I think it was one of the best decisions of my life so far.

It’s not sustainable to have every single break (summer and winter) shortened by a week or three because of RA training. It’s not sustainable to work a full-time job, complete 50 hours of community service, fully participate in extracurricular activities, and be a functioning resource to my residents all at once. I needed some time off.

It wasn’t easy, though. I was still thrown all of the same opportunities as last summer and I almost took some of them. There’s still a little part of me that feels like I might be behind when I go back to school because I didn’t fill up my time. Or, more likely, that I will be judged by my peers or mentors for “wasting” some of that precious time relaxing.

A bigger part of me knows that I should start encouraging others to take the same kind of breaks. Do a semester in DC or abroad to take some time off of extracurricular activities. Limit your “other stuff” load during the semester that you’re working a full-time job. Clear your plate off and get some peace of mind. Prioritize reading books over attending meetings or socializing with friends over adding an internship.

This may seem impossible for some. Many engineering or health field programs are basically year-round. My RA friends who are pharmacy majors get basically no break because they are required to take classes in a sequence and classes are only offered once a year, plus they have to be back at school weeks earlier than their peers because of RA training. Giving yourself a break doesn’t look the same for everyone, but I think it can be done.

We, college students, need to prioritize taking breaks. To make this a less intensely competitive place where we stop enjoying ourselves because we’re trying to keep up with each other and impress professors. We need to tell everyone no. We can’t take any more on our plate. But mostly, I think we need to tell ourselves and our internal desire to achieve not to put anything more on our plate.

Burnout

Long Distance Relationship Tips: Visiting

Happy Monday! This is the beginning of a series of posts I’m planning to share on long distance relationships. John and I started dating halfway through our senior year of high school and have been long distance (for us, MA -> TX) for almost two full years now. I remember panicking the summer before we left for school and google searching “Does long distance work?” (Hint: Don’t do this. It doesn’t help.) and couldn’t find much help. These posts will be directed at a college-aged crowd dealing with long distance, but could apply to a variety of people.

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I’m in Austin this week visiting John while he’s interning for the summer, so it seemed appropriate to start with the importance of visiting. Being in college is not the easiest time for most to have an extra $200-500 lying around to travel far and visit, but it’s important to make sure you put in the effort to keep your connection strong. Freshman year, based on our schedules and available funds, we found that we could manage two visits on top of seeing each other on a couple of breaks from school. I saw John about once every two months during this time. This past year, we were able to up it and I saw him about once a month, which will probably continue to be the trend for the next two years.

While being so far apart has seemed to be a curse in many ways, I think it has been a blessing in some. If we lived closer together–say, if John were in NYC–we would probably visit too frequently and would both miss out on part of our own, independent college experiences because we were at the other’s university for such a large portion of our time. We’ve both been able to maintain our individual college lives and haven’t missed out on anything because of our relationship, which is something I made an effort to prioritize before we started.

As I said, however, visiting is important and it’s key that you make the most out of visit. I’ve seen many diagrams that show three parts to relationships: mental, emotional, and physical. My theory on long distance is that your mental and emotional relationship grow stronger (I guess that’s a plus, haha), but you miss the physical component for most of the time. Making time to visit each other allows you to continue to mature as a couple in the physical side of your relationship.

Lastly, for me, visiting is always a little bit of a struggle. It’s easier to go long distance when you start to forget the little things that you love about  physically being with the other person, but visits bring all of those memories back all at once. The first time John visited me, I spent most of the visit crying because he was going to have to leave eventually. I’ve found that the best way to cope is to live in the moment and try not to dwell on the end date of the visit, but rather know that there is an end date to the long-distance portion of your relationship.

Please let me know if there are any other long distance relationship topics you’d like me to cover or questions that you have! Until next time!

Long Distance Relationship Tips: Visiting

Packing & Planning

Lie. I haven’t started packing. I technically won’t have all of my stuff together to go until next week, but at about this time every year I start thinking about how I’m going to decorate the next space I’m moving to. (P.S. Apologies in advance for the shoddy pictures. I’ll start doing a better job of documenting my decor in the future)

Since I’m movin’ on up to being an SRA rather than an RA next year, I’m also movin’ on out and trekking to the other side of campus to move back into freshman style dorms. My building next year will be much older than my own freshman dorm, and while I’m not sure what it’ll look like, I am very excited. I’m one of those crazy people who loves the thought of living in an older building that has more charm and who chooses the big room on the side with no elevator at the risk of trekking up four flights of stairs to get to my room.

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Even though I’m living in freshman housing next year, I want to keep some of the more mature elements of my room this year, though I might bring some of the decor from my freshman dorm back. I missed the Instagram wall.

This past year as an RA, I was placed in apartment style housing. I have a single bedroom, shared living room, and a kitchen. My building is relatively new and looks more like a “real” apartment than almost any other apartment style hall on campus. My choice of decor matched, but I might try to cutesy things up a little bit for next year.

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I’d really like to keep the white bedding, but I’m thinking about doing something different with the walls. I also desperately need to purge so much of my stuff.

I’ll go into full-fledged planning mode when I get home next week. Expect to see some room decor inspiration posts throughout the summer, and I promise to share the result! Decorating is one of the things I love most about moving from room to room every year. I’m definitely not a pro or as sophisticated as I’d like to become, but if you saw other college dorm rooms I swear you would think I’m impressive.

Packing & Planning