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The Life of a College Student

(Make sure you scroll down to see all of his posts!)

Post One – September 2020

Hi, I am Chris, a freshman at the University of Southern Maine. I moved in on Tuesday, August 25th and I plan to major in Computer Science.

Throughout the next year, I will take you through the life of a college student– what it’s like, especially with this crazy time of Covid.

I started my journey late, applying to colleges around January of my senior year – just a tad bit late. When I first applied, or should I say, when I FINALLY applied, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to go for, or where, so I guess you could say I played it safe and applied to just about every college in Maine. If it had an online application, they got one from me.

Before too long I started to get letters of acceptance back. By this point, I was running short on time and I had to sit down and determine the best options considering factors like cost – this was a big factor – but also considering the campus itself. My parents reminded me that I would be living there, at least for a while, so it was important that I liked the campus otherwise I may not be as inclined to give it my best. 

After looking over all of the schools, my two favorite colleges were Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) and the University of Southern Maine (USM).

Here were some factors that I considered when narrowing it down to the two schools:

  1. Distance from home – I have to travel home on breaks and get my stuff to and from school; too far from home means additional costs.
  2. Major – Computer Science is what I want but, for me, it made sense to look at schools that offered other things I like too. If I want to change my major, I could transfer schools but it would be a lot easier to stay in one place.
  3.  Cost – I have to pay for this.
  4.  Campus – I looked at the layout and asked, “Could I have a car on campus? Would I want a car on campus? Will there be a lot of walking and did I like the look and feel of the place?” After all, this will be my home for the next four years.
USM Campus

With all of those thoughts on my mind, I decided on the University of Southern Maine. SNHU was offering the first year free to incoming freshmen, but even with that, USM was the best decision for me. Once the hard part was done, the exciting part began. I was able to make a list and go shopping. Creating the list was a lot easier than I expected. USM helped a lot by posting on their website what our rooms would already offer (e.g. desk, fridge, microwave etc.)  and then what they recommend we bring. I did a little extra research and created a list and then talked with my parents to make sure I had not missed anything – then I got to shopping. This is where the excitement waned a little, as I began to shop with my own budget (The College Fund that I had been adding to for a while) was tight after I bought my text books. If you have not started saving – it is never too late. After shopping I am still reeling from sticker shock. 

Do you know how much a power cord costs? Want a few snacks for your room, there goes $30.00. Also, with Covid, shopping just wasn’t the same. I did most of my shopping online, having package after package delivered to my house. Here is another question: why does shipping need to be so much? One broom with shipping was the same as buying two brooms. In the end, I used my parents’ Amazon Prime account to ship the things for free that I could, and then I did free in store pick-up with the other things.

Future students, if you are like me you will underestimate how much you have. Packing was not as easy as I thought it would be. USM also asked that we pack light, leaving excess furniture (e.g. fans, lamps, rugs, bean bags etc.) at home. 

USM Campus

At the time of writing this, it is my second day on campus and if I am being honest, it is not the most exciting. Because of Covid, I do not have a roommate. That is great but it also means I am on my own to start.  My classes start on Monday, August 31st, so I have a few days to acclimate.  First year orientation has been planned out for me over the week. I like that USM has planned it that way,  not too much excitement at once. I have unpacked and set-up my room, though I did forget my hangers, so it looks like I’ll be calling my mom soon. I am looking forward to having more freedom on campus and the beginning of classes.

Until next time.

-Chris


Post Two – October 2020

It’s been a little while since my last check in. I cannot believe how quickly the time has passed. Before going to USM I had heard people say that college can be some of the best years of your life – that you make memories and lifelong friends and have a freedom you have yet to experience. They were right and with the safety measures in place I have my room to myself, so it really feels like I am living on my own.

Since I first arrived in August everything has kind of calmed down. When I first moved in we were all required to get Covid tests, and quarantine for three days until we all got our results back. Since then, we have been able to leave campus, as long as we carry a blue lanyard that shows we are Covid-free. Dining has also gotten better. When we moved in our breakfast was packed in a bag for us, which we would receive at dinner (for the next day). At dinner we had three food options; rice and chicken, rice and chicken, oooooor rice and chicken. Thankfully, that did not last long and our options for food are much wider and actually quite good. I say actually because I imagined it being like typical cafeteria food. USM has pizza, pastas and salad every night, but, if you like to spice it up, they have an open wok where they make fresh noodles and stir fry every night- which is pretty good. They also have a grill area where they switch it up between making either chicken sandwiches or burgers, and in some rare occasions they have steak or lobster. My personal favorite is the simple servings area. It sounds like they give out less food there, but they really don’t, they just cook food that doesn’t have common allergens in it, such as nuts, wheat, or soy. They usually cook chicken or pork chops with steamed veggies and pair it with a rice or pasta.

This year they are requiring all freshmen to get a 19 meal plan, meaning that each week you can swipe your meal card 19 times for meals, with a supplemental budget of $50 to use at the Husky Hideaway, which is a mini “restaurant” under the dining hall. This is more meals than usual because the school wants us to be incented to eat on campus more (and not leave as often). I wasn’t too worried about only having 19 meals a week, because I don’t usually eat three meals a day, but for others it could be hard, as 21 meals would be normal to have a week. I usually sleep in so I’ll grab a late breakfast/early lunch, and then dinner after practices. It has worked out well for me so far.

Another big difference for me, or really anyone, has been having to wear a mask everywhere. It isn’t a big deal, and I would 100% rather stay safe than get sick, but after three workout sessions and practices having to wear a mask, I contemplated rolling the dice with Covid (just kidding, mom). Sporting events have been so different this year with Covid, for basketball our season won’t start till January. Practices will also be so different this year, we will be split into two groups, so that until further notice we will not be practicing all together, which makes it more difficult for team bonding and chemistry, but we are making the most out of it.

The biggest difference for me, though, has been the complete freedom.  I always had freedom when I lived at home, but I also always knew that if I needed help I could ask my parents.  I know that I still can call them, but it isn’t the same.  (Though I did call my mom about the hangers, and she came through – thank you mom. <3)  Also, knowing that they would check in on me before, whereas now I’m completely on my own.  It’s amazing, but my planning skills have been put to the test. I definitely will be working on those, by putting all of my assignments and practices into my calendar along with about a thousand reminders.

Speaking of homework, I may or may not have some, or a lot, but you’ll never know….

Until next time, this is me signing off….


Post Three – November 2020

Ahhh, and we.are.back!! 

Last time we checked in, I was finally settled in with college life and reflecting on how fast time goes by here. In fact, when I last signed off, I had some studying to do (that never ends by the way). I have made better study habits, and thank goodness for that because before that, I may oooor may not have started to slip up in some of my classes. 😉 Time management is a skill that I have definitely been working on.

Covid-19 has changed the dynamic of everything: 75% of my classes are online now, and because of that I just join my classes on my laptop in my dorm room. First tip today, let us call it “a word from the wise”, is do not join your online class from the comfort of your bed; I may or may not have fallen asleep. With most of my classes online, focusing on homework in my room can be a challenge. To help stay on track, I will go either with friends, or by myself, to the library to study. It offers a nice break from my room but is still a quiet place to focus. Second tip for the day/insider secret: if you attend USM there is a nice study spot.  Go to the second floor and walk all the way to the back right corner, where there are desks set up in front of a window. It is a comfy spot and offers a pretty view.

While writing, I try to think of things I can share to help make future college students’ experience the best it can be. I thought about the differences between college and high school. The two are not too drastic, but there are differences. 

 

High School vs. College 

  1. Professors are way stricter and more uptight than high school teachers; at least, that is what I had heard. The rumors just are not true, though. Professors are human, so if you do your work and participate, you will be good. I will say I do feel that the pandemic has played a factor with everything. For example, my professors are pretty understanding if you must miss an in-person class and the deadlines are more flexible as well, at least for now. 
  2. The pace of the classes, and what work we are doing in the classes is different. In high school I wrote papers, but they were more at the end of a unit. Whereas in college I write 1-2 papers a week for each of my classes. The weight of work has also been something to take note of. In high school, tests and quizzes were [obviously] weighed higher than homework, but everything else was about the same. In college, there are a lot of things that are weighed differently. Some of the different areas are discussion posts (this is what it sounds like: students participate in online dialogue about a set topic), participation (level of participation in classes), exams and the regular homework – if there is “homework” – and they are all weighted different. 
  3. Professors bring more reality to the classroom. The level of maturity and respect is different. We are spoken to as adults, because – well – we are adults, but it feels more like a conversation vs. high school where it felt more like a teacher talking at a student. 
  4. Support is different and appreciated. Some of my classes have TA’s (Teacher Assistants) that are able to help out with the class work. If they don’t have a TA, you can always reach out to the professor as well and they’re usually pretty quick to respond. 

Something new that I haven’t experienced before is that the university offers tutoring for every subject.  All you have to do is email them to set up an appointment and they’re right there to help; you are able to get help from tutors twice in every subject twice a week. 

I wish I had a car. 

I miss transportation of my own. I do not own a car, and though it is not a huge setback, it is still a drawback. I would say that a car is important to have on campus. It is nice to be able to just leave whenever you like (assuming you have the money for gas), and if you have classes in Portland, not having to rely on the University bus would be nice. I have friends on campus who have cars, so I have been able to leave with them, or on occasion, borrow their cars to go to my classes in Portland. If you do not attend USM, this may not be a concern. Sure, I can do it without a car, but the bus requires coordinating the stops with class schedules. You may have to go early or get back much later when relying on the bus. 

I have started to save up for a car, but until I started saving up and looking at cars, I did not realize how expensive cars are. Even if I buy an older used car I must pay for insurance and gas. If something goes wrong, then I need money for that too. Oil changes too – so ya, for now, I am on the bus. Over the summer I plan on getting a job to add to my savings for a car so that I can hopefully have one for next year and have enough to cover all the additional costs. Maybe I should probably start looking for jobs now.

What questions do you have? Post your questions on Trademark’s Facebook page (under my blog post) and I will answer them in next month’s blog. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving!


Post Four – December 2020

Happy holidays everybody!!

What do online shopping and Cinderella have to do with college? – read on to find out.

This is my favorite time of the year – the festive feelings are in the air!! I don’t know about you guys, but personally, once November 1st hits, it is time to start celebrating Christmas. In my family it’s more than just a holiday, it’s a lifestyle. With the holidays coming up, a lot is changing, on and off campus.

By the time you read this, I will already be back home for the holidays (and stuffed full of yummy home cooked food).  Unlike non-Covid years, where I would come back after a week, we are actually staying off of campus until the start of next semester, January 19th. Not everyone on campus is able to go home. At least a couple of people on the hockey team are from out of the country, so they will not be going home for the holidays. USM does offer housing for people who cannot leave and will still have chefs on campus for those people. Neat fact – the kitchens will be opened so students can cook for themselves, which is not normal, but what is?

The workload has not been too bad this semester, but we are beginning to start reviewing for finals, which is exciting and a little nerve-racking.

Last month I shared some differences between high school life and college – here is another difference: signing up for classes is completely different. In high school, you typically sign up for your whole year of classes before your current year even ends, but in college it is by semester, and you have to be on top of it! The advisors say that as soon as the clock strikes midnight on the day of enrollment for classes, you should jump on it. Anyone else picturing Cinderella rushing back home before the magic wears off? No, just me?  

Insider tip – let me tell you about the “wish list”. Nah, not a Christmas list (although I have one of those too). Most schools have a “class wish list” where you see what classes you need to take for your degree, and then look at possible classes (e.g. dates, times, etc.) to meet those requirements. You can add as many classes to the wish list as you would like, but on enrollment day, you pick through your list for the ones you will take. This is especially helpful if you have pre-requisites. You can put the classes on the list and make sure your schedule can accommodate what you need. If you like online shopping then you would love this; okay, maybe not love it, but there is still a rush and it is kind of fun to do. I cannot STRESS ENOUGH that classes fill sooo fast. When they do, you will be out of luck and stuck with a class you do not want, or you must wait until a later term- ugh.

This first semester has been a lot of fun, but it is not over yet. I am getting close to the second semester and I am excited for the next set of classes.

I cannot wait!!

Merry Christmas!

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