Life

Surviving a College Semester (Pandemic Edition)

brown green and white textile

So much has changed with the rise of COVID-19. Everyday life is so different with all the social distancing, masks, and quarantine. Being a college student during a pandemic is…interesting.

As a student at Grove City College (GCC), I had the privilege of attending in-person classes and living on campus this semester. While many other colleges were resorting to Zoom, GCC decided to be stubborn and bring everyone back.

Even though we were all on campus, nothing was normal. From the beginning, it was established that we had to wear masks basically everywhere, even outside.

Anyone who visited my room had to wear a mask, but I didn’t have to wear a mask in my room even if someone was visiting. That doesn’t really make sense, but I guess they were trying to be lenient in some ways so people would be more obedient.

Some teachers said it was okay to eat or drink in their classroom, taking off masks temporarily to do so, other teachers forbade it. I sat as far away from everyone as possible in all of my classes, so I would eat a snack occasionally in the classes that permitted it.

The food at GCC has never been good. In fact, there are Instagram channels devoted entirely to showing pictures of terrible food served at GCC.

Although it was possible to dine in the cafeterias for most of the semester, all the food was made take-out style, in plastic or foam containers. These containers leaked and occasionally burst.

The portions of food given were determined by the staff.

For instance, I would say, “Can I have a few vegetables?”

The food worker would then give me a generous scoop of them. And then another. And then a third. It’s like they were so happy someone asked for a healthy food that they got a little overexcited.

The biggest consequence to there being all take-out was that there was so much garbage that the college resorted to dumpsters instead of trash cans. My roommate and I had a trash can in our room, and we had to take out our garbage every day because of the clunky, oversized take-out containers.

It’s sad, really. At some point the cafeterias stopped offering straws the same way they once did to reduce waste. It was laughable–students were throwing away hundreds of plastic containers per day, but at least straws were not part of the problem.

The cafeterias were also open almost the entire day to encourage smaller crowds. This meant they had less time for food prep, so they would copy a lot of the meals from day to day.

On some occasions, they would get creative, however. See that picture below? That’s Pumpkin Cheesecake pizza. Looks appealing, no?

If you go to GCC, don’t taste Pumpkin Cheesecake Pizza. If you avoid it, your taste buds will thank you.

It was actually kind of nice that they cleaned the tables after each use, though.

Events were cancelled the whole semester, and the gym was closed at different times.

I remember those first few weeks when there were a few COVID cases and many students, including myself, thought we would be sent home. Every week there were a few more.

black and white smartphone on white table

Students were frequently put in isolation. That meant they could only leave their room for food and had to take classes virtually until they were told they could leave isolation.

At one point, my class of 20 diminished to 5 because so many students were in isolation.

Quarantine was much worse. Then you couldn’t leave your room and just had food delivered. Some of the quarantined students had to be put in hotel rooms because the quarantine rooms at college filled up.

Students who were quarantined had to make lists of people they were in contact with for even a short duration of time. Those people were put in isolation. This was called contact tracing.

Near the end, the cases skyrocketed. We began to have about 20 cases every three days. The students were given an option to go home before Thanksgiving break, and I was one of those who did so.

My sister stayed as long as she could, but that was only until Thanksgiving break. No one came back after break. As planned, we all stayed home for the last week of classes and finals.

So, that was how my semester went. I was lucky enough never to go into isolation or quarantine. I was so happy to be on campus, and I hope I will be headed back to school in the spring.

Feel free to share your own quarantine experience in the comments!

Humor, Life

The Art of Bluffing (for Essay Questions)

person catching light bulb

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to be serious. Bluffing is a strategy that should only be used as a last resort, if you have no idea how to answer an essay question. Be sure to study hard for your exams and not wait until the last minute.

What is bluffing?

In this article, bluffing means writing an answer to an essay question as if you know what you are doing even when you have no idea what you are doing. This article will outline my top 5 tips for how to bluff an essay question effectively.

Tip #1: Show What You Know – “The Knowledge Dump”

File:The Battle of Gettysburg, Pa., July 3rd, 1863 MET DP831356.jpg -  Wikimedia Commons

With the blank page looming in front of you, it’s easy to focus on what you don’t know. Instead, take what little details you do know and emphasize those.

Maybe you don’t remember what happened in the Battle of Gettysburg. But you know what generally happens at battles–lots of casualties, bloodshed. And you know where it took place–Gettysburg, duh. Hopefully you remember it was a battle in the American Civil War, but even if you don’t, you could probably spin an answer worth a point or two.

If you do remember that it happened during the American Civil War, you could hazard a guess at which side won and what date. Give a date range when it may have happened if you’re not willing to take a chance.

For example:

The Battle of Gettysburg occurred in Gettysburg, PA around the 1860s (during the American Civil War). It was an occasion of great bloodshed and high numbers of casualties. It was a pivotal battle in the war, pitting the Union and Confederate soldiers against each other in what became a bloodbath.

Sure, it’s not long, but with bluffing you have to be satisfied with whatever you come up with.

Tip #2: Use Key Words – “Parrot the Teacher

close up of a yellow and blue macaw

Does your teacher have favorite words? Does the particular field you are studying have technical words or jargon you can fall back on? Maybe it’s an English class and you are given a vague prompt like “Compare and contrast Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.”

And oops, you happened to have only read the CliffsNotes. (Not that I advocate that in any way. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a masterpiece, and frankly, you are missing out if you haven’t read it.)

Instead of: Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are different in many ways.

Try: Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are foils, polar opposites who are nonetheless are attracted to each other. Their personalities are complementary yet differ greatly.

Tip #3: Feign Confidence – “Show No Fear”

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Teachers can smell fear.

Nah, not really. But if you seem uncertain about your answers, they’ll be able to tell. Even if you have no idea what you are talking about, write it clearly and without hesitation.

Avoid saying that you believe or think something – if you write the sentence, it is already obvious that you believe it.

Avoid these words: slightly, maybe, seems, appears to, perhaps, may be, possibly, in my opinion, I think, I believe

Tip #4: Fill the Page – “Quantity, not Quality”

yellow rubber ducks

If you don’t know what to write, just write. Repeat the same idea in as many different ways as possible. Discuss how you feel about the topic, even if that does not seem relevant.

For example:

Evolution is built on the idea that changes in organisms and the development of species occurs through natural selection and chance. This, of course, means that the results could be described as accidental. If the results are accidental, this implies that there is no purpose behind design….

This example repeats itself multiple times with slight differences, filling as much space as possible with a single idea. It is not, however, completely obvious that this is what is happening.

Tip #5: Answer a Different Question – “Be Evasive!”

If you can’t answer the question given, answer a slightly different question you do think you could answer. This is not the easiest one to pull off, which is why it is number five. The reason is, most teachers realize you have neglected to answer the actual question.

Actual Question: Why does the author of the book we have just read make the curtains in the living room red?

Question you answer: What emotions are commonly associated with the color red?

Even though you will have evaded the question, it will sound like a thorough analysis of why the curtains were red.

Conclusion

Once again, this article is not meant to be serious. Bluffing is a strategy that should only be used as a last resort, if you have no idea how to answer an essay question. Be sure to study hard for your exams and not wait until the last minute.

If you’re a college student, good luck with finals!

Life

10 Things I Never Expected to Need in my Dorm Room

The transition from high school to college is rarely an easy one. With the Covid-19 crisis in full swing, it will be especially difficult for freshman this year. That’s why I compiled this list of things I never expected to need in my dorm room – so you can be prepared for whatever dorm life throws at you.

This list will also help you avoid some of the mistakes I made. Going into my senior year at Grove City College, I will be sure to pack the following items to make this semester a good one.

#1: Thank You cards and stamps

dog biting Thank You mail paper

One thing I didn’t expect to need was thank you cards, but when I needed to write some thank yous to scholarship donors, they weren’t there. I had left mine at home.

You may also need thank you cards to show appreciation for teachers who write recommendation letters or for interviews. You may even want to give one to a friend who helped you study, or a family member who provided support.

If you don’t have stamps, your thank you cards won’t get far. Unless you’re sending the letters to someone on campus. Stamps are such a small thing and such an easy thing to forget. Don’t be the one who has to track down the local post office to buy more stamps.

#2 Wipes

green and blue labeled pack

Wipes are a must, especially during a pandemic. I found out the hard way that I should have had some on hand in my dorm.

During fall break, we were permitted to leave our refrigerator plugged in. Both my roommate and I checked before we left that our refrigerator was still plugged in, and it was.

Whoever was in charge of checking our room must have unplugged it for whatever reason.

When I came back to my dorm after break, I opened my refrigerator to put away some food and was met with a horrific stench. Mold climbed the walls of the fridge. A pool of water sat stagnant at the bottom.

Disgusted, my first instinct was to visit the college store to figure out if they had wipes. The only wipes they had were for removing makeup.

I used soap. Lots and Lots of soap.

After that, I made sure the room was well-stocked with wipes for mold-related emergencies.

#3 First Aid supplies

red and white x logo

So at Grove City College, there are these obnoxious desk chairs that are slanted at the bottom. As a result, the chair will shift suddenly to a different angle if you lean forward or back. I cannot tell you how many times I have bashed my knees off the desk because I accidentally leaned forward.

That’s what I get for trying to grab a pencil, or picking up a mug. Bloody knees.

That’s where a first aid kit comes in handy. First thing is to make sure you have bandages of various sizes. Waterproof bandages too, in case you want to go swimming without exposing open wounds.

Pack enough bandages in case your roommate needs them too, and your friends, and your friends’ friends. I’ve given mine away on numerous occasions. Pack a couple in your backpack so you have them if you’re away from the dorm too.

If you use hydrogen peroxide, bring a bottle of that too, along with q-tips to dab it on in case the cut isn’t big enough to need to pour it on.

I used plenty of it, but my roommate’s friend used a decent amount of it too when she ripped the skin off her knees falling on a treadmill.

Make sure you get cream to treat burns, triple-antibiotic cream, and sunscreen.

Pack over-the-counter medicines such as Advil or Tylenol, allergy medicine if you have allergies, Pepto Bismol for stomach problems, cough drops, etc.

(Don’t forget any personal medicines you have to take, and keep them in their original prescription containers. Many colleges require them to be in their original container with medical information included.)

Add to that list a thermometer to check if you have a fever.

#4 Paper plates and cups

File:Paper plates - isolated.png - Wikimedia Commons

Maybe you’re super into buying what’s environmentally-friendly. That’s fine, but when finals hit, at least for me, that went out the window. I no longer had time to constantly clean dishes. I was always studying.

For times in the semester that are so busy that even completing basic tasks is too time consuming, I recommend having a set of paper plates, napkins, and cups.

#5 Lamp

brown and white table lamp with light

Usually college dorms come with their own lighting, making a lamp unnecessary. I would list this under things that are not essential but are desirable.

The reason is that roommates often operate on different schedules. For example, my roommate stays up several hours later than I do each night.

Rather than keeping the room lights on or turning them off, my roommate uses a lamp near her bed that is dim enough that I can sleep. Yet she can study by it.

#6 List of common phone numbers

white printer paper beside silver laptop computer

Most people don’t have phone numbers memorized anymore. I know of people who don’t even know their own phone number and will check their phone to figure it out when necessary.

A list (on paper) of important contacts is definitely useful.

I lose my phone constantly, and having a list of contacts helps if you need to use someone else’s phone.

#7 Gift Wrap

person holding white gift card

Friends have birthdays. Christmas draws near. Someone gets married.

All of these are great reasons to have gift wrap. Because it may not be available in your college store, or you may have to pay a ridiculous price for it.

#8 Watch

watch at 10:34

Watches are great for testing environments. It’s best to have a watch with no special functions so teachers are okay with you wearing one during a test. If you’re like me, you want to know how much time has passed during testing.

Having a simple watch is the best way to tell time during a test, since looking up at the clock looks suspicious since you are looking up during a test repeatedly. The clock also may be in a position where you can’t see it from your location.

#9 Sewing Kit

scissors and knitting kits on box

I had to use a mini sewing kit on numerous occasions. One was when I had to fix an embarrassing hole in the armpit of my Newman Club t-shirt. I also had to mend a pair of pants, and various other articles of clothing.

I think this is especially important now because of the requirement at many colleges of wearing masks. Masks often need repaired after repeated use.

#10 Tide Pen

Tide to Go Stain Remover Pen | Stain Removers | Laundry Supplies ...

Tide pens are indispensable. I’ve used two up completely and plan on buying more this semester. They take out almost all stains with very little effort.

If you get one, try to carry it with you in your backpack, because you never know when you might need it.

Good luck with the fall semester! If you have any more suggestions for must-have but little thought of items needed in a dorm room, feel free to leave a comment.

Life

Recommended Packing List for College

As I was creating a list of items I would need to pack for college, I realized a list might be helpful for freshman starting this semester. As a result, I decided to share mine. I hope you find it helpful.

Clothes

  • T-shirts
  • Long-sleeve shirts
  • Jeans
  • Dress pants
  • Shorts
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Tennis shoes
  • Coats
  • Jackets
  • Snow boots
  • Dress/Suit
  • Dress shoes
  • Flip flops
  • Sandals
  • Swimsuit
  • Goggles
  • Pajamas
  • Bathrobe
  • Jewelry
  • Masks
  • Belts

Bedding

  • Sheets (twin XL size)
  • Pillow cases
  • Pillows
  • Blankets
  • Mattress pad

School Supplies

  • Notebooks (At least 1 per class)
  • Folders (At least 1 per class)
  • Stapler (with extra staples)
  • Hole punch
  • Paper clips
  • Rubber bands
  • Post-it notes
  • Pens (of many colors, ideally)
  • #2 Pencils
  • Highlighters
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Scotch tape
  • Masking tape
  • Eraser
  • Sharpener
  • Glue
  • Super Glue
  • Wite-Out
  • Thumb tacks
  • Lap desk
  • Backpack
  • Lanyard (for room and mailbox keys)
  • Thumbdrive
  • Calculator
  • Desk Organizer
  • Flash cards
  • Envelopes
  • Stamps
  • Thank you Cards
  • Birthday Cards
  • Command Strips
  • Printer paper
  • Clipboard

Technology

  • Phone
  • Phone charger
  • Laptop
  • Laptop charger
  • Printer
  • Printer Ink
  • Headphones
  • Power strip
  • Earphones
  • Batteries

Household

  • Towels
  • Washcloths
  • Kitchen Towels
  • Paper Towels
  • Napkins
  • Thermos
  • Silverware (metal and washable)
  • Silverware (disposable)
  • Plates & Bowls (washable)
  • Plates (disposable)
  • Mugs
  • Paper Cups
  • Detergent
  • Tide Pen
  • Hangers
  • Ziploc bags
  • Dish soap
  • Trash can
  • Trash bags
  • Laundry basket
  • Sewing kit
  • Shower Caddy
  • Tupperware
  • Lint roller
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Light bulbs
  • Clorox wipes

Food & Drinks

  • K-Cups
  • Snacks
  • Water jugs or bottles

Toiletries

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Mouthwash
  • Hair bands (if you have long hair)
  • Nail Clippers
  • Nail file
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Feminine Pads (if applicable)
  • Tampons (if applicable)
  • Makeup
  • Makeup remover
  • Razor
  • Deodorant
  • Brush
  • Comb
  • Command Strips
  • Hand mirror
  • Tweezers
  • Tissues

First Aid

  • Bandages
  • Triple-Antibiotic Cream
  • Advil or Tylenol or Motrin
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Q-tips
  • Alcohol Wipes
  • Cough Drops
  • Pepto Bismol
  • Prescription Medicines (if applicable)
  • Sunscreen
  • Ice pack
  • Thermometer
  • Hand Sanitizer

Furniture & Appliances

  • Lamp
  • Collapsible Table
  • Refrigerator
  • Microwave
  • Keurig
  • Curling Iron (if applicable)
  • Fan
  • Hair dryer

Documents

  • Debit and/or Credit Card
  • Photo ID
  • Insurance Cards
  • Checkbook
  • Password book

Other Supplies

  • Umbrella
  • Carpet
  • Games
  • DVDs
  • String Lights