Early morning alarms. Long lines at the Stone & Leaf Cafe. First-years lost on their way to the Genome Science Building. The first day of classes is upon us.
Whether you’re a first-year or returning for your last semester, the Editorial Board has been there. We’ve survived 20-page-long syllabi, packed lecture halls and the midday rush at Lenoir. With that in mind, here are some of our tips for surviving today, tomorrow and every other day that starts with an 8 a.m.
When you think about being well-rested, I doubt it is the firm plastic exterior of a dorm mattress that comes to mind. Nevertheless, the hours you spend in your twin XL dorm bed are absolutely essential to surviving the throes of college life. My advice is to nap. Frequently. Do not let periodic snoozing prevent you from attending to your coursework or extracurriculars, but do take advantage of your downtime with some well-deserved shut-eye. Major in the science of napping — 20 minutes is the perfect amount of time to energize amid a busy schedule. Napping in 90-minute increments allows you to enjoy the entire duration of a sleep cycle. Get a full night’s sleep, caffeinate whenever possible and when all else fails, nap.
The alarm I set the night before FDOC is the alarm I stick with all semester. The morning ritual I do on FDOC becomes my ritual all semester. Take FDOC as an opportunity to start a healthy routine. Start wearing sunscreen everyday, pack your lunch, do some yoga, brew some herbal tea. Find joy in the simple things that can make your days better. Use the first day of class to set yourself up for a habitually successful semester — not academically, but mentally.
Going back to school isn’t just an activity. It’s a state of mind.
When I was younger, buying a fresh pack of crayons and a stack of wide-ruled composition notebooks made me feel like the embodiment of academia. The pinnacle of preparation. Despite first-day nerves, I felt excited to tackle the new year with my fancy new Target backpack and walked into my new classroom feeling ready to go.
Now as a college student, my supplies consist of an uncharged laptop, an overpriced coffee that I bought mainly as motivation to get to class and, if I’m lucky, an extra hair tie thrown in the bottom of my backpack. My lack of preparation inevitably shows in my attitude when I arrive to lectures overwhelmed, exhausted and potentially over-caffeinated.
This year, I’m breaking the cycle — and you should too. Take time to replenish your supplies (just remember to reuse and recycle first) and take a few moments to practice self-care before jumping into the semester. It will pay off in your work and in your perspective.
And heck — grab some crayons while you’re at it. It will help you get into the spirit, I promise.
Every year, I forget how hot it gets walking to class during FWOC … and arrive sweaty and disheveled (it’s honesty hour, okay?). Check the temperature before heading out and make sure you’ll be comfortable trekking to class in whatever you're wearing.
Create harsh boundaries for balancing school and social life. I try not to leave campus until I have all my work done for that day, so going home feels refreshing and restful, instead of like I have something looming over me there too. We all need some sort of reprieve from the craziness that school can bring, so even doing work in a common area or at a kitchen table ensures your room will be a haven away from papers and deadlines.
Lastly, no shame in eating at Med Deli or CholaNad in Bottom of Lenoir multiple times a week. Now that I think about it ... maybe that advice was more just for me.
Be realistic and accept that the first day isn’t actually until next week (or perhaps until September, if we’re being honest).
Be as organized as you can on the front end — your future self will thank you. Synch your calendars with exam and assignment dates. Ask your professors and TAs questions (seriously, we want you to). Gather your supplies (pens, notebooks, new laptop decals, university merch and masks). And remember that we have fall break in roughly 65 days (not that I’m counting or anything).
Making the transition from trying to live your best life for three months to having classes five times a week is daunting. Further, it’s impossible. Switching from summer mode to school mode is a challenge and you won’t get it right your first try. So, take a couple days (or weeks) to get there — just make sure that you eventually do.
And speaking for the many graduate students who are in the same boat and perhaps teaching a recitation you may be enrolled in, we won’t be ready either!
Do regular check-ins with your roomie. Chances are you two will go through a "honeymoon phase," in which cohabitation is conflict-free for a while. As the year progresses, however, you may pick up on some annoying, yet easily fixable habits. Does your roomie frequently leave their dirty dishes lying around on the floor? Do they rattle you awake when they return from dance practice at 1 a.m.?
Keep in mind, it's likely that you have some irritating tendencies too. Maybe you often forget to let your roomie know when you're having someone over, or fail to regularly clean your side of the room.
Don't let these minor (or sometimes major) living differences result in prolonged, pent-up resentment. Make it a habit to communicate with your roomie on a semi-weekly basis. The conversation doesn't have to last longer than a couple minutes. If both of you are constantly busy, you can simply shoot them a text asking "how are we doing this week?" By establishing open communication, you maximize the probability that you maintain a healthy relationship.
With these tidbits of advice in mind, go forth and prosper. Good luck, Tar Heels.
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