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Essentials for surviving your first year in college

Updated on September 14, 2014

Going back to school after the summer has never been more fun!

Autumn has always been my favourite time of year. Why? For oh-so-many reasons! The air gets crispier every morning, we're getting closer and closer to Christmas with each passing day, and it's the perfect season for staying inside with a good book and a cup of tea.

But more than anything, autumn comes with the promise of new beginnings. Going back to school after the long summer holidays was always something I looked forward to.

So very few things in life could possibly beat the excitement of not only going back to school after the summer, but also starting a whole new life - as a college student!

Photo: This is the building I lived in when I went to college in Dublin, Ireland for a semester. I loved this dorm! All photos in this lens belong to me unless otherwise specified.

college, back to school
college, back to school

So what do you need when going off to college for the first time?

I'm so glad you asked!

It is really very simple. You need things that make studying easier and more effective, and items that make it easier to dothings you're not as excited about doing (like getting up early in the morning to go to that research methods class - speaking from experience here). And items to get non-studying things, like laundry, out of the way so that you can focus on what you are there to do. Studying, remember?

Whether you're a first year student or just changed your major for the third time, here follows a list of five essential things for surviving a(nother) year as a college student. Some of these items may be things you haven't even thought about, but all of them are things that either made my own college life a lot easier, or that I have since discovered and wish that I had back then.

Hint: It's more than instant coffee and stationary.

Photo: Walking the Path of Life in the Japanese garden at the Irish National Stud, Kildare, Ireland.

#1: A thermal mug for your morning coffee! - I mean - seriously! What could be more important for a college student?

Let's get back to those research method classes. I studied psychology for five years, and some of the subjects I loved, some were just kind of meh!, and others... well, others I hated!

My research method classes started at eight o'clock in the morning on Fridays. What an ungodly hour! I once fell asleep while the lecturer showed us a video of, eh, something. After that I started making a big batch of coffee in the morning and drink half before shuffling out the door, and pour the rest in a thermal mug with a lid for the lecture. Brilliant idea! I had no problem staying awake anymore.

Though I desperately had to pee about fifteen minutes in.

Bodum Double-Wall Stainless Steel Travel Coffee and Tea Press with Bonus Lid, 0.45L, 16oz, Orange
Bodum Double-Wall Stainless Steel Travel Coffee and Tea Press with Bonus Lid, 0.45L, 16oz, Orange

I wish I had known about this mug when I was a student. I discovered it a little too late for that, but it is now my companion for work every morning. It is so close to the perfect travel mug it is almost unbearable! It functions both as a coffee/ tea press and a travel mug. It has a nonslip silicone grip, which makes it easy to hold on to on the subway, bus, or even while walking, and also stops your fingers getting burned.

It is available in many different colours, like black, white, green (neon), red, orange, and purple. If you scroll down the page, you will find different colours and sizes. You will also find cheaper versions, though it is definitely worth the price I paid for it.

With this one, you also get a "normal" lid, for those days when you don't need the coffee press function.

I must admit I have three of these! One red, one green with a normal lid, and one purple 0,30 L mug with both a press lid and normal lid.

I'm obsessed.

It keeps the beverage hot for hours. In fact, I can't drink from it for a little while unless I keep the lid off at first, because it's too hot. It also keeps cold beverages cold. I have used it many times for breakfast smoothies.


Tell me about yourself:

Are you going off to college this year?

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laundry, dorm, back to school
laundry, dorm, back to school

#2: A laundry hamper

It is a fact universially known that all college students produce an enormous amount of laundry.

Being a student in a city only one hour's drive from my parents' house allowed me to take my laundry home every weekend. The official explanation was that there were rats in the laundry room at the dorm. The less official explanation was that it was just so much more convenient to hand it over to Mom Saturday morning and have it returned, freshly cleaned, smelling of flowers and neatly folded on Sunday.

When I moved to Dublin, Ireland for one semester, the whole going-back-to-my-parents-in-Norway-to-do-laundry thing was a little less convenient. Also, there were no rats.

Photo: The laundry at my dorm in Dublin. I once slammed my face into the door of the far right washing machine. Ahh, the memories.

The perfect laundry hamper - I kid you not!

I quickly learned the convenience of having a laundry hamper one could also carry around with you. You save time and energy (you need those for studying, remember?) by not having to move the dirty clothes from the hamper to a bag before going to the laundry.

PRO-MART DAZZ Deluxe Mesh Pop-Up Laundry Hamper with Side Pocket and Handles, Black
PRO-MART DAZZ Deluxe Mesh Pop-Up Laundry Hamper with Side Pocket and Handles, Black

This pop-up hamper is the work of a genius. Solid, easy to carry, and when not in use it is collapsible for easy storage.

It holds an extra big load of laundry, and has two side pockets for the easy storage and carrying of detergent, dryer sheets and fabric softener. Never forget your cleaning accessories again!

Rather than using an Ikea carry bag like I did - you know, the big ones that are hard to carry - this will allow your dirty clothes to breathe rather than create a stink bomb for you to detonate in front of other people in the laundry.

Not that I ever did that. Ever.


#3: A kettle - My kingdom for a kettle!

Keep one in your room for all those cups of tea or French press coffee. Or instant coffee. Or instant noodles. The possibilities are endless! Buying an electric kettle was one of the first things I did when I moved into my dorm. And apart from my pillow it was possibly the most used item in the room.

Hamilton Beach Ensemble Cord Free Pouring Kettle
Hamilton Beach Ensemble Cord Free Pouring Kettle

This kettle holds 1,7 L of water, which makes it big enough to fill your French press coffee maker and make your instant oatmeal or cup-a-soup without having to refill it.

The kettle itself is cordless, and shuts off automatically once the water has boiled. The handle stays cool and the spout doesn't drip. All in all a great jug for your money!

And I love that it is bright red - a spot of colour to stand out from that indescribably dull colour dorm walls always seem to have...


#4: A shower caddy - Keep private things private - also in college

Raise your hand if you don't like to share a bar of soap with other people in the community shower.

I thought so!

1 X The Original Mesh Shower Bag for Dorm & Gym, Black, by Saltwater Canvas LLC
1 X The Original Mesh Shower Bag for Dorm & Gym, Black, by Saltwater Canvas LLC

Rather than trying to identify the hair on the soap and who used up all your shampoo, store your own items in a shower caddy that you can carry back and forth to the shower. All your things are safe, and no one will leave their, um, mark on them again.

Hang it over the shower head or on a nearby hook or handle. The mesh allows it to dry quickly and it has plenty of pockets to store everything you need, including the key to your room.


#5: A cookbook - One that you will actually use

Once you have moved away from home it doesn't take you long to realize that

1) Takeaway food is expensive (not to mention often unhealthy)

2) Instant noodles get old real quick


3) Your Mom will not come over and cook pancakes for your breakfast or her famous meatloaf for dinner, no matter how much you crave it

There is only one solution. You must learn how to cook. On your own. Sorry about that.

Help!  My Apartment Has a Kitchen Cookbook: 100 + Great Recipes with Foolproof Instructions
Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen Cookbook: 100 + Great Recipes with Foolproof Instructions

The easiest way to learn how to cook is by getting a cookbook. The best way to learn how to cook from a cookbook is to get one that is absolutely foolproof, and with detailed recipes. All this mixed with a dash of humor must be perfect.

With more than a hundred recipes and a title that makes you smile, this cookbook for beginners makes a both useful and funny present for that friend, sibling, son or daughter who is leaving the nest.

I find the Mom Tips at the end of the recipes especially helpful - and cute!


Now I'd like to hear from you. - What are your essential items for going (back) to college?

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    • profile image

      shabi9764 4 years ago

      i like your school items

    • diegocomercio profile image

      diegocomercio 4 years ago

      great tips Aibrean82

    • happy-birthday profile image

      Birthday Wishes 4 years ago from Here

      I have nothing to add... ;-) Thanks a lot for sharing this nice lens!!!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      Congrats on your Purple Star. You have a great list here.

    • Aibrean82 profile image

      Aibrean82 4 years ago

      @ezyvirtualassistant: Thank you!

    • profile image

      ezyvirtualassistant 4 years ago

      congratulation for having a purple star, your content is really good one. keep up the good work.

    • Aibrean82 profile image

      Aibrean82 4 years ago

      @kmhrsn: Isn't it great? I'm thinking about the same thing myself :)

    • kmhrsn profile image

      kmhrsn 4 years ago

      Well done! I like the products you've chosen. I can see how they would be really the ticket. And I might have to trade in my kettle for the one you picked with the pop of red. :-)

    • Aibrean82 profile image

      Aibrean82 4 years ago

      @shineygidz: Awesome! Good luck and have fun! :)

    • Aibrean82 profile image

      Aibrean82 4 years ago

      @CaztyBon: They are also must-have items, for sure! Thank you :)

    • Aibrean82 profile image

      Aibrean82 4 years ago

      @GrammieOlivia: That makes sense, seeing it from a mother's perspective. I'll be sure to check it out!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 4 years ago from New Zealand

      Congratulation on your purple star.

      You have done a great job, very interesting, sure to be helpful for new college entrants.

    • shineygidz profile image

      shineygidz 4 years ago

      very informative! I'm pretty sure I'll need at least half of them when I start college next month.

    • CaztyBon profile image

      CaztyBon 4 years ago

      microwave and a friends refrigerator Congrats on Purple star I enjoyed your lens..

    • Mr Criminology profile image

      Bigwas 4 years ago from Philippines

      Nice list there, so sad that I never experienced studying away afrom home.

    • profile image

      GrammieOlivia 4 years ago

      As a parent who has sent a kid away to college twice, I look at the situation from another perspective, student health and safety. (you can check it out if you like) All the things you talk about here are great ideas for any student wherever they plan to be studying.

    • Aibrean82 profile image

      Aibrean82 4 years ago

      @ColettaTeske: That's a really good idea. I was feeling homesick too at times, especially when leaving the country for a semester I Ireland. Something personal to carry around with me would have helped. Thank you for reading and commenting!

    • profile image

      ColettaTeske 4 years ago

      Great list. No college student wants to admit to being homesick, but it happened to me. To help me get over being homesick, I took something small and extremely personal that I could keep in my pocket or backpack to keep me close to home.