Author:
Aaron Heuckroth
4/28/2009

…straight from the horse’s mouth. Well, in this case, straight from the first year freshman’s mouth (who in no way resembles a horse…sorry for confusing people Aaron). Anyway, the tips listed below by him are fantastic. Do yourself a favor and read up on these little nuggets of wisdom. You won’t be disappointed.

  • Computer
    • Having a working, ready-to-use computer makes all the difference in your first year at UC Davis. Whether you’re taking notes in class, working on essays in your dorm room or studying with friends, a laptop is nearly essential to successful studentship. You could get by with a desktop set up in your room of course, but taking your computer with you means you can work wherever you please; and you can remain (somewhat) productive on those weekend trips home.

      There are a few things to keep in mind, whether you’re bringing a laptop you already own from home or buying a new one for school. First, make sure you have the backup and installation CDs, serial number and warranty information that come with all new machines. These are essential for fixing your computer in the event that it breaks down. You should also remember to pack any cables you might need: the power supply for the computer itself, at least one 10’ or longer Ethernet cable for hooking up to the wired internet in your dorm room (no, wireless is not set up for you), and any software you plan on using.

      If you’re buying a new computer, keep your real priorities in mind. If you’re going to need something you can play World of Warcraft on, be honest about it. Most computers sold at retail don’t come with Microsoft Office, so if you plan on using Word and Excel (which you will need in some form for many of your classes), you’ll need to purchase a copy, install the program, and bring the CDs with you in case something happens to your laptop and you need to reinstall.

      If you forget something, the world won’t end; the UC Davis Bookstore (and the TechHub within it) will likely carry whatever you might need, if you can’t get it shipped from home.

  • Bike
    • Coming up just behind the computer, a bicycle is a UCD Student’s second most important tool. Transition times between back-to-back classes are relatively short (10 minutes, usually), and downtown feels a long way from the dorms if you have to hoof it.

      The most important thing you should look for in a bike to get you from class to class is that it’s in good shape and unlikely to break down on you. Speed, weight and style are great for shaving minutes off of your workday and looking snazzy, but if you’re on a budget what really matters is whether the brakes work and the wheels will stay on during the ride between Chemistry and English.

      Before you come to UCD, make sure your bike has brakes (sorry, the cops around here will give you a ticket for riding brakeless), lights on the front and back for riding at night (preferably easily removable so you can take them off to keep them from being stolen), and fenders to keep water from spraying up your back when you ride in the rain.

  • Backpack
    • You need a backpack. You know, with straps, a zippered compartment, and enough room for your books? The lockers at the Dining Commons are relatively small and do not come with locks, so regular-sized bags are the way to go and you’ll need to pick up a Masterlock at Target or the UCD Bookstore.

      Yes, you could just throw all of your stuff in a tote and sling it over one shoulder, but paper is –heavy-, and trying to ride around a bike circle when you’re wobbling dangerously close to a wipeout is not only difficult, it makes other people pretty nervous.

  • Weather
    • It rains a LOT in the winter. Lakes appear at the corners of intersections and along the dirt paths. You’re going to need shoes you’re not afraid of getting wet, a rain jacket or an umbrella, and MANY pairs of socks. They’re going to get wet, there’s just no way around it unless you want to wear rubber boots to class.

  • Medicine
    • Bring any medicine you take on a regular basis from home and make sure to keep a stash of what you need handy. Asking your roommate to buy Gas-X for you because you can’t move thanks to the crippling pain in your gut is really awkward.
  • Bedding
    • The room information you get once you’ve applied for housing and been assigned a dorm is really critical. Make sure you buy the right size sheets for your bed; some of them are extra-long Twins, some are normal, and having sheets that don’t fit makes the first week really awkward while you wait for new bedding to arrive from home. That and shipping costs stink.
  • Tools
    • Things will break. Furniture will require setting up, bikes will need tune-ups, cables will require zip-tying. Having a proper toolbox on hand not only leaves you prepared to solve problems for yourself, it also means that you’ll look really cool when people realize you can help them out, too. Just make sure you get your gear back when people are done using it; I know I’m still missing a screwdriver or two.
  • Headphones
    • Not everyone in your residence hall will enjoy the soothing tones of death metal and the constant beeping of your instant messenger. What’s more, while UC Davis is usually serene and quiet, maintenance must happen and the tour groups that often come by to check out the dorms are rarely quiet. Having a pair of solid, noise-cancelling (or at least comfy) headphones will help you drown out the noise when need be.
  • Binders/School Supplies
    • The UC Davis Bookstore sells almost all the school supplies you’ll ever need, but it’s ridiculously crowded in the days leading up to the first week of Fall classes. Unless you want to end up like me, buying leather-bound three-ring binders for $15 a pop in a secondhand store downtown, try to pick up your first quarter’s supplies before the first day of school. You could also pick them up online from the Bookstore before moving, saving you the hassle of having to deal with everyone.
  • Hot Water Heater
    • The dorm residence policy has a lot of limitations for what you can and cannot have in your dorm room. No pets (other than a single fish), no open heating elements, or open flames. This means no waffle irons or popcorn makers, but you -are- allowed to have hot water heaters with internal heating elements. They’re efficient, faster than a microwave, and can warm a huge supply of water for all of your dorm-food needs: hard-boiled eggs, ramen, coffee, dehydrated ice-cream…
  • Microwave and Refrigerator
    • Each dorm is allowed one microwave and one fridge; in a double, each roommate generally brings one of the two. When you get your room set up, make sure to familiarize yourself with both of these; people who have used these appliances their entire lives can make silly mistakes when they’re using a model they’re not used to. It’s all too easy to have a can of Coke explode in a fridge if the temperature is set too low. A girl on my floor lit a bag of popcorn on fire in her microwave because she wasn’t used to how powerful it was; standing outside and waiting for the fire department to arrive post-midnight in the middle of winter was an unpleasant experience. Also keep in mind the power requirements of both appliances: plug them DIRECTLY into a wall socket, without using a power splitter, since each of the wall sockets in your dorm seem to run on separate circuits and it’s all too easy to overload the breakers.
  • Roommate’s Information
    • Similar to your room specifications, you’ll receive contact information for your roommate before you move in, usually at the same time you learn which residence hall you’ll be living in. Give them a call or an email and get to know them before you arrive. Since most room assignments are random however, you should know that it’s entirely possible that you will be placed in a room with someone you don’t mesh with. Be polite and give them a chance, but if the two of you are really at odds you can apply for a room change. If you wait too long before applying though, you can be stuck in limbo while you wait for the next quarter to start. It’s really awkward to live with someone once they’ve tried to leave your room and failed, so if things are going south, make the decision to go in a timely manner. If you’re unhappy, they probably are too.
  • Printer
    • You get a nice chunk of free printing credits each quarter, and while there are labs available where you can take your files and print documents, there is simply no substitute for owning your own printer. Ink and paper might seem expensive, but the convenience is well worth the cost. Regardless of your work ethic, there will come a time during your college experience when you will finish an assignment just hours before it’s due, and finding an open printing lab is often the last thing you’ll want to worry about.
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