I remember my freshman move-in like it was yesterday. And although I’m now a senior, as a Resident Assistant at the University of California-Berkeley I have participated in this whirlwind event every August for the past four years. As someone who has been through this multiple times, I would like to give some friendly advice to all the soon-to-be college students and parents out there.
BE PREPARED TO WAIT IN LINE
Cal, in particular, has a lot of students — my freshman class enrolled 6,253 to be exact. But regardless of your school’s size, moving in on the same day as everyone else can feel hectic. If your school is anything like Berkeley, you can expect heavy traffic driving into town and virtually non-existent street parking later in the afternoon and evening. There are also lines for everything: getting your room key, checking out moving carts, riding the elevator, even using the public restrooms. Of course, the thrill of finally arriving at college makes the entire experience fun and exciting, but just make sure you come mentally and physically prepared for the long day ahead. I would compare the overall experience to going to the Orange County Fair back at my hometown — be ready for large crowds, wear comfy shoes, and don’t forget to eat and hydrate!
PACK AS LIGHT AS POSSIBLE
You will thank yourself for this later, as it will save you lots of time and several trips back and forth from your car. The day I moved in, the one and only elevator to my building broke and everyone had to use the stairs. After lugging my suitcases up eight exhausting flights of stairs, I was really glad I had decided against bringing my extra books and furniture. Plus, you can always buy the heavier items at a nearby Target or Walmart close to campus, especially while you still have your parents’ car!
ASK QUESTIONS, BUT ALSO DO YOUR RESEARCH
As an RA, I’ve gotten asked plenty of questions by students and their parents when I check them into their building. We encourage people to talk to us, and I am always more than happy to offer directions or tell people about my personal experience living at Berkeley. On the other hand, sometimes people ask me questions like, “Are the bathrooms really co-ed?” and “Am I actually going to have to share a room with two other people?” They don’t believe the housing website, so they are completely shocked when I say yes. To avoid this, find out as much as you can about your living circumstances in advance, so you have a good idea of what to expect before you actually move in. If you have roommates, I would highly recommend you contact them beforehand so you can determine how much closet space you get, which items you can share, etcetera.
EXPLORE THE AREA
Whether or not this is the first time you’ve been on campus, this is the first time you’re here as a full-fledged student, so savor this moment! Take a tour around the grounds, pick out your favorite buildings, and visit any iconic landmarks (Sather Gate and the Campanile in my case). Being familiar with the school’s layout will come in handy later when actual classes start. Also be sure to explore the surrounding neighborhood eateries, shops, and hang-out spots to get a feel for your college town scene. Before your parents leave, make sure to eat a nice meal at a fancy restaurant — this might be the last time you eat non-cafeteria food for a while!
APPRECIATE YOUR TIME TOGETHER
Even though the process can be tiring and stressful, move-in should be a family event, not a rushed goodbye. My family actually stayed a couple of extra nights in a nearby hotel after the initial move-in day, and while at the time I wanted to hang out with my floormates, looking back I really appreciated that quality time with my parents and little brother. You’ll have the whole rest of the school year to get to know your floor and make new friends, but this is the last time you’ll be with family before you’re truly living on your own. It’s an emotional experience, but instead of repressing your feelings, make sure you show your family how much you appreciate them before they leave!
All in all, move-in is a crazy, high-intensity experience that is equal parts stressful and exciting. It can be tiring at times, but you can take steps beforehand to make sure you are prepared. Best of all, your journey is just beginning, and everyone else is embarking on this adventure at the same time as you. As long as you come equipped with patience and an open mind, your college experience is sure to kick off on a high note!