Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Column: Packing, bus tips for incoming freshmen

July 29, 2020
Photo by Genna Barner | The State News

The transition from high school to university can be scary, but it doesn't have to be. With my help, you'll feel right at home, almost like you've been here for ages.

While your first semester experience is going to be different from mine, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it's important to remember you're not alone. All of the student body is missing out on something, whether it be first experiences or last. Regardless, make the most of your time. You'll be graduating before you know it.

Over my first two years, having lived in both East Neighborhood and River Trail Neighborhood, I learned the ins and outs of Michigan State's campus. Now, as an incoming junior, I've finally decided it's time to venture out into apartment lifestyle, making for a bittersweet farewell but very anticipated change.

Residence halls, to me, are like a condensed version of home. You have your bedroom and a bathroom, along with the other amenities, like a dining hall and floor assistants. When I first got to school, I remember feeling like I was at scout camp, and the reality of the environment didn't set in until the first day of class.

Packing for campus

It doesn't matter what style room you live in, the packing list will almost always be the same.

Your room comes with a loftable, twin-size bed, a desk with a chair, a dresser, a closet, blinds on your window and an overhead light. This year, the beds will be positioned six feet apart for social distancing guidelines.

Extra, mandatory items you will need include:

  • Personal identification and student ID card
  • Twin, extra-long bed set — sheets, blankets or a comforter and as many pillows as you desire, with pillowcases

For those who can't afford to bring their own, each traditional residence hall provides a linen package upon request at the front-desk, or service center. It includes a twin, extra-long set of white sheets, one white pillowcase and two white towels and can be exchanged weekly for a clean set at no additional cost.

You also have the choice to deloft your bed. Just contact maintenance for assistance.

Other personal essentials include:

  • Bath and hand towels, washcloths
  • Personal hygiene items — shower care, dental care, skin care, hair care, feminine care, etc.
  • Medications, vitamins, first-aid supplies
  • Your clothes with hangers, shoes
  • Laundry basket
  • Laundry soap and dryer sheets
  • Something to hold your room key on, whether that's a lanyard or a bracelet — lost keys cost $45 to replace
  • Charging cables

There are also some items you want to coordinate with your roommates and suitemates on. These include:

  • Rugs
  • Trash cans
  • Hand soap and Febreze
  • Cleaning supplies and a plunger
  • Mini fridge and a microwave
  • Fans

The dorms have tile or wooden flooring. Adding a rug both spices up the area and allows for a more comfortable, homey feeling. Sizes may vary depending on what residence hall you're in. Live On's Residence Education and Housing Services (REHS) recommends purchasing a rug that has a banded, finished edge to prevent tripping — carpet tape is not allowed.

Rug orders can also be made through the University Activities Board (UAB). Those ordered in advance will be rolled and placed into your room upon your move-in date.

You may also want rugs for your bathroom floor. Personally, I had one outside the shower and one in front of the sink.

Vacuums and brooms can be checked out at the front desk. Similarly, per request, they have unlimited availability of trash bags and one-ply toilet paper.

There is no air conditioning in the residence halls unless requested due to a confirmed medical need or disability. Students who receive university physician or Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD) approval will be charged $150 to their student account. The request can be made through My Housing.

Personally, I had a box fan to sit on my window sill and a clip-on fan for my bed rail that I found on Amazon.

Other, optional items you might want to include:

  • Water filter
  • Extension cords, surge protectors, power strips
  • Television with stand
  • Futon that folds down into a bed
  • Air purifier

While the water is tested each year, many upperclassmen can tell you that it's still not the best to consume straight from the tap, or even shower in. Your safest bet is to purchase a filter that attaches to your faucet.

Also, there are very few outlets in dorms. Having extension cords and power strips will open up your space a lot more than you'd expect.

Remember that the dorms are old. During my freshman year, my friends and I endured infections and illnesses we'd never had before in our lives. Personally, it broke down my immune system drastically.

Mono, strep throat and influenza are some examples of what goes around, especially in the winter. However, now, we also have to worry about COVID-19. It's important to note that you only get three free visits to Olin Health Center.

Other last minute additions include:

  • Twin-size mattress pad
  • A bed tray attachment
  • Silverware, cups, microwave-safe plates and bowls
  • Full-length mirror
  • Shower curtain
  • Cart for the bathroom to hold personal hygiene items
  • Storage cubes
  • Decorations — pictures, lights, flags or tapestries

You are not allowed to nail things into the wall. I recommend command hooks and double-sided tape. Avoid sticky tack — the 8-month span of weather changes will dry it up and make it difficult to scrape off on move-out day.

You are also not allowed to stick things on the outside of your door or bring candles, wireless routers, weapons of any kind, toaster ovens, indoor grills, hotplates, panini presses and halogen lamps.

You can, and probably will, be charged for any damage you inflict upon your dorm. Be mindful.

Some of the best stores to buy dorm room furniture are Target, IKEA, Bed Bath and Beyond, Dormify, Amazon and Wayfair. You can also check out MSU's partner, College Products, who offers a small selection of appliance purchases and rentals.

Busing around campus

During spring semester, there were six weekday and three weekend buses that would get you around campus with a depot near the center of MSU. All rides are free and cater to university apartments, residence halls, commuter lots and main campus facilities.

Weekday buses run from 7 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Monday to Friday unless noted. They are:

  • Route 30 South, East, River Trail Neighborhoods
  • Route 31 Brody, East, River Trail Neighborhoods
  • Route 32 Commuter Lot, Snyder Hall, Clinical Center (service ends at 7 p.m.)
  • Route 33 North and South Neighborhoods (service ends at 10:30 p.m.)
  • Route 38 Spartan Village (service ends at 10:45 p.m.)
  • Route 39 University Village

Routes 38 and 39 do not stop directly at, but around, the CATA depot.

Route 31 can technically take you to North Neighborhood via Grand River Avenue. The stop by Division Street is right outside of Berkey Hall and the closest to the east side of North campus, which includes Snyder, Phillips, Mason and Abbot Halls.

The stop by M.A.C. Avenue is right outside of the MSU Union and the closest to the west side of North campus, which includes Landon, Yakeley, Mayo, Gilchrist, Williams and Campbell Halls.

Weekend buses run from 9 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, though it's likely each time one comes around to your dorm is every 30 to 45 minutes. They are:

  • Route 34 Brody Neighborhood to University Village
  • Route 35 South Neighborhood to Spartan Village
  • Route 36 East Neighborhood

Now, these are a little trickier to master.

For example, when you catch Route 36 at East or River Trail Neighborhoods and you arrive at the CATA depot, if you are trying to get somewhere like Grand River Avenue, North or Brody Neighborhoods, stay on that bus.

I cannot stress this enough. Route 36 turns into Route 34 and will continue to follow the same stops as Route 31 typically would, plus a little extra.

But, if you are trying to get somewhere like South Neighborhood, get off that bus.

The Route 35 is a separate vehicle that will arrive at the CATA depot either shortly after or shortly before Route 36. All you have to do is wait.

Fair warning, I haven't mastered this one as well as I have the others. It takes practice and is a common mistake among students of any grade. Don't feel discouraged if you don't get it right away.

Other bus routes will also be seen on or around campus, such as the 1, 15, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26. Anything that is not numbered 30 or above, you must have a CATA pre-paid pass to ride or cash for the student discount rate: 60 cents if you show your MSU ID.

Transit is an app that helped me tremendously in figuring out the bus system. You can favorite your consistent routes (for me it was 30, 31 and 33), and mark prominent locations that you need to get to, such as home, work, etc.

When you click on a specific bus route, the times it will be circulating your closest stop pop up on a list, as well as every stop it has to run through, and interactive bus icons will move across the colored line on the screen, showing their physical distance from you.

Another thing the app does is, if you manually enter a location or slide the purple icon around, it will show you when to leave to catch the bus, your walking distance from the closest bus stop, which bus number to take, as well as options outside of busing, like walking, biking or Lyft.

When riding a bus, or planning to ride a bus, always remember:

  • Arrive to the stop early to avoid missing your bus or pick an earlier bus time to catch. Buses are almost always jam packed, especially in the winter, and will drive right by you if they're at capacity. It's happened to me many times, and I found myself walking a lot last year from McDonel Hall to the Communication Arts and Sciences and Kedzie buildings in a fluster because of it. With the COVID-19 pandemic, there's a possibility that even less people will be allowed on one bus at a time.
  • Always move to the back of the bus if there is no sitting room and you are left standing. The driver has to fit as many people on the bus as possible, so don't be selfish.
  • Pull the yellow rope before your stop. The bus announces each stop before it arrives there. If you don't pull the yellow rope and hear the ding, the driver will not stop or open the doors for you.

Don't forget to thank the driver!

Editor's note: Busing routes and information is subject to change. CATA did not have updated information about campus bus routes at the time of publication. Stay with The State News for updates.

This article is part of our Summer Mail Home issue. View the full digital issue here.

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