A few things I wish someone had told me before I left for college

Moving away from home can be an amazing new experience. For the first time you truly feel like an adult, out in the world on your own able to make your own decisions and mistakes. When I was eighteen years old I moved away to Tempe to attend school. I left right out of high school, an excited young kid who was sure she was prepared for what was to come. Little did I know I was in for plenty of lessons.

You might want to wait before getting that puppy you’ve always wanted. After we had lived about six months in our second-story apartment, my roommate’s parents decided to buy her an English bulldog for Christmas – without anyone consulting me. I love dogs, but not in a 900-square-foot apartment. His bathroom consisted of sod grass placed in a plastic bin out on our balcony. When he did make it outside, he rarely hit his target. The majority of the time he marked his territory all over our apartment and often left little surprises for me in my bedroom. He had a fondness for dirty laundry and furniture as well. He became too much to handle, and he was sent to live with my roommate’s parents. Puppies will be puppies and can be pretty straining on any relationship, so it might be a good idea to put that new puppy on hold until you’re on your own.

The electric company will shut off your power if you don’t pay your bill. My roommate and I split monthly bills down the middle. Most companies would take online payments but only from one account, so every month my roommate would pay me her half and I would do the payment from my bank account online. At one point, I got the brilliant idea that not sending in my part of the bill would mean I would have more money. After all, the electric company is still getting something.  After about the third month of receiving half payments, they mailed us a letter stating the electricity would be shut off if we didn’t pay off our outstanding balance in full. I tossed the letter aside; they wouldn’t really shut off the electricity…right? Wrong. Three days later I was staying at my boyfriend’s house when I received a phone call from my very upset roommate. She was at a loss as to why our electricity got shut off in the middle of Grey’s Anatomy, because as far as she knew the bill was being paid. After an embarrassing confession about my new money-saving strategy, I called the electric company and paid the bill in full, and our electricity was turned back on – a long 10 hours later. Needless to say, I’ve been sure to pay every bill on time (and in full) every month since.

Cereal and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches will never get old, or expensive. Growing up, I was always well fed. My Hispanic grandmother lived with us and was always cooking up something delicious; and, when she wasn’t, my mom was. As much as I missed my family and friends, my stomach took the hardest hit. When I moved away, I quickly realized how much I took their cooking for granted. It’s definitely not easy or cheap. After overcooking a couple of chicken breasts, eating mushy rice and attempting the mess of refried beans, I gave up. I started buying easy stuff, like microwavable rice, macaroni and cheese, Top Ramen, peanut-butter-and-jelly, and of course cereal. I could buy six different flavors of Top Ramen, three different kinds of cereal, two different flavors of jelly and a lot of bread and still never go hungry…or get bored. I have gotten a little better at cooking; but, even after I moved back home, Honey Nut Cheerios and Jif peanut butter top my grocery list every week.

It’s probably a good idea to check in from time to time; otherwise your mom might think you’ve been kidnapped. I lived in the Phoenix area for about three years. As time went by, I got more into my life away from home – my work, new friends and school. Pretty soon my nightly phone calls home became more spread out. One year, after about a month and a half of not calling home or returning missed phone calls I got a call from my boyfriend asking me to call my mother. Apparently she was so worried about the fact that I hadn’t called home that she called my roommate, my boyfriend and both of their parents just to be sure I was still alive. I called my mom to apologize, and afterwards I was always sure to call home on a weekly basis.

It’s okay to be homesick. When I first moved away to Phoenix, I would come up with an excuse to drive home to Yuma just about every weekend, and I would always bring along my dirty laundry. Yes, it’s a little embarrassing and juvenile, but it was one of my favorite things to do. I thought it might have been just me, but I had a lot of friends who drove home regularly for care packages, a home cooked meal or just because they miss it. There was something about doing my laundry at home that made me miss it a little bit less. Maybe it was because Mom could afford the good laundry detergent.

There are a couple other things, too – like always lock your bedroom door if you have company (so as to avoid any compromising situations), piling the trash on your back patio does not make the smell go away, and be polite to your neighbors because nobody enjoys being woken up by pounding rave music at 4:00 a.m. – just a few tidbits I wish I had known to help make the first year away from home a little less stressful.

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