Girls packing their boxes for the big move. (Getty Images)

A “survival guide” for going away to college

As a rising senior at the University of Florida, constantly leaving home is part of my routine. And lucky for me, the first big move to college was as natural as waking up in the morning. But a couple of hardships did ensue.

At first, you do feel homesick – as well as malnourished – if you’re doing your own cooking and all you know how to do is mac-n-cheese.  But  coping with this important transition s a growing process. Going away to college is not easy, both emotionally and financially; but if you can make it work, it will definitely be worth it in the long-run.

Here are five tips to help you on your big move.

  • Come up with a plan. If you can afford leaving home for college, either by financial aid, scholarships, or with Mami and Papi’s credit card, you have to come up with a financial plan. Handling your own money is a big step towards independence. Give yourself a monthly allowance and try not to spend more. If you see that you set your allowance too low, adjust it so that it is sufficient. Save the rest that you don’t spend so you have something to look forward to at the end of the semester. Many colleges also have a student career resource center that provides assistance for those looking for a job, whether on campus or off. They also provide the opportunity to apply for federal work-study jobs for those who may need further financial assistance. Landing a job and handling your own money is the first step towards independence.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek help. If your college is anything like UF, there will be buildings that feel like twisting, infinite labyrinths. Speak up! Ask for directions. Don’t be afraid to be the freshman on campus holding up the map. Also, take advantage of freshman advisors at your college. I spent most of my first week in that office, discussing classes, professors and majors. Many colleges also provide health and infirmary services, if you’re ever sick or need to speak to a professional.
  • Learn how to cook your own food. Settling in to a different location can be difficult, both on your mind and your body. Keep your body used to what you ate at home. If you’re missing Abuela’s bistec empanizado or Papi’s arepas, grab the cookbook and learn how to make it. WARNING: Trial and error is a natural step for this tip. You WILL burn your first arepas. If your dorm doesn’t have a kitchen, buy your school’s meal plan. If this is your choice of food, beware of overeating and the infamous “Freshmen Fifteen.” Walk around the dining center before going straight to the pizza and cookies. Just because you have an unlimited supply of food doesn’t mean you have to eat it all.

    A survival guide for going away to college  katy gators feature education NBC Latino News

    Katerina with her proud father, Carlos, at the University of Florida on the weekend her parents dropped her off in Gainesville. (Photo/Katerina Sardi)

  • Go out and explore your area. If there is one thing I would have changed during my freshman year, it would be my lack of exploration. Most freshmen like to stay in their dorm rooms their first weeks because they don’t know what else to do with their time. The beauty of all this extra time as a freshman is the freedom to get to know your school and its surrounding areas. Even if you don’t have a car, learn the bus or metro routes and go explore. There is more to your college experience than your actual university. Get to know your new city, as well.
  • Call your parents. This transition is not only difficult for you, but for your family as well. Don’t be afraid to admit that you miss them, because you know Mami is worried sick about you. Pick up the phone after class or on your way home to let your parents know how your first weeks are going. Eventually, hourly calls aren’t necessary and both you and your parents will get used to the fact that you are no longer at home. But while you are transitioning, give your parents a call. They will thank you for it in the long-run.
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