Because some of the dorms here at St Catherine’s College, especially singles with en-suite bathrooms like the one that I’m fortunate enough to have, are used for conference accommodation over the break, undergrads have to clean out all of their belongings and store them in the lockers outside their rooms. And the unpacking process, in my case, proved to be as strenuous as packing had been. After a red-eye flight – or, truth be told, a month-long trip that started in the Netherlands and ended in the Sahara – it took me two days to fully recuperate, during which my suitcases laid open on the floor, each an erupting volcano of my belongings and souvenirs. However, before I passed out into the sweet, sweet dreamless coma, I mustered just an ounce of strength left in me to pull out what I considered absolutely crucial:
Desk lamp from Boswell’s: don’t get me wrong, the one that the college provides is great, neither too cloyingly yellow or abrasively bright. The problem lies in the singular – if you like to read before bed, you’d want one nearby. Who wants to jump out of the comforter that’s finally warmed up just to turn the light off, right?
Trash can, or properly, ‘the bin’: if you keep the bin outside, your scout (the custodian designated for each staircase) will quietly replace the trash bag and leave you undisturbed until 11am. I wasn’t sure whether this still applied during vacation time, but better safe than sorry. This is a crucial life hack for those weeks when you have both your primary and secondary tutorials...
Water bottle: there are about five water fountains in total on this entire island, three of which are defunct. However, tap water in the UK is up to drinking standard. Save yourself a pound or two per day by investing in a good one with filters, and help reduce landfill!
French press and coffee: the instant coffee vendor in the JCR (Junior Common Room, where undergrads hang) is subpar and coin-operated. Beside the cash-only café in the nearby Social Science Library, the nearest caffeine supplier is a good 10-minute walk away from campus, so keep the brew handy.
One more word for you coffee snobs connoisseurs and foodies: definitely bring some favorite snacks from home! Especially those of you with special dietary needs – gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, low-carb, etc – England is far less accommodating. (Stay tuned for future posts on the perils of groceries). Even the Whole Foods in London don’t carry 1/10 of your familiar brands; the selection at the only health food store in town, Holland and Barrett, is very, very limited. Good news for those on paleo; vegans...may Mother Earth give you strength.