8 things I wish I would have known as an undergraduate

Welcome to college, the fastest four (hopefully) years of your life. As a graduate student now, I was in your bright-eyed and bushy-tailed position just six years ago. Like all things in life, there are things that I look back on now and wish I knew. Here are eight lessons I’m passing on to you.


Don’t fear public transportation

The streetcar, MAX and buses can be a little overwhelming. Fear not—simply study TriMet’s website, which provides schedules and a trip planner. Once you have the system down, it’s painfully easy. You can go as close as the Pearl and as far as the east side for free (mostly).

Meet your teachers

On every syllabus you get this term—and the terms beyond—your professors will provide office hours. While you may ask why you would ever want to go hang out with someone you already have to see three times a week, it’s all about connections. Professors are a lot less intimidating in an office than a huge lecture hall, and more interested in listening to you. Even if you are doing well in the class, it’s worth it to let them get to know you by face. They can help you with tests and papers, or even provide a letter of recommendation later on.

Take advantage of your free gym membership

The Rec Center, which was just remodeled last year, is the absolute easiest way to keep you healthy and sane. Roommate driving you crazy? Head to the gym for a quick run on the treadmill, or even better, try one of the free exercise classes (Zumba is a fun dance one). As you probably know, exercise releases endorphins so you’ll feel good after, and it will likely help to combat some of the changes in your diet that might occur at school.

Buy your books at Cedric’s

This bookstore, located on Southwest Sixth Avenue, will have most of your course books for a much smaller share of the bookstore’s prices. And, of course, there’s always Powell’s.

Get to class early

Sure, life gets in the way of punctuality, but I wouldn’t make a habit of it. Being recognized as the guy who strolls in 15 minutes late every day with a coffee is not only distracting, but it also makes it harder in the future for the professor to take you seriously (or help you with grades)

Make coffee at home

If you’re buying every single cup on campus, your wallet will feel it. Think about it—if you buy one cup a day for $3, that’s 15 bucks a week! Invest in a French press/coffee maker and a bag of Stumptown—you’ll be caffeinated without going poor.

Try to pack food at home

This is a little hard since as a freshman, you likely don’t have a kitchen. Luckily, with a few ingredients, you can save yourself major cash and maybe some pounds by keeping your dorm/apartment stocked well. Some easy choices are a bean salad: any canned bean/veggies with vinaigrette—I like white beans with cherry tomatoes and basil—or a piece of fruit and some almonds. Bulk nuts sell for extremely cheap at most grocery stores and will fill you up without making you want to take a nap.

Don’t try to be cool

No one cares who you were last year or in your hometown. This is your time to find yourself, and learn who you want to be in the world. Take any class you might find interesting—or even one you wouldn’t usually try, and go nuts. Don’t be afraid to find an interest and go with it—no matter what anyone else says.