Anika B: How to Feed Yourself in College Without a Dining Plan

It’s Called ~Adulting~

Coming back to college after a year at home, I was nervous to go from having guaranteed home cooked meals everyday to needing to plan my own meals, keep track of ingredients, buy groceries, and, of course, cook. The last time I had been on campus — my freshman year — I had a dining plan and ate most of my meals at Bay State Dining Hall. 

Coming back as a junior without a dining plan, I was sure that after a week of trying to cook, I’d be eating instant ramen every day. But here we are, in November, and I am pleasantly surprised with how I’ve been able to pretty consistently make myself food that I enjoy.

Tip 1: Learn basic recipes that you can apply to many different ingredients

This, like most (okay, all) of my cooking knowledge, comes straight from my mom. In my last couple of months at home, I practiced making recipes with her that I’d grown up eating my whole life. The most surprising—and reassuring—thing I learned was that if I could master one recipe, I could almost automatically master two or three others at the same time! 

For example, the recipes for the two types of beans pictured below (garbanzo beans and kidney beans) are actually exactly the same! They both contain chopped onions, potatoes, and tomatoes along with all the same spices — the only difference is which beans I added.

This method is a super easy way to mix up your meals without having to learn too many different recipes.

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Tip 2: Know what kitchen items you absolutely need stocked

As you learn more recipes and get in the groove of cooking for yourself, you’ll start recognizing which ingredients you use the most consistently and which run out the fastest. These will differ for everyone depending on what type of food you tend to cook, but for me, I’ve noticed that I use olive oil, garlic, and a variety of spices in almost every recipe I make.

For large items, like olive oil, my roommates and I have one big bottle that we share. If everyone in your apartment agrees to it, sharing some big items (either splitting cost or repurchasing on a rotating basis) can help you keep your kitchen free of clutter. And, you don’t have to worry about keeping track of whose is whose if everyone is using the same thing!

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Tip 3: Make last night’s leftovers today’s lunch

I always make at least two servings of food for myself when I cook, sometimes even more if I know my next day or two are super busy. Having a shared refrigerator with limited space makes it impractical to meal prep too many items, so I try to be smart about how I can use the same leftovers in combination with a few distinct ingredients to make different second-day meals. 

For example, one way I repurposed the kidney beans (pictured under Tip #1) was to eat them with rice and other vegetables the next day. This way, you’re still getting some variety in your meals, but you don’t have to go through all the effort of cooking an entire new meal each time.

I recommend getting a few light tupperware you can take with you to campus for the day if you won’t be home for lunch, but still want to eat your cooked food instead of spending money. You don’t need anything fancy or even a lunchbox — I usually put my tupperwares in a plastic bag (in case of spills) that I slip into my backpack, or if I’m bringing a sandwich, I just wrap it in plastic and tin foil and I am good to go! (If you can find more eco-friendly alternatives, that is even better!)

Learning to cook for yourself can be daunting at first, and there is definitely a learning curve that comes with it. The best advice I have is to practice, practice, practice. If you can, ask someone (parents, other family members, older siblings, friends, etc.) to write down recipes for you that you can follow along with as you are learning. It may seem like overkill, but it really helps mitigate the stress of all the multitasking you’ll inevitably do in the kitchen.
Lastly, know that you can do it! No matter how much I practiced at home, I didn’t feel confident in my ability to cook at all until I actually got to school and was fully responsible for my own diet. It may seem like you’re diving off the deep end, but you are probably better equipped to handle it than you think!

Anika: 5 Handy Zoom Interview Tips

5 Handy Zoom Interview Tips

It’s that time of year again…interview season! From midterms to student org commitments to the fact that we’re still not out of a pandemic, it’s totally normal if your stress levels are running high right now.

No need to stress if you haven’t had the perfect summer internship lined up for months! Keep putting yourself out there, and once you do, here are some of my tips for nailing that Zoom interview:

1) Wear something you feel confident in

Of course you should always dress professionally for an interview, but keep in mind that your interviewer can only see about an eighth of your outfit on Zoom. So, whatever you wear is really more for you than for them! 

Have a favorite sweater that you always feel great in? Maybe there’s a way to style it into an interview-appropriate outfit. Unless the company has a super strict dress code, I think this is a great way to give yourself a little extra reassurance on a stressful day.

2) Practice on Zoom!

Even though it may feel silly, I recommend opening a Zoom meeting room by yourself for 10-15 minutes before your interview and practicing talking about things like your background and why you’re interested in the job. Then, when you log onto the actual Zoom call, there will barely be a difference! 

Also, those awkward stumbles on basic questions will already have been worked through, which can settle your nerves. This is one huge plus of having interviews on Zoom — there’s no way you’d be able to simulate the exact same interview room in person right before your interview!

3) Research the company beforehand

This is a no-brainer, but obviously you should know some basic info about the company you’re applying to! Don’t worry, they won’t expect you to know the ins-and-outs of their business, but if you have specific ideas or opinions about their work, you will stand out. 

It also doesn’t hurt to know a little bit about your interviewer if possible. No need to spend hours stalking their LinkedIn, but just make sure you know their role at the company so you can get a sense of what types of questions to ask them at the end.

4) Have an answer for the dreaded “Any questions for me?”

This question can feel tough. I’ve found it’s good to go into the interview with at least one question I might ask, but that often  gets answered during the interview and something else is discussed that I can ask about. 

It’s hard to think on your feet in a nerve wracking environment, but if you have some initial ideas it’ll be easier to adapt them in the moment than to come up with something completely.

Another tip: if the interview format is more casual, (i.e. more of a back-and-forth conversation), you can also ask questions as you go along. Then, if your mind goes blank at the end, it’s okay because you’ve already shown how curious and insightful you are!

5) As best you can, relax

I know, I know, it’s way easier said than done. 

But I think one plus of the Zoom interview environment is that it’s way less nerve-wracking. You don’t have to wait outside an ominous room in an unfamiliar hallway, nervously make small talk with other candidates, and sit down in a foreign seat pretending you feel right at home. I think the weird feeling of “surrealness” that Zoom often gives us is, in this case, an asset. 

And lastly,

if you feel physical symptoms of stress, you might use it to your advantage by thinking of it as a sign of how invested and excited you are about this opportunity — and that’s a positive thing! Telling yourself to stop freaking out will likely not work, so just take some deep breaths, know you’re prepared, and go kill it! 😉

Anika: Study Break Ideas for When You’re At Home All Day

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Whether you’re on campus or off this semester, you’re probably cooped up inside due to Zoom meetings for much of the day. Also, when going from class to club meetings to homework is just a matter of closing one tab and opening another, it’s really easy for all the parts of your day to blend together.

I’ve noticed myself feeling drained much more quickly lately because of this, so I wanted to share a few ideas for how to take breaks if you’ve been feeling the same!

Go outside

This seems obvious, but I’ve found that it can be so easy to get caught up in other things and forget. When your days are busy or you don’t have long breaks in between classes, it can be stressful trying to plan a good time to go for a walk or do an outdoor workout. I recommend getting a bit of fresh air every day, even if you only have time to walk down the street and back! I promise even just a few minutes outside can be a game-changer.

Cook something

If you’re like me at all, the word “cook” is subject to a very loose interpretation. For me, this tip usually means something extremely simple like making homemade frozen yogurt. Even just taking a few extra minutes to put together your favorite snack is a great way to show yourself some kindness on your super busy days!

Stretch

When you’re sitting at a desk all day, there’s no doubt that you’ve probably got some tight muscles! A lot of times, we barely even notice because we are so used to it, or we’ll feel like something is off but we can’t quite put our finger on it. Stretching and rolling out your muscles on a daily basis is genuinely life-changing. Again, just like going outside, it’s totally fine if the most you can manage is just a couple of minutes a day. 

Listen to music

Blasting your favorite music and dancing around your room is a great way to let off some steam when you’re feeling stressed! It can also be a good way to get in a tiny bit of physical activity when you might be feeling too overwhelmed to carve out time for structured exercise 🙂

Journal

Sometimes, when I’m feeling really stressed about my to-do list, I like to jot down in my journal what exactly is making me feel this way. Is there some unlikely “worst case scenario” that keeps playing anxiously in my head, keeping me from actually buckling down and getting things done? I’ve found that sometimes, just getting it out of my head and onto paper can be enough to let me move past these thoughts and go back into my work with greater focus.

I hope you’ve found a few of these tips helpful! It can be difficult to make sure we’re caring for ourselves, especially when we seem physically attached to our computers now more than ever. But it’s important to take at least a couple minutes out of each day to check in with ourselves.

Anika: How I’m Preparing for a Remote Fall Semester

ella-jardim-M0zs81FNm6s-unsplashI chose to learn remotely from home this fall, but that has come with a whole load of mixed feelings. I miss being in Boston and on campus so much, from waving to friends as I walk to class down Comm Ave to getting late night ice cream on Newbury Street.

Those of us who are staying home probably won’t be able to get the Boston nostalgia fully off our minds, but here are some ways I am preparing for a successful (if not particularly exciting) fall semester at home:

Setting boundaries between work space and relaxing space

This is something I am particularly bad at. The desk where I do all my work is in my room, just feet away from my bed. Whenever I get tired or need a break, I lay down on my bed, and my 15-minute hiatus is in danger of turning into hours of procrastination.

One tip I’ve found helpful is to set a timer — not for your breaks, but for your work time. It’s really easy to ignore a timer when you’re comfortable in your bed, but if you set one for however long you want to be working before that, you’ll get more done and it won’t seem as daunting to come back to the task later.

Implementing a routine, but with some variety

One of the toughest parts of quarantine has been feeling like I’m living the same day over and over again. For me, having a routine can be quite helpful when I need to get work done, but in my weaker moments it can also exacerbate my existential dread…

To address this, I try to set certain hours of the day when I will be responsible for working, but change that up on the weekends or on days when I have fewer commitments. It’s also very important to work in time to exercise, zoom with friends, and do other activities you enjoy (like baking, watching movies, etc.)!

Cleaning out my desk

This semester, my desk isn’t just going to be where I do my homework, but where I attend all my lectures and discussions as well.

While my workspace is not Pinterest-worthy by any means, I do want to have a space where I don’t feel overwhelmed by the number of miscellaneous items surrounding me. I still have several binders from high school lying around that general area, and while I don’t like throwing these away (who knows when I’m going to be wondering about the makeup of a cell again?), I’ve been working on consolidating and moving them away from my immediate workspace. 

Whether you’ll be on campus or off, there’s no doubt that this semester is going to be a challenge. Just as usual, though, each of us is going to have a slightly different experience, and hopefully we’ll look back on this time and see how it shaped us for the better.

Anika: BU-Specific Life Hacks to Stay Happy & Healthy

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It’s getting to be that time of year – the depths of winter are approaching, and we’ve found ourselves setting new goals as the new year and semester begin again. Here’s a list of tips and tricks I discovered in my first semester at BU that can help us all stay happy and healthy!

  1. Take PDPs at FitRec! 

The summer before classes began, I was shocked to learn that I could pay the same amount of tuition and take not one, but two more classes – and for academic credit! I took Vinyasa Yoga and Basic Conditioning, which were on alternating days and got me to the gym four out of seven days of the week. These classes are also a great way to make friends!

  1. Go for walks by yourself

What I love most about BU’s campus, or lack thereof, is the fact that it is a straight line. Some of my most relaxing moments last semester came when I was walking by myself along the long stretch of cars, buildings and trees that is Comm Ave. If you ever need to get some steps in or just clear your head, I highly recommend choosing to walk rather than taking the T or bus!

  1. Pet the therapy dogs at Hillel (rather than Mugar) during Finals Week

I, unfortunately, missed my opportunity to pet some much-needed therapy dogs last semester. The Mugar slots filled up almost immediately, and while I did sign up for about seven waitlists (I really, really wanted to pet some dogs), it was to no avail. I had friends that went to the session at Hillel though, and it looked amazing. Hillel is much less crowded and you don’t have to reserve a time, just pop in! Also, the location on Bay State Road is convenient if you live in East campus or want to go right after class.

  1. Change up your study spots!

You seem to be in the perfect study spot, but you’ve been staring at the same sentence for the past thirty minutes…you’d be surprised how much a simple change of scenery can help! Throughout my first semester, I never really had one single spot where I would go to study. But I did develop favorites for different kinds of studying — for example, Questrom Starbucks for quicker assignments, Mugar for intense research papers, and of course dorm sweet dorm if I was cramming something last minute. 

  1. Take advantage of free mindfulness practice!

Although they are not advertised nearly enough, there are a number of ways to get access to guided mindfulness practice through BU! Every Friday from 10-11am, Professor Brenda Phillips leads a meditation class at Robinson Chapel. Additionally, BU has recently given all students free access to the popular guided meditation app, Headspace! Last but not least, you can always add on a meditation PDP to your schedule!

Hopefully you find these tips useful for navigating your way through college life! And remember, your wellbeing always comes first.