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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Alabama chapter.

Tuscaloosa didn’t tell me it was time for fall. Every memory from the start of my freshman year was marked by the searing heat of Alabama’s late summer sun, so when the “first day of fall” hit and the temperature was still in the mid-eighties, I hardly noticed we had entered a new season. Even my Southern friends, who don’t find the T-town weather fluctuations as painful as I do, find themselves suffering from the same seasonal confusion I’ve been experiencing. The days have begun passing by all-too-quickly each time we check the calendar, but many of us still cannot capture that telltale cozy feeling of fall.  

I finally realized why. We’re no longer at home, no longer taking trips to haunted houses with high school friends, going apple picking with family, or doing anything that traditionally defined autumn in our minds. We’re no longer coming home to the warmth of fresh-baked pumpkin bread or decking out our houses in fake spider webs and spooky inflatables. I know I’m not alone in saying that the feeling of fall – warmth, comfort, and bliss – is essential to emotionally surviving the daunting season of mounting academic stress and social commitments. Hoping to recreate that same childhood autumnal spirit in my new home, I found some ways to foster the feeling of fall for each of our five senses – smell, taste, touch, hearing, and sight – in the confines of a freshman dorm.  

  1. Smell 

Characteristic fall scents like fresh-baked pumpkin pie, simmering apple cider, and spiced cinnamon might be best captured within the glass jars of candles. Unfortunately, burning the feeling of fall into the air through the open flame of a candle usually isn’t allowed in dorm rooms for safety reasons. So, filling your dorm with the smell of the season means finding creative, fire-safe alternatives. Luckily for us, wax melts mimic the wafting scent of a burning candle without the hazard of an open flame! They are available on Amazon with scents ranging from “warm butterscotch” to “pumpkin spice latte” for around $13-$20 per melter and $20 for a set of five melts.  

Cleaning products also come in countless fall-scented variations, and they can be a fun, and productive way to ring in the season.  It’s as easy as buying Mrs. Meyers’ Clean Multi-Surface Everyday Cleaner in the Fall Leaves scent from Target.  

We can’t forget about air-freshener sprays either! Available at almost any store and budget friendly, air fresheners are a great way to get an extra spritz of fall in your life. 

If you’re willing to make a trip to Birmingham, Trader Joes’ iconic cinnamon brooms can infuse any space with the spirit of autumn.. Essential oil diffuser blends, whether they contain cardamom, cinnamon, orange, or clove, can also elevate any dorm experience into a fall festival.  

  1. Taste 

From the creaminess of a cinnamon roll to the crisp of a carmel apple, tasting this time of year can be as easy and affordable as taking a trip to your local grocery store. Most places offer a varied selection of fall-themed snacks. Most every dorm has a community kitchen, making oven-baked goods a viable option. Tasting the season can be as simple as buying candy corn and mixing it into a bag of pretzels or as complex as baking those viral cinnamon roll waffles you saw on TikTok. If you plan to go to Birmingham for the amazing Trader Joe’s cinnamon brooms, make sure you also pick up their Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle Mix and Pumpkin Bread and Muffin mix (bonus – they only require eggs, milk, and butter to make). Though dorm kitchens are often missing the mixing bowls, spatulas and baking pans that we are used to having at home, finding replacements can be as easy as borrowing from an upperclassman or investing in some from Target or Walmart.  

  1. Touch 

While most of us don’t have cars or local pumpkin patches and apple orchards, you can still carve pumpkins with friends or go to the farmer’s market to indulge in some fall produce. Taking the time to draw and carve a Halloween design onto a pumpkin is one of the best ways to push yourself into an amazing fall.  

You can also bring the fall touch to a more personal, sensory level by switching out your usual body lotion for a fall scented one from Bath and Body Works or your preferred fragrance brand. You can also physically engage in fall by painting your nails a festive color. Red and brown are great, traditionally autumnal options! 

Sweaters and jackets are also essential for surviving the bitter chill that sneaks in with the later weeks of fall. Start spicing up your closet now with weather essentials that are both fashionable and sensible for the Tuscaloosa weather. While Tuscaloosa is full of trendy boutiques to shop leather pants or denim jackets, at this point in the semester (and football season…) many of our wallets are starting to hurt. Buying secondhand from local stores like Plato’s closet, America’s Thrift Store, or even buy/sell Groupmes is a wonderful way to build a cozy fall wardrobe for a fraction of the price and carbon footprint.  

  1. Hear 

Music can encapsulate the coziness of this time of year so perfectly; playing a record or listening to a fall playlist can instantly turn an everyday study session into a truly autumnal experience. A quick search on Spotify or Tik Tok will give you dozens of playlists that organize popular songs into the ideal fall-themed musical experience. If you want to design your own, great songs to start with are “Sweater Weather” by The Neighbourhood or “Autumn in New York” by Ella Fitzgerald. Artists like Steve Lacy, The Lumineers, Hozier, Taylor Swift, and Kings of Leon all make soft, cozy music that can contribute to a great fall playlist. For a more vintage fall feel, try adding in some Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra. Songs from these artists and The Weeknd’s Starboy often show up on fall playlists as well, but don’t forget to get creative! To make your perfect playlist, don’t hesitate to include songs from your favorite artists.  

  1. Sight 

It’s easy to see the changing of the seasons when you’re constantly looking at the leaves on the road change from green to orange. College students, however, spend most of our days sitting in lecture halls and walking the same sidewalks. This doesn’t always give us the opportunities to fully see the beauty of autumn. Though Tuscaloosa is a quintessential college town, the Black Warrior River next to campus has a winding path alongside it that makes for a great fall walk. Getting there is as easy as taking the 10-minute walk from campus! 

Inside your dorm, seeing the season can be as easy as buying some fall pillows and blankets or a new doormat from somewhere like TJ Maxx. Many stores around Tuscaloosa fit within the realm of a college student’s budget. Whether it’s at the $3 section in Target or the clearance aisles in Walmart, you can incorporate simple fall décor on a tight budget!  

Finally, one of the coziest fall activities is a simple themed movie night with friends. Most UA dorms come with a television, so all you really need is someone with a Netflix subscription or Hulu account. Though eating fresh-baked fall cookies and taking in the smell of a cinnamon wax melt would certainly elevate your experience, all you really need is the right movie. My personal recommendations include It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, The Nightmare Before Christmas, the Harry Potter movies, and Hocus Pocus.  

I am a freshman at the University of Alabama studying Biology and currently on the Pre Med path while working towards my MBA. I call San Diego, CA home, but absolutely love to travel and hope to snorkel in Fiji one day. I've always had a passion for sharing other people's stories, which I've explored extensively from staff writing on student newspapers to eventually founding my own to launching an independent website profiling the life and career advice of accomplished professionals in my community. I try to live each moment to the fullest and believe we were placed on this earth to love others; that's led me to countless hobbies from sailing to cooking to off-roading and serving at my local church and food bank.