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Dear reader, I’ll spare you the diatribe about “these uncertain times.” We all know what’s happening, and we’re all pretending we’re not terrified. Somehow, life goes on. 

If you’ve chosen to head back to campus this fall, you’re likely aware that Mason Housing has recommended students “pack light” in the event campus closes unexpectedly (again). Additionally, students have been asked to have a “go bag” ready in case they need to go into isolation for 2 weeks. Navigating these additional recommendations and requirements can be overwhelming — how do you even start to pack with this much uncertainty? 

As a rising senior, I’ve lived on campus every year during my time at Mason and will be returning this fall. You’ve probably seen this packing list provided by Mason Housing, but as a veteran on-campus resident, I thought I’d share my thought process as I approach packing up my life for Fall 2020. 

Given that students could conceivably be asked to leave campus with very little notice at any point during the semester, minimalism is your friend. If you suddenly have to move out, that big decorative headboard is going to be really annoying to move back and forth.  If you have family in Virginia, consider leaving bulky things like winter coats and T.V.’s with them at first. That way, they can trade your summer clothes for your winter things, or drop off the Xbox you originally left at home. 

Washers and dryers on campus are free to use, so it’s okay to just bring the bare wardrobe essentials for now. Most classes are online anyway, so you won’t be out and about much. Personally, I’m packing only a few basic tops, bottoms, and shoes — items that I can easily mix and match for some outfit variety but can still throw in a suitcase. 

Naturally, there are some essentials that can’t stay home. I’m looking at you, cleaning supplies. Laundry detergent, bathroom spray, dish soap — boring, but necessary. Normally, I just run to Target and pick up the most basic versions of these supplies possible to save a few bucks (because, you know, tuition is expensive, etc.). But this semester, I decided to splurge and treat myself to ~luxury~ home essentials. 

I’ve found that products that make their use more of a special experience helped break up my day and make chores more enjoyable while stuck at my parents’ house. With many classes online and social interaction limited, on-campus students will spend a lot of time in their dorm room. From experience, things get messy quickly in such a small space. So, using a lavender-scented liquid detergent or a fancy hand soap helps incentivize keeping a clean space, along with making the experience a little more enjoyable. 

The scariest part of packing to move into a dorm during a global pandemic might just be where to start. A mountain of decisions looms. Each item you want to bring has to be evaluated for how necessary it is and how easily it can be moved out on short notice. Online classes present a whole new set of routine changes, too. 

Start small. Try choosing one category to think about at a time. For example, start by sorting through school supplies. Make a list of what you already have and what you need to purchase, then step away and take a break. Little by little, you’ll work your way through everything and have an oversight of anything you might still need to buy or pack up. 

The on-campus college experience is going to be very different this fall, and there’s no way around that. The only thing left to do is try to stay positive, despite the situation. While you won’t be going to classes or meeting friends at the dining hall, you’ll still have a dorm experience. Keeping pandemic precautions in mind, you can still have the best campus experience possible. 

Anna Bertino

George Mason University '21

Anna is a Communication major at George Mason concentrating in Public Relations and minoring in English. She is a social media editor for the HC George Mason chapter. Anna is also the president of Mason's Equestrian Club and Show Team. When not writing or riding, she can be found drinking tea, satisfying her sweet tooth, or planning her next vacation.
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