The Off-Campus Survival Guide

If you live off-campus, chanced are when you leave your house in the morning you literally have to bring your entire life with you! In the morning, you pack everything necessary as if you are moving out of your house and you head to school (usually for the entire day).

So why not make it easier on yourself? Here's a list of tips to help you deal with the complexity and inconveniences of living away from campus.

1. Prioritize

We tend to overpack - literally. We overpack just in case. After all, you never know when an emergency might happen. So at night before bed, make a list of things you really need. You need your books, your lunch, computer (only if necessary), writing utensils and extra snacks, your bus pass, and your wallet. That covers your basics and leaves no extra stuff to add to the weight you have to carry.

An extra tip: if you are not expressly told to bring your textbook, don't bring it. They are massive and just not necessary!

2. Separate into different bags

Personally, I have two bags I carry to school. One is an over-the-shoulder, and the other is my book bag. This also helps distribute the weight. I use the over-the-shoulder for my computer, my lunch, and my water bottle, plus any small items I need like hand sanitizer, hand cream, and my wallet. I use my backpack solely for school books. This allows you to separate you weight and makes things much easier to carry!

3. Take the bus

Yes, that’s right. Take the bus. I live a ten minute walk away from campus, but some days you just need to take the bus. But, for those of you who cannot or do not have the option to walk, take the bus. You pay for a bus pass, so use it like your life depends on it! Even though the bus schedule is hard to read and understand, take the time sit down and know the times and where you're headed.

4. Always take the earlier bus

Speaking of buses! This will save you from the embarrassing walk into class late. Say you have class at 5:00 PM and you can take the 10N Carlisle to campus; catch the bus at 4:00 PM.  The bus will get to campus at 4:35 PM, so you have extra time to get yourself organized and prepared. I've made the mistake of catching the later bus many times - just avoid this situation as best as possible (and say good-bye to sleeping in).

5. Dress warmly

Yes, the bus is convenient, warm and fast. But sometimes it’s late. This time of year, you may find yourself standing out in the cold for a little longer then you expect. Always have good waterproof boots. I recommend wool-lined boots that can withstand -32°C weather. You can find boots like these at SoftMoc.

You'll also need a good jacket that can withstand the strong wind and the freezing temperatures. You will want a jacket that is extra-long and covers your back. Book bags tend to make your coats ride up, leaving your back exposed. You can find these at relatively good price at Walmart and will last you a couple of years. Of course, a scarf, hat, and mitts are necessary too. Do your best to avoid having your face over-exposed. Sometimes wrapping your face with an extra scarf can prevent that ice-cold cheek pain.

6. Pack a well-balanced meal

For this tip, I’ll just give you a recipe I would make to take with me for a long day on campus. This meal gives you protein and vitamins so you can deal with a long day on campus:

  • 1 cup of white rice (cooked)
  • 1 boneless/skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup of frozen vegetables
  • 1 ½ tbsp. of teriyaki sauce (or sauce of your choice)


Cook the chicken and rice separately. Cook veggies in the microwave and combine with the chicken once it’s cooked. Add rice and sauce.

Some snack suggestions: an apple (with some peanut butter for extra protein), two granola bars (one for now, one for later), a dessert (perhaps a cookie), and a refillable water bottle. Finally, make sure you carry some cash on you in case you need a little something extra!