Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Table For One: A UCLA Student’s Guide to Navigating Dining Halls

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

For the first three days of my freshman year at UCLA, my diet solely consisted of instant oatmeal.  Yes, you read that right. Instant. Oatmeal. For three meals a day, I would boil tap water using my foldable contraband warming pot simply to avoid having to journey into the nearby dining halls by myself. By day three, my Quaker Oats stash had begun to run low and I grew painfully aware of the situation at hand — sometime soon, I would have to eat at the dining halls. 

Christin Urso / Spoon

So, I bit the bullet. When my roommate asked me to accompany her to BPlate, I accepted. Albeit anxiety-inducing, it was nice to eat an actual meal. Both my roommate and I were much too embarrassed to admit to each other that we were still hungry after only eating a single fist-sized portion of mushroom and beef risotto, so we went back to the dorm with our stomachs still growling. But, hey, a win is a win. 

However, as the quarter crawled on and our schedules grew busier, I quickly learned that I wouldn’t always have my roommate to eat with. Inevitably, I would have to choose between two options: eat only two meals a day and throw away my parents’ hard-earned money or suck it up and eat alone. And although the first option was awfully tempting, I went with the latter and never looked back. So, from a third-year who has been in the exact same spot as you, here are a few tips from yours truly that helped me grow to love eating alone. 

First, if you’re too nervous to dive right in, don’t! Take it slow. Try picking up take-out from Rendezvous or The Study if you’re too anxious to eat-in by yourself. But when you do muster up the courage (and I promise, you will), bring along some headphones and enjoy some music or your favorite TV show while you eat. And last but certainly not least, keep in mind that everyone has to eat. A lot of the anxiety that comes from eating alone stems from a fear of other people seeing you and thinking you’re weird for eating by yourself. But you’re not. I promise. 

The reality is that nobody thinks about what you’re doing because they’re too engrossed in their own lives to care. And while I can guarantee you that this problem will not last long since you’re constantly making new connections on campus as the quarter continues, try to take time in the dining halls to find other people eating alone and ask to sit next to them. Who knows? You might make a new friend or even make someone’s day. Not only did my experience with dining halls during my freshman year completely improve my confidence and independence, but it also pushed me to try new things entirely out of my comfort zone. And I urge you to do the same, even if it seems a little scary at first. So, no, you cannot eat dinner from a vending machine for the fifth day in a row. You can do better.

Autumn Morgan is a third-year Film & Television major at UCLA who grew up in the San Fernando Valley. She thoroughly enjoys being overdressed and reading women’s divorce fiction. In her free time, you can find her laying by a river eating fruit.