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

It’s true that some things are best understood through experience. In order to fully learn a lesson, you have to go through it on your own and gain firsthand knowledge. That being said, other things are best learned through advice. This especially applies to things that you should know before going to college; entering a new chapter in your life can be a turbulent time when all you want is a little guidance, even on the small stuff. So, to help you familiarize yourself with UCSB, here’s a list of seven things I wish I knew before my first year started.

Bike Etiquette

Bikes rule the UCSB campus and Isla Vista, UCSB’s neighboring community. If you don’t have a bike yet, now would be the perfect time to get one (although make sure you can properly ride it before pedaling around campus, and make sure you have a secure lock for parking it—otherwise it will get stolen). The most important thing to remember about bikes in the UCSB area is that bikes always have the right of way. If you’re driving through IV in a car, yield to bikes. If you’re a pedestrian crossing a bike path on campus, yield to bikes. Unless you want to be the cause of one of UCSB’s notorious bike crashes, be sure to look out for bikes.

While biking, make sure that you are staying to the right side of the bike lane if you are going slower than those around you. Also be cautious when entering roundabouts, and when in doubt, always signal with your hands to indicate which direction you are turning.

The Beaches Are Beautiful, But They Have Tar

There are several beaches along the coast of UCSB and IV: Campus Point Beach, Camino del Sur Beach, and Devereux Beach, to name a few. Each has its own pros and cons, and the best way to find your favorite is to simply explore them all.

But there’s one major thing to be aware of: the beaches have tar. Before you lay your towel down or kick off your shoes, look out for black gooey stuff in the sand. Tar is difficult to remove and has a pretty awful smell that clings to objects for a long time. For extra precaution, it might be a good idea to invest in some tar remover such as Goo Gone.

Avoid Getting Ticketed on DP

Del Playa Drive, dubbed DP by most UCSB students, is the street in IV that runs closest to the ocean and is notorious for throwing parties throughout the year. It’s all fun and games until you get a ticket, so beware of a couple things: officers will write up students carrying open containers of alcohol and sitting on the curb. Don’t do either of these things (or anything else blatantly illegal, for that matter) as you could wind up with a court date.

Be Nice to Your RA

Speaking of authority figures, it’s important to always show kindness and respect to your RA. RAs, or Resident Advisors, are students just like you who oversee a particular area of dorms and ensure that everyone stays safe and happy. While they are capable of issuing write-ups if students break rules stipulated in housing agreement contracts, they also plan fun events for the dorm and can be great people to talk to for advice or help as you navigate college life. In addition, they can be used as references when you are filling out housing applications for future years, so it’s a good idea to build a solid relationship with your RA.

There’s a Pretty Nasty Housing Shortage

The demand for houses and apartments in Isla Vista far exceeds the supply, meaning that the housing market is quite competitive. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to plan ahead for housing for future years. While it can’t necessarily be rushed, keep in mind the friends that you’ll want to live with and ask upperclassmen about their experiences with property management companies in the area. Leases are typically signed in the December-February time frame, so be on the lookout!

Get Active!

UCSB has a hugely physically active student population. While this may not be your cup of tea, I encourage everyone to step out of their comfort zone and consider trying water sports, forming an intramural sports team, or joining a program such as UCSB Adventure Program or Excursion Club. With the wide variety of activities available to students, you are sure to find something you enjoy.

The Quarter System Moves Fast

UCSB operates on the quarter system as opposed to the semester system, meaning that the academic year is divided into three 10-week quarters (fall, winter, and spring). Learning an entire course worth of material in such a short amount of time, while juggling exams and papers, can seem pretty daunting, but luckily UCSB has plenty of resources for students in need of help. The university’s tutoring program, CLAS, offers study groups, workshops, and drop-in services in a wide variety of subjects. The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) also is available to provide academic and social support for first-generation and low-income students.

But the speed of the quarter system doesn’t just apply to academics. Your time here at UCSB will fly by. Before you know it, you’ll be approaching the end of your first year and looking back at all the things you’ve learned, the miles you’ve biked, the friends you’ve made, and you’ll wonder how it all passed so quickly. Your first year of college is going to be a unique new experience, so live every moment of it.

Kendall is a third-year Communication student at UCSB and an editorial intern for Her Campus UCSB. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually either doing yoga, getting coffee, or planning her future travels.