By Morgan Caldwell,a freshman journalism major from Prestonsburg. She is a sports writer for The Easter
It seems like adults are always saying that college will change your life forever. They talk about the paths your career will take, and how the friends you make will be the ones that last a lifetime. While all this may be true, there’s one aspect nobody ever seems to mention: how your lifestyle will change while you’re there.Now, this may not happen if mom and dad are rich enough and, most importantly, generous enough to send you lots of money from time to time. Unfortunately, not all of us are so lucky. When you find yourself in that circumstance, you discover what life is like for a poor college student.
The first place you feel the effects is with food. If you have a meal plan, you use it for all it’s worth. Granted, by the end of the year (heck, end of the semester) you’re very, very tired of upstairs Powell. Generally you used all your flex dollars up the first little bit. And if you stay on campus you don’t really have a choice.
Well, no biggie; you’ll just eat out, right? It seems simple, but there are flaws in this theory.
First, unless you want to eat alone, the decision to eat out must be announced one week in advance. This gives all your equally poor friends time to save up for that trip to Wendy’s. Secondly, eating out dictates that you must lose your much-cherished parking space.
Okay, there’s always the good old-fashioned idea of going to the grocery store. Funding is still an issue. Suddenly you find yourself reaching for the generic brand for every item you buy. If you do not readily see the generic brand, you actively search it out. Also, you divvy up condiments between people on your floor, if you’re smart. Room 213 keeps ketchup, 218 keeps mustard, you keep sugar . . . the buddy system is a beautiful thing.
Delivery, if you divide the expense, isn’t too terrible either, except the last time we paid the poor pizza guy totally in change scraped from the bottoms of book bags and couches. You should have seen his face when we handed him the Ziploc bag with all the nickels and pennies in it. He didn’t even count. Now I’m too humiliated to order again.
Needless to say, parents never have to remind you about starving children in third world countries. The poor college student does not waste food. A friend of mine brought a gallon of homemade salsa back with her. It was great the first two weeks. After that it got a little disgusting, but the stuff refused to spoil, so we choked it down anyway (although, in our secret hearts, we all wished it would go bad). And not only is the poor college student not wasteful, he or she is also very creative. It is astounding what can be made with nothing more than a microwave and those George Foreman grills that nobody has.
The next part of college life culture shock is doing laundry. I don’t mean the simple act itself (although some people’s parents do theirs for them at home). No, I’m referring to how quarters drastically gain importance. I was ice-skating the weekend before Spring Break, and someone had dropped a quarter on the ice. My fellow college student even went so far as to mention the fact to me, and then peer after it. I was suddenly struck by the idea that we were being way too interested in a piece of change.
It becomes a sickness. Before you know it, what little money you have is viewed in terms of laundry loads. I got a forward that said “I am a college student” and gave a list of things after it that college students do. One read: “I am a college student. I will cross busy intersections just to pick up what might be a quarter.” That is, after all, a third of a load of laundry.
And the third place the poor college student feels the change is with clothing. On infrequent trips to the mall, the sale racks are the only ones you look at. You already know without checking price tags that you can’t afford anything else. Why torture yourself with what might have been? (The really depressing part comes when you can’t afford the sale items.)
You love the friends that are your size. A friend your size doubles the outfit possibilities. In my dorm it is not unusual for friends to wander down the hallway in the morning, a specific shirt of yours they want to wear in mind. The only rule is, if you borrow it, you wash it.
I have one bit of advice when you borrow clothes: Don’t shrink the clothes you borrow. This means you can’t borrow them again. Also, the shrunken item’s owner is less likely to let you borrow anything else. This is very important.
Oh yes, life is much different when you become a poor college student. In high school, if a group of people are going to see a movie and invite you along, you immediately accept. This is of course assuming that you like the people who are asking. You go home and say, “Mom, I’m going to the movies tonight.”
She nods. And do you know what my mom’s next words always were? “Do you need any money?” And if I didn’t have enough, she’d hand me some.
By now, the words “I can’t afford to” flow easily from the poor college student’s lips, but not without a bitter aftertaste. So the next time someone uses that excuse, be kind. There are more of us out there than you think.