Packing: What you think you will need

by Joyce Lee | 8/13/17 10:45pm

This article was featured in the 2017 Freshman Issue.

Almost all Dartmouth students are familiar with the moment of panic that comes while attempting to pack their belongings at the end of the term. They sit in the eye of the storm that was once their rooms and look helplessly around at half-filled cardboard boxes, overflowing suitcases and shoes kicked haphazardly across the floor. This distressing moment often comes in the middle of the night, hours after sleep-deprived finals and right before they have to leave campus. On such nights, if you listen carefully, you can hear small, regretful whimpers: “Why did I bring so much useless stuff?”

Over-packing is a tragic flaw for college students. For many of us, it’s our first time away from home, and essentials like coat hangers, laundry baskets and that little tray for our shoes so they don’t make the floor dirty seem essential. A college term appears to stretch on forever, making you think that surely, there must be a time where you will need that copy of “Crime and Punishment” to establish your credentials as the intellectual floormate during orientation. 

But Dartmouth students who have already made these mistakes know better. Stephen Liao ’19 and Heeju Kim ’19 both said that they brought way too many clothes to campus.

“Don’t bring unisex t-shirts, you get so many for free on campus that it’s absolutely ridiculous,” Kim said. “Also, don’t bring 17 pairs of shoes, you wear like three [maximum]. You also don’t really need decorations, but I think that’s just me.” 

Liao said that he made the mistake of bringing clothing that his mother had bought for him but that he already knew he would not wear. He also brought cleaning supplies, including stain remover, that he never ended up using. 

“I have [the stain remover], and I have stains on my pants, but I don’t use it,” he said. “Just don’t bring things that you didn’t need before college because most of it is not essential. Overall, I wish I brought less since you get a lot of free stuff in college.”

Michelle Wang ’19 said that she brought organizers that ultimately did not fit underneath her bed. Instead, she recommended that students bring items that were more personal, such as items that could be worn as flair. Liao added that he thought it was cool if students brought decorations with personal touches, such as favorite movie posters.

Edward Pyun ’18 said that he brought way too much ramen with him during his first term on campus. 

“It was way more than I could ever eat,” he said. “It was because my aunt insisted I bring it. I told her that it was too much, but she made me take it anyways. One of the [undergraduate advisors] pointed and laughed at me during move-in day. Trust me, the 20 [meal plan] provides more than enough food.” 

Linford Zirangwa ’19 gave a less material example and said that he regretted bringing the idea of having to belong to a certain group on campus. As an international student from Zimbabwe, he said that he had heard from other international students that they had trouble adjusting to the fraternities and sororities within the Greek system, and this affected his decisions to join certain student groups. 

“My choices ended up being made on the fact that I belonged somewhere the people I knew were, and not based on what the group actually was,” he said. “So now I’m making decisions based on what makes me happy, and not based on what people tell me.” 

Susie Kim ’19 said that while she couldn’t think of an item she regretted bringing to college, she did regret not being more flexible. 

“A lot of times in college, one little thing can go wrong during your day,” she said. “I’ll often plan out my schedule but there won’t be room for error. So leave room for error in your day.” 

Irdhina Harith ’19 said that she regreted bringing so many of her headscarves with her to college. 

“I’m usually too lazy to wear different headscarves everyday, so I wear the same one most days and people think that I only own one headscarf,” she said. “But I actually have a ton in my room that I just never take out of the closet. College life, you know?”

Harith said that rather than headscarves, she wishes she could have somehow brought her family to college. As an international student from Malaysia, she said that she often finds it difficult to communicate with them due to the 12-hour time difference. 

“Sometimes, when you’re so far away from your family, you don’t go beyond the basics of the conversation,” she said. “I don’t know how to go into the details of my life. I don’t feel the same dynamic that I felt when I was at home.” 

So,  incoming first-year students packing for this fall, maybe it’s better to leave that fifth coffee mug at home and instead bring what really matters — flair, a favorite poster or something that can be a little piece of home all the way in Hanover, New Hampshire. 

Heeju Kim is a member of The Dartmouth business staff.