Orientation Express: Revisiting College Move-In Day 10 Years Later

By now, most kids are back in the school routine and still in the honeymoon period of getting to see friends, being in a higher grade, and brand new school supplies (just me?). With this new school year starting, I’ve been reminded that it’s been a whole DECADE since I began a whole new experience in college. Yiiikes.

Earlier this year, we spent a whole week reminiscing about our high school experience, but anyone who’s been to college knows that it’s a whole different beast than anything you’ve ever encountered in your previous 18 years of living. Whether you stay in your hometown, move to a different region of your state, or go across country, every freshman still gets that ‘Holy crap what am I getting myself into can I even handle this level of responsibility’ feeling on the first day they move into college.

For me, it was a unique experience to say the least. My parents and I loaded up our rental van and drove from Rochester to Boston with all my crap in the back. Here’s a thing to know about the college I went to: it’s right in the middle of the city. Like the “campus” is blocks of downtown Boston. This was the view from the building I lived in my freshman and sophomore years.


With that in mind, moving about 900 students in on a busy Boston street is no easy feat. A lane of traffic has to be used specifically for freshman, and it has to be done very promptly and efficiently to keep the flow of traffic moving. I remember we pulled up to the building that was soon to be my home for the next 2 years, and looked out the car window to see (and hear) a bunch of screaming, enthusiastic college kids wearing the same shirt and for some reason, were really excited to see my car pull up. After a few admin tasks were completed, I vividly remember the very first moment I stepped out of the car and the important girl with the headset said, “Everyone welcome Traci to Emerson!” and a group of about 15 crazy people said “WELCOME TRACI” and cheered and yelled and started stealing my stuff. No, really. Well okay, they were taking everything out of our car, placing it in carts, and hauling it up to my dorm room so I would barely have to touch a thing (I didn’t lift a single item. It was the greatest).

Me, when first getting to my dorm on move-in day

The kids in the shirts, I would later find out were “OLs”, short for Orientation Leaders, made up of Sophomore, Junior and Senior volunteers who have a lot of Dunkin Donuts coffee and glitter running through their veins. In more recent years, the OLs have taken to dressing up in colorful outfits to, I don’t know, make the freshman feel more welcome? There’s really no way to accurately describe the shock when it comes to the very first moments of move-in day, so here’s a video instead. Also take note of the dad at 1:18.

The rest of orientation week was filled with icebreaker games (THE ABSOLUTE WORST) at this event called Hooray!, a guy nicknamed the “Dating Doctor” who talked about dating and sex, and as a girl coming from a Catholic education for all the previous years of my life, this was quite a change. There was a boat cruise, an epic dance where all the OLs dressed up in various costumes and busted moves along to popular songs of 2004 (similar to this, but imagine it being 10 years ago), and this 1980s safety video for everyone that had never lived in a city before. Honestly, they showed this, and in my opinion, it’s the greatest tradition our college has. A Bahston cop, dramatic reenactments, horrible acting, I mean, really.

“ATMs: probably the greatest invention ever to exist.”

In the end, Orientation week was a good way to transition into college life and not feel so scared about the daunting task of “being in college”. So for you freshman out there who still feel scared or uneasy about your new life, just know that the next four (or five or eight+, depending on the interest in furthering your education or level of long-term commitment)  years of your life will be some of the greatest you’ll ever have. You’ll make lifelong friends, you’ll learn things about yourself, about others, about LIFE. Just enjoy yourself. If those crazy OLs can let go of their inhibitions and wear tutus and banana costumes on the streets of Boston, you can make it through your freshman year.

PS: Please tell me our school wasn’t the only one with eccentric move-in/orientation events! Did any of you guys have a similar or horrible experience?

(originally posted on cookies + sangria)


This One Time, At College Camp

Here’s the cold hard truth about getting older – you default to lying only because you can’t remember. “Were you the one telling me about all your horrible birthdays? And how you think they’re ‘cursed’?” “Yeah, that was me… No wait, that’s not true. That’s Penny from Happy Endings. My birthdays are fine.”

For our summer series, we’ve talked about how we never got to go to camp as a kid – and that’s a lie. I’ve been to camp. I went to sleepaway camp for exactly one week when I was maybe 12 years old and that was it. Never went to summer camp again. I think the reason I always forget it happened was because the whole thing didn’t feel real and it was just a tiny blip in my life. Like the day I spelled ‘architect’ wrong in my 6th grade spelling bee was more memorable than my entire week at camp. Let me explain.

I went to a camp called Mindstretchers which was located at Keuka College in the tiny hamlet of Keuka Park, New York, right on the Finger Lakes (there are a bunch of lakes that look like fingers from afar, I realize how weird this sounds if you didn’t grow up in upstate NY). It was approximately an hour away from our hometown of Rochester, so it wasn’t too far that I felt like I was going on some big adventure.

I guess I always wanted to go to camp, because that’s what the cool kids did, like Lindsay Lohan on The Parent Trap, but my parents were never into it until the one year I guess they just got sick of me. But like I mentioned, this camp was at a college. I didn’t actually get that Parent Trap or Salute Your Shorts experience I had envisioned. This was like, kind of smart camp? I mean, imagine you’re like 12 years old and you get to spend a week at a sprawling campus – living in DORM ROOMS!! Shared bathrooms! Living the life, y’all.

college camp

i’m not pictured in this photo, fyi

So here we were, just a group of kids between the ages of 10 to 15 at this camp called Mindstretchers, which BTW, according to one internet poster, is described as a “camp for creative thinking and writing”. They’re not too far off. Also of note – I went to this camp so long ago, that there’s BARELY anything on the internet about it, except some dude who created a FortuneCity homepage in like ’98 and posted pix of “me and my friends at Mindstretchers camp”. Basically, I went to a nerdy camp at a college, and it explains a lot about me as an adult.

Prior to attending the camp, we had to sign up for three “classes” we would take throughout each day. One academic, one artistic, and one athletic. Here’s what I chose:

Psychology Class

legit got this from the keuka college website under the pyschology dept page. is freud all they teach there?

It was my first taste of what a real college class would be like, and I’m pretty sure it was taught by one of the poor professors who basically just needed extra money. I’m sure he wanted to take the summer off like a normal teacher. I remember this is where I first learned about Freud and the Id and anal personalities and whatnot. Something I carry with me to this day.

Acting Class

this is NOT from Mindstretchers, nor do I know these kids, so yeah, it’s a little creepy I’m using their pic

Honestly, acting class was the highlight of my day, even though we had to do those stupid circle acting exercises and icebreakers. But I was into it. Our class took place in the college’s gym, and there may or may not have been one of those multi-colored parachutes involved. I’m starting to regret not going to an all out theater camp…


Let’s be real – I am NOT the athletic type. I was forced to pick a sport and I picked the least offensive one, based purely on the fact that one of my best friends at the time was like a superstar soccer player. First day, I was legit the only one not only without shin guards, but without cleats – I HAD PINK AND GREEN ROO SNEAKERS. So embarrassing. To me, it seemed like all the kids were friggin Bend It Like Beckham and I was Posh Spice trying to keep up. The Worst.

We even had all our meals in a dining hall. For some reason, the walk from the dorm to the dining hall always made me feel like I was an adult – an adult in college, and I felt so cool. To clarify – I was not.

Looking back, my experience at summer camp was actually more of  “traditional college” experience than my actual college one. At Mindstretchers, I took a psychology class where I learned about Freud, as opposed to my real college experience, where I wrote an entire final paper about stereotypes found in MTV’s The Real World. But also, the more I think about it, Mindstretchers maybe was just a giant ploy on behalf of the Keuka College Admissions team, attempting to lure impressionable kids with memories of summer camp in order to go to college there for real when the time came. Ugh, adults. This is all to say that it’s not like I didn’t have a good time at the camp, it was just … a thing I did one time that I never did again. That is if I remembered correctly.

(originally posted cookies + sangria)

Cross It Off: The Summer To-Do List

How is it May already? I swear it was just January. At the beginning of the year, my friends and I came up with two mottos to live by (because we couldn’t pick just one). It’s pretty self explanatory, but basically we’ve been using these phrases to help push us to do things that we would have been hesitant to do otherwise, or things we’ve been putting off for forever.

I don’t know about you guys, but I like making to-do lists. I get great joy in crossing things off my to-do lists. Every summer, I make a list of TV shows that I’ve been meaning to watch but never have time to during the regular TV season. Last year, I managed to plow through 7 series (welp) in a matter of months. But this summer, in the spirit of our 2014 mottos, I’ve decided to expand my summer bucket list beyond the small screen. I put things on my list that I’ve been putting off the rest of the year, and hopefully this will be the summer I will get shit done. Here are some of the things on my to do list this summer.

Read More Books

In full disclosure, I’m not much of a reader. Legit my favorite books are popular young adult novels and biographies by celebrities. But whatever. Molly gave me John Green’s Looking for Alaska and I shit you not, it took me like a year to get through – not because it wasn’t good, but because I just struggle to find time to sit down and focus on a book instead of watching TV or something. In February, I bought BJ Novak’s book, One More Thing (and met him at a signing, NBD), and as of May 1st, I have only read 33 pages. Again, it’s not because I don’t like it – I do, it’s really funny – but because ugh sitting down to read. But guys, I’m gonna finish it this summer. And I’m going to re-read The Fault in Our Stars before the movie comes out. And I’m going to read Gone Girl before that movie comes out in October… uh do you see a pattern?

Get Through My Netflix Queue

I am one of those rare people who still have both the Instant AND DVD subscriptions with Netflix. While I use Instant frequently, I tend to sit on DVDs for a long time, which I’m sure a lot of people do too. I had Rock of Ages for like 6 months. In the end I forced myself to watch it and I didn’t even pay full attention to it. I have like over 200 movies in my queue, and I’ve been trying really hard to not hold on to one movie for too long. As you may have guessed, I’m more of a TV person, so there are a lot of films I still haven’t seen (legit JUST saw This is the End last week. Hated it. Best part was BSB. And Emma Watson), and I’m going to attempt to get through a lot of films in my queue – maybe get it down to like 75? That seems too lofty…

I Never Said I Wasn’t Going To Not Put TV Shows On This List

The past few weeks, some of my favorite shows have been wrapping up their seasons early (SCANDAL THO. AND PARKS!). It was April for goodness sake! I mean How I Met Your Mother wrapped in March! Shows are supposed to end in May! /endrant. Basically this means I can start my TV watching a little earlier than usual. So what am I watching this year?

Dance Academy

(per the suggestion of my friend Ana, who has been pushing me to watch it for like 5 months haha)

True Detective

(So proud of myself for avoiding all spoilers on this)

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

(This will be my Everest. I always felt left out with the Kitten Mittens joke. 10 seasons… we’ll see.)

Learn How To Make GIFs

Because, obviously. Relatedly: PHOTOSHOP IS EXPENSIVE WTF.

Explore LA

I’ve lived here for about five years now, and still have so much more to discover. I went hiking for the first time a couple weeks ago, which is like a thing that everyone in LA does. There are restaurants I went to go to, neighborhoods I’ve never seen before, and not gonna lie, the Backstreet Boys got their star on the Walk of Fame last year and I STILL haven’t been to it, even though I drive near it on my commute to work.

Well, there it is. Do you guys make to-do lists like this too?! Share in the comments below!

(originally posted on cookies + sangria)

Study Abroad: A Lesson in Jumping In

In the spring of 2006, I went through the rite of passage that many college students go through, which was to study abroad. The college I went to had an especially unique one in the Netherlands located about two hours southeast from Amsterdam in a small town called Well. In my head, I pictured it to be all Stars Hollow-like, since there was one main street, where the bakery, grocery store, restaurant/bar, and school were all on the same stretch of road, and only about 2,500 residents. Why Well? WELL, it’s because it’s where our European campus was located. See below:

Yes, that’s a castle. Yes, that’s a moat. Not pictured: a second outer moat. Welcome to Kasteel Well – the 14th century castle where approximately 75 to 80 students called home for about four months. This is where we slept, ate, and even took classes, which were mostly taught by European professors. We took said classes Monday through Thursday, and Friday through Sunday were designated as travel days. Throughout my time there, I went to 12 different countries (including Spain to visit Molly where she was studying at the same time!) and was lucky enough to see all these places and landmarks I may never see again in my lifetime.

In full disclosure, I could talk all day about my time at the Castle, but I’ll try to keep it at a minimum for this post. Looking back on that experience, it almost seems surreal. I mean how fortunate and crazy were we as 20 year olds to roam around Europe on our own and discover cultures and lands much different than we were used to? Not to mention the whole living in a castle factor, which already seems like a made up thing. Peacocks! Did I mention we had pet peacocks!?


Going into that semester, I didn’t really know anyone going. I mean I had a couple acquaintances going but some people were going with their best friends. This terrified me. I dug up my LiveJournal (yes, ‘dug up’, and yes, my LiveJournal) entry from a couple days before I left for the Netherlands. And because we’re friends now, I’m going to share that entry from 19-year-old Traci with you:

08:32 pm 1/11/06

jump in
I leave for the netherlands in approximately 46 hours …
i do this thing where i put off thinking about something big that’s going to happen in my life because i don’t want to face reality if i don’t think i can handle it.
i’m excited about getting to see new places and new people, new cultures. but it still worries me that i won’t make friends in the process. you can tell me over and over again that i’m going to have a great time and that i will make friends, but i’m just so scared about it. when i look at the people going to the castle, all i see is cliques and groups of friends, and me trying to fit in and be a part of theirs.
i’m scared of living in europe for 3 and a half months, and not having anyone to travel with. i’m just scared overall.
but of course i’m not thinking about it.

You know how people ask, ‘what would you tell your younger self?’ My answer to that in this particular situation is… nothing. I wouldn’t say anything. I needed that sense of fright in me. I think I would be more worried if I WASN’T scared of leaving everything I knew to be familiar for 4 months and diving into a foreign country with no one I knew.

I can’t pinpoint an exact moment in that semester when it happened, but the day I returned to the States, April 27th, 2006, I felt something was different within me. Maybe it’s that I had to quickly learn how to go into the world and fend for myself. Maybe it’s that I was able to come across so many people from different walks of life and realized that there is so much more than the bubble we live in each day. Maybe it’s the unexpected (lifelong) friendships I made with people that share that magical time in our lives together. Maybe it was the reverse culture shock – it is REAL y’all. If you’ve never experienced it, it’s nearly impossible to explain. I remember having a particularly hard time coming back to my friends in Boston. All I knew was that I was so so so happy to see them and be in their presence once again, but I didn’t feel like the same person they were friends with 4 months ago. Whatever it was, I knew I was forever changed because of it.

So here we are, eight years later and to this day, deciding to go to the Castle is one of (if not the biggest) game-changers in my life. I can honestly say I’m not sure I would be living the life I had now if I didn’t go the Castle. To mark that day we came back from a semester of living worldly lives, our core group of castle girls decided to celebrate our ‘Castleversary’ each year. I believe the first anniversary involved a sleep over, temp tatts, and painting picture frames (because we had since become mature adults). Now that four out of the six of us live in LA, we’ve been celebrating our own Castleversary with mini-adventures in the city – which just happens to be this weekend.

While we ‘hit the town’ and celebrate our general eternal love for each other, I am reminded of the countless memories we made all over Europe, the late-night train rides, the getting lost and not really being worried about it, the meeting of strangers who would seem like old friends, and how the fear I had going into the whole experience was completely warranted. What’s that quote? “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” Studying abroad is not something you go into with complete confidence. It’s daunting and unfamiliar, but in the end it’s all worth it. Whether you’re thinking about doing a similar program in college or if you’re a grown ass person who is stuck in a rut, the same message rings true for all – what are you waiting for? Be excited. Be scared. Jump in.

“For if every true love affair can feel like a journey to a foreign country, where you can’t quite speak the language, and you don’t know where you’re going, and you’re pulled ever deeper into the inviting darkness, every trip to a foreign country can be a love affair, where you’re left puzzling over who you are and whom you’ve fallen in love with. All the great travel books are love stories, by some reckoning — from the Odyssey and the Aeneid to the Divine Comedy and the New Testament — and all good trips are, like love, about being carried out of yourself and deposited in the midst of terror and wonder.”

Pico Iyer, “Why We Travel

(originally posted on cookies + sangria)

Spring Cleaning Your Life

Happy first day of spring, y’all! The sun shows its face a little longer (12 hours to be exact), the weather (usually) gets warmer and we can finally put the nasty winter behind us. The coming of spring is also a time for rebirth and regrowth, a marker for us to start anew. And that includes getting rid of anything in our lives that feels old or unused – aka it’s spring cleaning time.

I’m not talking about doing a thorough sweep of your house/apartment and getting rid of old items in your pantry or clothes that you haven’t worn in a year (although you should probs do that too). No, I’m talking about cleaning up your life. Things that effect you every day that you keep putting off but know you should do something about. Here are a few suggestions for making your life a little less messy and a little more bearable than ever before.


I am probably not the best example for this, but I’m hoping this will help some of you out there. The problem with television today is that there are too many good shows on right now. That means there are probably a lot of shows on your list that you have to go through every week. I’m not even going to tell you how many shows I actively watch, because it’s stupidly embarrassing. But there are also shows that are on my list that I just watch out of habit, that I should probably just delete from my DVR because it’s not adding anything to my life. Example: Heart of Dixie. Why did I start watching it? Jason Street and Summer Roberts (Scott Porter and Rachel Bilson). Why am I still watching it? No idea. I put it on and I only half pay attention to what is happening. If you asked me what’s going on this season, I could tell you that Zoe is still dating that Jewish boyfriend from NY and not with Wade, and Jamie King’s character is MIA because she had a baby IRL. Case in point: it’s time to clean out my series recordings.

Hard Drive

ben wyatt comp trash photo benwyatttrashcan_zps369c7a79.gif
Is your computer running slow? Maybe it’s because you have too many extemporaneous files and pictures and songs your never listen to stored in the nooks and crannies of your hard drive. It’s time to clean up those cookies and get rid of those songs you downloaded in college just to create some kind of party mix, because honestly, are you listening to SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS on the daily while relaxing or browsing the internet?

E-mail Subscriptions

I admit it: I’m the worst at e-mails. Replying, sending, deleting from my inbox. I also sign up for things and forget how I signed up in the first place. Like all those Groupon/LivingSocial/OneSaleADay shit is too much. Literally ‘Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That’. I went to the Tribeca Film Festival once in 2005 and I am still on their mailing list. Unless they’re going to personally fly me out to New York, I’m probably never going again. So why am I still receiving their e-mails?? BECAUSE I’M LAZY AND DELETE THEM INSTEAD OF JUST UNSUBSCRIBING.

Facebook Friends


You know when you’re going through your Facebook feed and you say “UGH” outloud when you see someone’s status of “going to the gym” or 500 pictures of the same baby just in different angles or those people who make politically incorrect and/or slightly racist comments  on your wall? Yeah, time to go through your list and unfriend those folks. You’re not in college anymore where the whole goal of Facebook was to be friends with every single person you had a class with. Use Facebook to stay connected with the people you actually care about. Maybe you’ll even find yourself complaining less about Facebook in general.

Actual Friends

girl bye nene

Let’s be real. There are people in your life that you should just cut off. If there’s anything I’ve learned being in my “late 20s” it’s that I don’t have patience or time to deal with people that don’t add to my life in any way. They might be the type of friends that add more drama to your life than is necessary as an adult or perhaps they are the type that are just… there, but either way, why are you wasting your time on people who aren’t a positive influence in your life when you could be hanging out with those who enrich your entire being? It may seem harsh, but you gonna do what you gotta do.

(originally posted on cookies + sangria)

The Enviable Tenacity of Paris Eustice Geller


Paris Geller – a girl many look up to, yet fear at the same time. She’s extremely bright, surprisingly bi-lingual, a Yale graduate, and often times exudes Stalin-esque leadership skills. And there’s a part of me that wishes I had all of these qualities. Did I mention she’s a fictional character?

For those not in the Gilmore Girls know-how, Paris Geller is truly one of a kind. When we first meet Paris, she is the popular mean girl at the well-privileged private school Rory transfers to. Paris targets Rory and makes her her enemy because she’s the only one who could possibly compete with Paris intellectually, and vie for the Valedictorian spot come senior year. I have never seen a character on tv as studious, determined, hard-working, and ruthless as her. Some prime examples:

– Paris reveals to Rory she’s been volunteering for a Habitat for Humanity-like organization for years, because that’s what will get her into Harvard. “I started volunteering in fourth grade. I handed out cookies at the local children’s hospital. By ten, I was leading my first study group. The youngest person in the group was twelve. I’ve been a camp counselor. I organized a senior illiteracy program, I worked a suicide hotline, I manned a runaway center. I’ve adopted dolphins, taught sign language, trained seeing eye dogs.” This concerns Rory. She hasn’t done any of those things.

– In an attempt to gloat about her PSAT scores, Paris brags about her results to her friends, but when she asks Rory, she doesn’t oblige, and this drives Paris nuts. She knows Rory’s hiding her probably much higher score from her, and she even pulls a Mean Girls 3 way call scenario on her just to find out.

– When writing for the Yale Daily News’ Religion Beat, Paris goes hardcore when writing an article. “Look, Rory, if you want to crib your articles from the A.P. Wire, that’s your business. I, on the other hand, actually give a rat’s ass about journalistic integrity. When I write about Ramadan, I experience Ramadan. Are you chewing gum?

Throughout high school, Paris’s goal was to get into Harvard. When that didn’t pan out, she ended up going to Yale and becoming BFFs with Rory. She then spent all 4 years in college focusing on her next step, which was going to either med school or law school (she was so smart she could’ve taken up both professions, but she decided to be a doctor instead). Paris even created an extensive plan for her and Rory called “Operation Finish Line,” planning out in detail the last 5 months of their senior year. These boards included categories such as job fairs, tests, volunteer ops, seminars, classic college activities, etc. Most were legit (MCAT test prep classes) but others were default tactics, so as to not be unprepared come graduation (oceanography fellowship – ‘don’t even know what direction the ocean is in’).

THIS IS NOT HUMAN. Maybe this is how Type A Ivy Leaguers do it, but I can’t even begin to think about how much work she put into making those boards.* It’s crazy to think that there’s even a slight possibility someone out there in real life has mapped out an entire 5 month detailed plan of what they’ll do after they graduate college.**

This is not how I ever have or probably ever will treat an important life changing decision in my life. Frankly, I’m a little jealous. If I even had an ounce of what Paris had, I would probably have my act together and be 4 years into my ‘professional career’. But I’m not. I made no chart. I attended no seminars. I took no extemporaneous tests. The most I’ve ever done is make a pro and con list to decide whether to move to Los Angeles or not (embarassingly enough after Rory Gilmore’s decision making tactics). Even though I think Paris looks like a complete lunatic taking these extra steps in order to plan out her life, that’s precisely what I need right now. I need to figure out exactly what I want and create a clear cut goal to achieve. I need that rather annoying persistent determination to get it. I need to see the exact steps I have to take in order to reach that goal. I need to want to do all those things. Most of all, I need Paris to make these boards, and tell me what to do next, because i sure as hell don’t know myself. So if you’re out there, real life Paris, let me know. Because I could really use your help right now. Fictional Paris just isn’t going to cut it.

* I am fully aware this is not a real person

** Again, I can totally see an Ivy Leaguer doing this, but i went to Emerson. Unless it’s a storyboard for the movie you’re making, you didn’t do this.

[Ed. Note: I originally wrote this about two years ago when I was working at a job I hated going to every morning. I am pleased to say I have embraced my inner-Paris and happily work at a place where I don’t mind getting up for. There you have it folks, Geller tenacity pays off once in a while.] 

the life ellipsis…

as a twenty-something, it seems like life is utterly confusing. life is complicated. life is everything we want and nothing we expect at all. life is the great unknown. life is an unfinished thought.

life is an ellipsis…