Five campus must-have items

By Abigale Svoboda

Before I left for school my freshman year, I was insistent I was forgetting something. My mom and I had already spent countless hours at Target and The Container Store that summer, but as a nervous oldest-child freshman it seemed impossible I was actually prepared for college.

“Abby, it’s not like we can’t pick stuff up when we get there,” my mom said.

“I’m going to be in the middle of corn fields!” I hysterically replied.

As an inhabitant of the west Chicago suburbs, I had apparently been groomed to believe Target was ours. I quickly learned Target is just as popular in Champaign (I love the location on Prospect Avenue) and care packages are glorious thing.

But, just in case, here are five must-have items that will make your first year on campus just a little bit easier.

A water bottle

A $20 reusable water bottle might be the best purchase you make at the start of your college career. It might sound obvious, but my freshman year roommate bought about 500 cases of plastic water bottles throughout the year. Toss your reusable bottle in your backpack before you head to class so you can save your cash for Chipotle and cover.


Speaking of cover, you’re going to need some cash. Yes, real, paper money. My mom warned me to always have cash with me, but I thought I knew better.

Alas, college has proven mom truly does know best. There’s nothing worse than spending the $2.50 you were going to spend on pizza at Second Story on a surcharge at the closest ATM.

Whether you’re paying cover or buying breakfast at Pandamonium (best cash-only donuts ever), your debit card might not always be the trusty sidekick it should be.

Rumor has it using cash makes students more conscious of their spending, too. Tip: there are surcharge-free ATMs in the Illini Union Bookstore and the Illini Union that you can use with practically any bank account.

A bike and a sturdy lock

During my freshman year, I was issued one bike ticket and had two bikes stolen. After a series of trial and error, I’ve learned to follow the rules of the road and use a U-lock.

Despite being asked if I still have a bike every time I go to any family party, I swear by the classic mode of transportation.

Bikes are the easiest way to get around our big campus, especially when you’re crunched for time. Just don’t ride in the winter (unless you’re really brave), be sure to use the bike lanes when you can and watch out for pedestrians.

A warm coat

Splurge on the knee-length, down coat. Trust me. I used to call these “mom coats,” but now I’m sorry I ever referred to mine as anything other than “best friend.”

This will be your go-to from the months of November to — sadly— early March. You’ll still need other winter essentials to match, like gloves, a scarf and a hat, but the warm coat is definitely central to keeping out the cold when walking to class.

Snow boots

Hopefully you’ll learn a lot during your first semester. You’ll also definitely learn that not everyone shovels their sidewalks as well as your dad does.

To combat feeling like you’re climbing through the Arctic on the way to Econ 102, you’ll need a good pair of snow boots. Any pair with a rubber sole and toe (I love my Sorels) will help you get to and from class, the library or wherever you else you might venture (I’m not afraid to admit I’ve even been seen in my trusty boots at KAM’S a few times during my past two winters on campus).

Abigale is a junior in LAS.

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