Feel free to venture outside residence hall for meals

I’ve never understood people who are shocked by the abysmal quality of the food in their dorms. Did they suddenly think institutional food would get better when they were eating it three times a day? If you enjoyed eating lunch at school, then you’ll be excited to sign up for one of the many fine meal plans offered by University housing. There are a variety of options to choose from. One offers greasy fried chicken, gummy meat loaf and iceberg lettuce for lunch three days a week. Another offers fried chicken, meat loaf, and iceberg lettuce for lunch and dinner. With the super deluxe plan, you get a side of congealed macaroni and cheese.

Of course, you have it easier as a freshman than you will for the rest of your college career. Your food options aren’t any more appealing when you have an apartment, and then you have to cook it yourself. I was overcome with joy the first time I walked into a grocery store by myself with my own money, to buy whatever I wanted and consume it outside my parents watchful eye. But copious quantities of Ho-Hos and ice cream will take a toll on your self-esteem, not to mention your wallet. The quickest way to become disillusioned about food is to have to pay for it yourself. When I found myself forgoing a bag of Dove candy because it wasn’t on sale, I knew my life was changed forever. Actually preparing the food — that is, adding water and heating for 3 minutes on high — and doing the dishes afterwards — that is, getting rid of the plastic containers — can also be a drag.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel: eating out. You’ll have a plethora of restaurants within walking distance, and until the fiscal reality of your eating habits sets in, you won’t be able to resist them. Not only is Green Street lined with familiar chains like Subway and Jimmy John’s, but there are also several Indian, Korean and Chinese restaurants nearby. I got hooked on the spicy beef plate at Ai-Ri-Rang after my first visit. Of course, I always felt somewhat awkward sitting there with my non-Korean friends, like some sort of colonial occupying army. But food is an excellent way of building bridges with friends of different ethnicities. And, white people who aspire to worldliness naturally love the feeling of being able to suggest to a friend of a different ethnicity that they eat at a restaurant that serves their cultural food.

When dining out gets expensive, there are always cafeterias to go to. The smells can be oppressive, the trays depressing, and the menus repetitive. But if you go in with appropriate expectations, you won’t be too disappointed. There are certainly upsides to college dining. For one thing, unlike at home, no one is offended when you return your food uneaten.

Amy is a sophomore in Engineering.