With Junior year now in full swing and my roommates and I settled into our off-campus home, I can’t help but think about how different life as a Tulane student is now. Obviously, life is different for everyone at the moment, but significant changes in my mental and physical health after shifting from on-campus to off, have made it much more clear that dorm life was a prominent determinant of my health. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time in JL and then Irby, but those two years were definitely enough on-campus living for me. As I look back to my freshman and sophomore year, there are a few things that I feel I could have done differently to improve both my mental and physical health, and I’m sharing them in hopes that they help those of you who just recently moved into your on-campus housing.
My first and definitely most important tip: Get off campus. I know this is easier said than done, but getting off campus frequently is key in helping you stay sane and making you feel like you are a New Orleans resident and not just a Tulane student. Looking back on the past two years, I definitely did not get off campus enough and I really think that had a huge impact on my mental health. I think many students can admit that they spend much of their time in their dorm, but too much time there is really not the best for you. Getting off campus – even just walking to Starbucks – helps immensely in getting your mind off of school related things that may be causing you stress or anxiety. Some other recommendations I have are: going to Audubon park, going out to eat (look for restaurants you can use Nola Bucks at), going to a workout class or Reiley, visiting museums, or attending one of the many NOLA festivities. If you or a friend has a car, take advantage of it instead of having to uber. Or even better: take the streetcar! Living off campus has helped me realize all that there is to do and enjoy in New Orleans and how much taking advantage of what the city has to offer has greatly benefited my mental health, something I neglected while living on campus.
My next tip is somewhat obvious, but overlooked: Keep foods that make you feel good in your dorm. Going into both my freshman and sophomore year, I told myself I was only going to keep healthy foods in my room and not keep junk food. But as the year went on, I became lazy and would only have a few snacks at a time that were not very fulfilling. I wish I had taken the time to find dorm-friendly meals and snacks because most of the time I would leave the Commons feeling unsatisfied, which led to night time snacking. I am aware that it is much easier to cook fulfilling meals in a house, but I definitely could have made more of an effort to make meals that made me feel good. If you’re going to a grocery store or even Provisions, buy things that can be microwaved (oatmeal, soup, etc.), made on a stove (most dorms have at least a common area kitchen that can be used), or are pre-made (like pre-cooked veggies or chicken). And if you can’t grocery shop, find things at the commons or LBC that satisfy you and make you feel good.
My last tip is a little more difficult to do at a time when you can’t go to other dorms, but can still be achieved in other ways: Prioritize alone time. When you live with 7 other girls (like I did in Irby), it is extremely important to get your space every once in a while. Whether you’re living with 7 others or just one other person, it is really difficult to spend every waking second with them, even if they are your best friend on the entire planet. Now that I’m living off campus and have the ability to spend alone time in my own room, I wish I had prioritized this more in the dorms. One way to do this is by branching out and hanging out with different groups of people. I absolutely love the girls I lived with for my two years on campus and they still are my best friends today, but I think it is important to socialize with different people once in a while. This doesn’t mean you have to ditch your friends, but just going over to someone else’s dorm room or suite can really help you decompress for a little. I am also someone to get major FOMO, so if I were ever relaxing in my room and heard my friends hanging out in another room, I would feel the need to join them instead of having alone time. I now realize that I would not have missed anything important and would have benefitted from staying in my room and relaxing by myself.
All of these tips are difficult to realize during your time living on campus, and that is why I am sharing them. I have spent the past 2 weeks really reflecting on how my mental and physical health has benefitted from living in an off-campus house, and have tried to think of ways I could have made this improvement possible while living in a dorm. Living on campus can be amazing and fun, but it can also be exhausting, so finding ways to improve your mental health should always come first!
Cover Photo: The Crescent Graphic Design Team