The Off-Campus Sherpa: My Life as an Undergrad

Living off-campus is not easy. It means early hours to catch buses, long commutes, killing time on campus for even longer, and don’t even get me going on the back-breaking pain in the… back.

Actually, let’s talk about that.

As a kid I was never very active, yet I remained in pretty good shape. My secret: the heaviest backpacks ever. Since at least Grade 4 I’ve been carrying bags full of books that, when I was younger at least, were about half my own weight and size. With my saxophone and my lunch box loaded up as well, it felt like I was climbing Everest every morning as I went up the slight incline (usually covered in a thin sheet of ice during winter) to get to elementary school (a trip that could have taken me 30 seconds if I climbed my backyard fence—too much effort).

As I progressed through school, the textbooks only got larger and there was the addition of binders full of notes, as well as another saxophone to my arsenal. My parents joked that if school didn’t work out I could have a promising career as a Sherpa, or at least a mountain guide.

Now, in university, it’s no surprise that books are even larger, if not more numerous. The advantage is that you don’t have to bring them to class all the time. Unfortunately, that hasn’t made any difference to me. Living off campus means I pretty much need to bring as much with me as I can each morning. This includes my notebooks, previous notes, textbooks I may need for readings and food to last me the entire day. Throw in gym clothes for 2 out of the 3 days I’m on campus, and we’re getting back to that back-breaking pain that comes with living so far away.

Through my years of experience in lugging way too much around, I’ve learned to gauge exactly what I’ll need each day, how best to pack to optimize space and the most efficient routes so that I don’t look like I’m on a hiking trip across campus every day. (Lamest vacation ever.)

For those of you in a similar off-campus situation, my first tip is to look into getting a locker. Even though it’s in one of the hottest sections on campus, my locker has been a godsend. I’m able to ditch as much as I need there at the start of the day, and it’s great for storing stuff I may not need to take home that evening, such as gym clothes for the next morning or a textbook (on occasion I actually finish all my readings during my long breaks).

My next suggestion is to find the best way to pack for the day. If you have a lot of stuff and not a lot of time in the morning, then do it the night before. Any clothing you might have can be rolled to take up less space and tucked to one side of your books. Avoid bringing items you know you won’t need. I’ve been meaning to read the final book in the Inheritance cycle (if you haven’t seen them, the books are pretty big), but that doesn’t mean I’m going to lug it around with me on campus just to read a chapter here or there.

Invest in yoga classes (or get someone to step on your back). You thought I was kidding about what a pain in the back being an off-campus student can be, didn’t you? Carrying around piles of books, no matter how ergonomically designed your bag is, is wearing and probably one of my biggest complaints after a long day. I’ve resorted to even doing readings on my iPhone just because I don’t want to have to print off more pages that I’ll inevitably have to carry to school.

I guess the one good thing about all this “carrying stuff” business is that it’s great practice for future adventures in Europe. By the end of the year I’m going to be the backpacking master and I won’t even have to step off campus to get there.

Anyway, term is almost over. Less than half a month to go until classes are done. Exciting, no? No, probably not. I mean, who wants to write exams? I don’t, but we’ll deal with that when we come to it.

Check out Career Options Twitter here to be the first to find out about new blog posts!

Follow me here!

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>