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5 Tips to Make Your College Town Feel Like Your New Home

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

A picture of a city street at night. In the distance is a building with a small movie theater that has a large neon sign on the front that says "STATE." In the foreground is another movie theater with a large lit sign that says "MICHIGAN"

Congratulations on going to college soon! Moving away?

Wherever you’re going, recognizing you’ll need some time to get adjusted can help with the transition. I was coming from Alabama to Pennsylvania, so I definitely experienced some culture shock. Additionally, I am the oldest sibling, so there was no one before me moving away.

Here are some things I did that helped me get acclimated to my new home. Even if you are in or near your hometown, these tips still apply!

Familiarize yourself with campus 

This one may be self-explanatory, but knowing where I was in relation to all of my classes and important offices helped me with navigating campus.

I am directionally challenged, so even though my campus is small, I still got lost or stuck on an elevator (which is completely normal and nothing to be ashamed about). A few places I visit frequently and recommend knowing their locations are:

  • Financial aid office/student accounts 
  • Dining halls
  • Frequently visited buildings/classrooms
  • Student life office 
  • Registrar office
  • Dorm/residential halls
  • Mailroom
  • Recreational center 
  • Designated parking 
  • Student hub (student government association office/student center) 
  • Restrooms 

Download, subscribe, follow 

Moving to a city campus with public transportation was a whole new world for me. The first thing everyone told me during orientation was to download the bus transportation app, which was super helpful.

Once I got the hang of taking the bus, it became second nature. Most public transportation systems have an app or at least a map to help you get a feel for its schedule. If needed, buy a prepaid card to ride and leave enough time for error. 

Many local restaurants or businesses have apps or social media pages where they post events. My school has a weekly email that is sent to the entire student body about what different student organizations are doing.

Additionally, not every experience has to be expensive. Your school may have access for students to obtain free or discounted admission. Many businesses have rewards programs, so sign up for those.

Furthermore, since we have gone through over a year of being online, there are plenty of options for online entertainment. 

I suggest setting up a “promo” email where you can sign up for all the promotional newsletters you are interested in. Schools normally cancel your email after you graduate, so having a personal email is important.

What I Wish I Knew Before Freshman Year

Explore your surroundings

I enjoyed this part of my college orientation the most. Exploring really got me comfortable with the city as my new home. I knew how to get around and started to establish some of my favorite places. Here are a few I discovered in Pittsburgh

  • Giant Eagle grocery: I had never been shopping here before I moved. I downloaded the app and got to clip coupons to save on my groceries. 
  • CVS Pharmacy: My prescriptions were easily transferred, and there is a CVS in many locations around the country.
  • Sheetz gas station! We do not have this in the south and I loved the vibe. It’s a gas station and grab-and-go restaurant wrapped into one. 
  • Post office: I had no idea there was a post office right next to my school. Since I brought too many clothes my freshman year, I had to send some home.
  • Gloria Jeans coffee shop: They have a variety of beverage options, and Point Park students get a discount. It’s quaint with plenty of light with a nice vibe for hanging out with a small group of people. 
  • School library: I love my school’s library and started studying there because my roommate used to work there. From then on, I found it a good place to get my work done. A big perk of my library is I can snack in the study room if needed. 
  • Salvation Army thrift store: Whenever I need Pittsburgh gear, the local Salvation Army is my go-to spot. Within walking distance, it always has sales and is a way to give back to the community. 
  • Mandarin Gourmet restaurant: Featured in the movie Mr. Rogers, this restaurant is a must when in Pittsburgh! The owners are so sweet, and I love bringing my family there.Our favorite dishes are the chicken fried rice and egg drop soup. 
  • Wood Street Galleries museum: Located a few blocks away from my school, I enjoy experiencing this visual arts museum with my friends. Their installations are usually only up for a limited time, so whenever they have an event, it is a must-go. 
  • Pittsburgh Pirates games: The Pirates (Pittsburgh’s home baseball team) game was the first sports event I attended in Pittsburgh. It was a residential floor event, so I enjoyed bonding with my floor and feeling like a part of the community. 

Go to events on campus

Going to events put on by your campus’s clubs and organizations will help you feel more absorbed into the community. Check if your school has a newsletter of events happening that week.

My school has a website hub where you can look up and research all the different student organizations on campus, become members, see what events they are hosting, and look into how to become more involved. 

As an introvert, I do realize this may be difficult, so try to go to things you are actually interested in. Going to a movie night event can be great because even though you are not talking, it gives you something fun to talk about later and connect with others through a similar experience.

Coming out of a pandemic, I know I am eager to get back to socializing and meeting new people. Something I am looking forward to is being able to go see a live show, whether that be dance, theatre, or music-related.

Make an emergency contact list (home and college)

This is crucial. Safety is of utmost importance when living on your own or away for the first time.

When I went out after dark, I made sure I had a buddy and told friends where I was headed. Having your emergency contacts in the favorites folder can help you get to their numbers quickly.

Most phones have the ability to call emergency services without having to put in a passcode. You can also use different safety apps and tools to help you if you are or feel like you are in danger.

When it comes to using a ride-sharing app, check the car’s credentials and have a friend on the phone for extra protection. Lock your dorm door and always be aware of your surroundings.

Be patient with yourself. You’ve got this!

Moving to a new place can be a shock. For me, winter felt like it started in October when in Alabama, winter starts in December. I had to buy a long jacket and snow boots to survive the long cold months.

As long as you put yourself out there, explore, and get familiar with your surroundings, getting acclimated will be easier than you anticipated. You never know when a conversation can lead to something greater.

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Author: Rosalie Anthony

Rosalie is currently attending Point Park University earning her Dance- B.F.A degree with a minor in French. Previously, she attended and graduated from the Alabama School of Fine Arts in dance. She is passionate about learning, teaching and mentoring. In her spare time, she enjoys working out, chatting with friends, and discovering new places to go in Pittsburgh.