Freshman year is exciting, but it can also be intimidating. You’re in a new place, maybe for the first time in your life and you’re doing your best to figure everything out. There are so many things that I wish people had told me but didn’t during my freshman year at the University of Oregon. Luckily, I was able to learn from the best. From housing, to the best places to eat on campus, keep reading for 20 things no one tells you about freshman year at The University of Oregon!
1. Dorm food here is great, but it does not mean you won’t be sick of it by week 6.
There’s countless venues here at UO, they’re close to all the dorms and you can find almost anything you’re craving. The two venues closest to my building are GSH (Global Scholars Hall) and Hamilton. GSH has a pasta bar, rice bowl bar, deli (with all the comfort food you can imagine), sushi, a cafe, and a little grocery store in the middle. I go here almost every day for a rice bowl. My usual is brown rice, teriyaki chicken, avocado, corn, and hummus sauce. Hamilton has Fire and Spice (Mongolian food), and Big Mouth Burrito. Those are my favorites, but it also features a breakfast and burger bar, salad bar, Grab & Go market, and Common Grounds cafe (the best smoothies and paninis).
The only bad part about the dining hall is the hours. The other venues are Carson (if you’re starving and want a buffet meal for 5 points this one’s for you), LLC (sandwiches and salads), Barnhart (these are the off campus dorms that have the best Sunday brunch, only if you’re willing to make the trek). Most venues are open at 7am and close at 9pm or 10pm. This sounded fine until I found out lots of them used to be open until almost midnight, and Common Grounds until 3am! This was ruined by all the people coming back to the dorms after a night out and going into the dining halls belligerent, the staff just got sick of it and started closing earlier.
My only advice to you is to try something new each time you eat for the first few weeks. This way you’ll find your favorites and be able to rotate through those.
2. Ask the employees at Big Mouth Burrito “Doesn’t it come with free chips?”
Usually, a small burrito is 3 points and a large one is 4. They ask you at checkout if you want chips or a drink at the end, before you scan your card. Typically chips cost 1 point, and so does a drink. But, most employees will give you the chips for free if you simply just say, “I thought they were free”.
3. Hirons will be your best friend.
From the outside, Hirons looks like a tacky little drugstore. Once you go inside, you’ll realize it has everything you could ever need without having to leave campus (barely). It’s right off Franklin Blvd. and right next to Market of Choice. They have a post office, pharmacy, boutique type area, household goods, snacks, school supplies, art supplies, all the Duck gear you could imagine, and best of all, two whole aisles of costumes and costume accessories. This will become your best friend for themed frat parties and halloweekend.
4. Dough Co. will be too.
Located off of Hilyard street (and close to most frats and houses that throw parties) is Dough Co. It serves any type of calzone and cookie you can imagine from 11am-3am every day. THEY DELIVER TOO! The only downside is that sometimes delivery can take an hour or more because it’s just that popular. Whether you’re heading back from a night out, sitting in your dorm studying when cravings hit, or just need some really good comfort food, Dough Co. will be your best friend (it’s pretty cheap too).
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5. You don’t have to join Greek life to make friends.
As a part of greek life, I might be biased, it’s definitely added to my college experience. Date Dashes, formals, functions, and philanthropies are fun, but even people not in greek life can be invited or involved. The weekend social lives of my friends who aren’t in a chapter isn’t much different than mine. When it comes to the party scene, girls get into almost any party, regardless of their affiliation to a sorority. For guys, just like every other college, it’s harder to get into frat parties unless you know someone are arranged ahead of time, this is just a safety thing. There’s non-greek parties happening all the time too, so don’t be worried about not finding somewhere to do your thing on a Friday or Saturday (don’t forget Thirsty Thursday).
6. Don’t buy ducks gear at the duck store, it’s overpriced.
For some reason, all college apparel is overpriced. The way I’ve found around paying $75 for a sweatshirt is Oregon Sports and Hirons. The biggest Oregon Sports is at the Gateway Shopping Center. It has all types of Ducks apparel that’s cheaper than at the Ducks Store, and it’s usually on sale. Hirons has really basic sweatshirts and shirts, but they’re always less than $25. Hirons also has any type of game day gadgets you could ever need.
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7. Public transportation is a freshman’s best friend.
With your UO ID, you can get on any bus. The EmX is the one that runs along campus, down Franklin street. It goes one way towards Eugene Station. From there you can go to The Valley River Center, Nordstrom Rack, Trader Joe’s, TJ Maxx, and plenty of other places (Basically anywhere in Eugene or Springfield). The one that goes in the opposite direction, to Springfield, will take you to Gateway. There’s Walmart, Target, Hobby Lobby, Marshalls, Panera, Ross, Buffalo Wild Wings, and tons more shops that are very conveniently located. Pro Tip: Use your Google Maps app, on the transit setting and it will tell you what bus number you need to look for and where to hop on.
8. Don’t even try to go to “Corvegas” to party, especially for Halloween.
Located about 50 minutes north of UO is Oregon State University, in Corvallis, or “Corvegas” as many people call it. I grew up in Portland and have always know Corvallis to be a college town that threw parties every night of the week, and they were big parties. Though I never really heard much about the parties at UO until I came here, then went to Corvallis with some friends. I realized that Corvallis is too hyped, especially on Halloweekend, and it’s better to stay in Eugene. Corvallis draws people from all the community colleges in the state, some high schoolers (which is scary), and sadly, a lot of Ducks who expect to find parties like the movie “Project X”. I hate to ruin your expectations, but stay with your friends at your school and enjoy your weekend here.
9. Eugene might be known for all the bikes, but that doesn’t mean you need yours.
I’ve always hated walking places, but still didn’t bring my bike to college. I’m glad I didn’t because all of my friends who brought theirs find themselves never using it. Yes, the UO campus seems huge at first, but after Welcome Weekend, you’ll realize you can walk anywhere in 10 minutes and a bike is more of a hassle than a help. The bike racks are crowded and so are the sidewalks and streets which makes riding your bike almost slower than walking. We also have a pretty safe campus, but that doesn’t mean that bikes don’t get stolen, my friend even had his stolen the first week.
If you need to go anywhere off campus, public transportation will take you there. Of course if you’re already an avid bike rider, or live right off campus (not far enough to drive, too far to walk), then your bike might be great. But my recommendation is that if you’re a freshman looking in the dorms, it’s probably not worth it.
10. But if you bring your bike, avoid the “freshman stripe.”
If you have a bike, you need to get a fender over your back tire, because if you don’t, mud will fly onto your buttcrack and lower back, resembling a child with a poopy diaper. If you buy your bike from the bike shop next to Caspians, they’ll put fenders on for you, and for free.
11. Submit your housing application EARLY.
I don’t know a ton about the way that other schools distribute housing assignments, but at the UO, you have very little say in what building or room type you’ll be in. After you’re accepted to the school, housing applications will go out around March. Look through room types and roommates before this point so that when it comes out, you can fill out your three room type preferences and submit it to get priority.
I’m in a standard double, in Bean, which is notoriously compared to a prison cell. With some decorating and friendly girls in my hall, it isn’t too bad, but I wish I would have listed my options differently. I think I listed Deluxe Double, Double with a sink, and Standard Double. With my luck, I got my last option, but the gross dorm experience (communal bathrooms and showers) is something every freshman should have to endure.
As far as roommates go, you have three options:
You can either arrange with someone you already know from high school, use Schools App, which is like Tinder, but for finding roommates, or click the “random” button on your application and hope for the best. Be warned if you choose a completely random roommate. There’s a very large population of foreign exchange students at UO and they usually have very weird cultural norms and obscure sleeping schedules, I’ve had friends who didn’t sleep well the whole year because their roommate stays up, with the light on, until 5am.
You could just get someone whose personality drives you insane, no matter who it is, living in a shoebox with someone is very difficult at first. Also, room assignments don’t get posted until 3 weeks before school, so if you choose a completely random roommate on your application, you won’t know who it is until 3 weeks before move-in day, this can really mess you up if you wanted to coordinate decorations and color schemes or split the duties of buying a mini fridge, printer, etc. My best advice is to talk to multiple people over the summer, be really honest with your pet peeves and habits, and then choose one and hope for the best.
12. The “UO Class of 20___” Facebook page will save your life before school.
I’m sure most schools do this, but each class tends to make a Facebook page and new students will slowly find it and add themselves. This is a great way to meet roommates, see what’s coming up during the first few weeks, and it also functions as a University of Oregon “Craigslist”. People sell all sorts of things on there that you might want for your dorm but not be willing to pay full price for.
13. If you want a job, get one on campus.
Car or no car, being a freshman and living on campus (which will become a requirement for Fall 2017) makes having a job on campus super convenient. The UO posts jobs that are updated every day on the UO website or at the Career Center on campus. There is way more to apply for than just working as a dining hall staff or receptionist. If you feel like you’re too busy for a job but still need money, they are extremely easy to fit in your schedule and you can work small 2 hour shifts between classes. Personally, I wanted to take my first term of freshman year off of working so that I could settle in and focus on school and social activities. I’m glad I did this, but I also bi-monthly paychecks, and college is very expensive.
14. Don’t bother going to Taylor’s unless you’re actually 21.
Not only are the bouncers at Taylor’s Bar expert at spotting fake ID’s, but Taylor’s is somewhere sacred to upperclassmen and grad students. Don’t be that freshman or sophomore that tries to sneak in and gets caught. It’s not somewhere you’ll want to take your parents on family weekend either because it’s really nothing special. Taylor’s is popular because it’s traditionally where the older kids go while the underclassmen rage in frat dungeons, and is located across from campus. Make Taylors the first stop on your 21er and you’ll officially graduate from grungy basements to “fuck it buckets”
15. Get a hydroflask and stickers to personalize it.
Here at UO, you can’t sit through any class without hearing the ear piercing sound of someone dropping their solid metal Hyrdoflask water bottle on the hard ground. Hydroflask started in Bend, Oregon so it’s a staple for every student to keep beverages really hot, or really cold all day. Since everyone has one, buy some cool stickers to make it your own. Whatever you do, only put tea and water in them. Avoid alcohol, juice, or coffee unless you want your water to have a cringey after taste for weeks.
16. If you’re gonna wear a lanyard, do not use the one they gave you at Week of Welcome.
Yes, I know, lanyards are the easiest way to carry around and keep track of your ID and dorm room key. They practically symbolize freshman year at the University of Oregon. I love lanyards but they are the best way to spot a freshman. If you don’t mind people making comments about how “freshman” you are, go ahead and rock that lanyard. However, if you want to be a little more incognito, bring or buy a lanyard that isn’t the green and yellow one they’re going to initially give you with your dorm key on the first day.
If you want to be very secretive, get a carabiner or hair tie and attach your keys to that. Hirons sells sticky card holders that attach to the back of your phone and can hold your ID. However you choose to carry your ID and keys, DO NOT LOSE THEM. Losing your ID costs you $22 each time, and they have to change the locks on your dorm and charge you each time you or your roommate lose it.
17. Original House of Pancakes.
So much breakfast food. If you ever need a solid breakfast food fix, OHOP is your place. I became obsessed with it during my freshman year at the University of Oregon. They have tons of different kinds of pancakes, waffles, eggs, bacon, dutch babies, basically anything that you could imagine eating for breakfast, and it’s cheap.
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18. Campus Cash at Emu.
Each freshman who is on a meal plan receives $50 of “campus cash” each term. This means that they can either run out of meal points and spend it at the dining halls (don’t do this), or you can eat at the EMU. There is a Chipotle, Panda Express, Subway, Joe’s Burgers, Starbucks, Ice cream stand, and tea shop. I figured out that I can spend $5 a week there and treat myself to something other than dorm food (and most of it is open until midnight)
19. Spencer’s Butte.
If you want a beautiful view and have a free afternoon, especially in early fall and spring, Spencer’s Butte is worth the intense workout. It’s a 1.7 mile hike and you gain almost 800 feet, so it’s pretty steep. The view is a 360 degree view and you can see Autzen, Downtown Eugene, the freeway, and all of the forest areas surrounding Eugene. It’s a tough hike but the view is worth it, definitely pack a picnic for the summit.
20. IntroDUCktion and Welcome Weekend WILL be weird.
All of your high hopes for college will be prematurely crushed when you come to IntroDUCKtion. You’ll likely be with one or both of your parents and will know no one. For some reason, nobody is super outgoing and eager to make friends. You spend the two days sitting through classes that talk about sexual assault, diversity, safety, and although they’re important subjects, it’s not what you were expecting to hear. I learned nothing about dorms, dining halls, or extracurriculars like I was expecting to and left the weekend with nothing but my class schedule.
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Welcome weekend will be the same but different. You’ll spend all of move-in day decorating and spending your last hours with your parents. After they leave, you and your roommate might hang out, or they’ll go find friends and leave you in your new space all alone. It really is crucial to leave your door open, but with the chaos of move-in, don’t expect everyone to stop what they’re doing and introduce themselves.
The days to follow will include more seminars and meetings trying to teach you about college life, and a lot of free time that you won’t know what to do with. I was lucky and quickly became friends with all the people in my building. Some of my friends weren’t so lucky and spent the whole weekend in their dorms watching movies. All I can say is don’t be afraid to seem obnoxious by introducing yourself, people likely won’t remember it, and even more likely, you won’t see them again. Enjoy your freshman year at the University of Oregon!