Surviving UMass Boston



“How to Postpone an Exam or Get an Extension on a Term Paper” courtesy of the Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook

MiMi Yeh

Even for a student at a commuter school, there is something useful in the Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: College. Whether it’s tips for how to cram for a test or explaining how to survive a night in jail, there are sections in this book with useful advice for every personality type. It even tells how to avoid putting on the “freshman fifteen,” including a helpful little chart that measures calories in mugs of beer (with potatoes and eggs benedict being the most damaging to your waistline).

My favorite: how to eat when you’re broke. It’s always a good idea to buy Ramen by the case and hit the sale aisle before any other part of the grocery store. Dented cans are a must for any meal. Yet, the guide offers a few creative suggestions that even I hadn’t thought of. For example, offering to deliver pizza since “many pizza restaurants offer a free pizza after every five pizzas ordered,” and looking for free samples. Weekends are the best time for the latter since supermarkets have the highest volume of shoppers and a partially filled cart acts as good camouflage. Meals that cost less than a dollar will be comprised of foods like pasta, beans, and baked potatoes, with an emphasis upon quantity not quality.

To chill beverages (read: beer) without a refrigerator, cans may be stored in soda machines, toilet tanks, and, in a pinch, hung from the window sill in the winter, turning the weather to your advantage. A can of keyboard aerosol duster will also suffice to instantly cool your drink.

Pulling an all-nighter becomes a necessity for anyone who works and goes to school. Here at UMB, where the average age of undergraduate students is 27 and the busy, non-academic life often includes family obligations and a second job, this advice becomes especially important. Consuming peppermint in any form, like rubbing peppermint oil on the temples or wrists, as well as turning the temperature down and breathing deeply, will all aid in alertness. Meals should not be especially heavy but low energy is also your enemy. Of course, caffeine is always a must.

Dealing with the “nightmare roommate” is something nearly everyone can relate to. Whether it’s one being who is unable to keep their nocturnal activities to themselves or the roommate who constantly borrows your possessions, noise reduction headphones and an army storage locker go a long way towards making life tolerable. Burning incense will mask strong odors and leaving a bar of soap on a roommate’s pillow force even the most insensate companion to recognize poor hygiene, even if the method is unsubtle.

One of the sections, “Design on a Dime,” reads like a page from “How to Decorate Your Room When You’re Broke,” which provided the ingenious solution of cutting up t-shirts and creating a patchwork set of curtains. A CD case becomes a picture frame and a milk crate transforms into a chair, complete with a sponge-filled placemat cushion.

And, if you manage to graduate, the Guide provided tips on how to pad your résumé. A babysitter becomes a “child development consultant” and a grocery bagger turns into a “coordinated order fulfiller.” The only profession that remains the same: a centerfold.

The Guide aside, graduating UMB seniors should have bits of wisdom of their own. One thing I’ve learned at UMass Boston: always go directly to the source. The bureaucracy here is still backlogged with paperwork from the fall of the Berlin Wall. Don’t come to this campus unless you’re equipped with the key to the city: a Boston library card and interlibrary loan. Online databases like LexisNexis or JSTOR are a must for the capable researcher. The barcode on the back lets you have remote access to all of Healey’s databases from home or work. If you need a waiver of any sort, visit the departments you need them from. Read through the student handbook once and then, as a responsible student, recycle it. The latter is about all it’s good for.

And, above all, use the facilities. I’ve learned to sail and have gotten quite a few interesting tips on how to change up my weightlifting routine. If you’re too broke to see a movie in theater but would still like to be entertained, try any one of the myriad movie nights put on around campus. For culture, there is a contemporary sculpture park that rivals the DeCordova and the Harbor Art Gallery offers an ever-changing selection of works outside the site-specific, installation genre.

Student Life offers discounts on movies, semester T-passes, and all sorts of tickets to outside events. Your student life ID will also give you free entry into most museums in Boston and Cambridge. Wit’s End, the coffee shop in Wheatley, gives the student who doesn’t want to study during their down time opportunities to socialize over a game of chess and a low cost cup of coffee.

Garment District in Cambridge gives you the back-to-school duds for a dollar a pound, while WordsWorth Books in Harvard Square offers 25 percent off the next book for each hundred dollars you spend.

Oh yeah, and while you learn a thing or two and pick up that all-important, life-affirming piece of paper, remember to have fun.