Then & Now: My Experiences While Packing for College

Let’s just all face facts here…summer is coming to an end (*winces*). Even though days at the beach are slowly becoming less frequent, there is the excitement of back to school to look forward to. Can’t you smell the cool fall air and freshly sharpened pencils already?! To celebrate, we’re sharing a very special edition of #TBT.

Our guest blogger, Dan, proudly presents: Then & Now – Packing for College.


A Trip Down Memory Lane

As I began to create my ever-growing ‘take back to school’ pile in the corner of our living room, my dad unsurprisingly found himself reminiscing about what he packed up when he went off to the University of Delaware in the 1970’s. When he was a freshmen, he had no idea what to pack. There was no internet to look up handy guides or lists like there are now! He divulged that his own “take to school pile” consisted of a few shirts and pairs of pants, a little radio, and a few other things in his camp trunk (his camp trunk, mind you, was a fairly small wooden box with a lock on it). He ended up forgetting to take a pillow, despite the fact that he brought a pillowcase and the fitted twin-sized sheets he brought never quite fit the standard dorm XL Twin sized mattress. I listened – half-horrified, half-amused – as he described his less-than-thorough back-to-school checklist.

But, after getting acquainted with college, he soon realized the majority of what people packed their cars up with was….Music! “Music was one of the first things you thought of when you’d head back to school,” he told me. Everyone owned a record player, a stereo system, and speakers…“the larger, the better”…and, of course, their vast vinyl record collections (carried in milk crates because, why not?). All of this was handled with care every time they wanted to play a new record. He let me know that “you always only played one side at a time,” – about five or six songs – and “No one ever played both sides and no one ever played only one song at a time because it was too hard usually to get the needle of the record player to start where the song you wanted starts without scratching the record.” I gaped at my iPod and thought about my own song-switching habits.

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Today, every student I know listens to music on their phones or on an array of mp3 players using headphones. Back in the day, my dad shared, headphones weren’t “the thing.” My dad remembered his classmates blasting music with their doors open, inviting anyone over to enjoy the music with them. “There were some days when you would walk down the halls of your dorm and hear different music playing from every single room you’d pass.”

Back to the Future

Before long, his reminiscing gave way to commenting on my current packing situation.

He said, “You get better at packing each year,” which definitely still rings true today. “Make sure to bring an alarm clock—a working alarm clock. Bring extra batteries,  a bathing suit just in case, a portable backup drive for your computer — oh man, so many things people forget to bring.” I chuckled to myself, remembering his lack-of-pillow incident.

“Don’t forget a fan,” he continued, “warm clothing, especially gloves. Most people don’t think to bring an umbrella. And of course, make sure to bring nice clothing—suit, tie, pants, shoes, black socks—because you never know when you might need something like that for an event or the holidays.” His advice became the soundtrack to my further attempts at packing. I couldn’t help my fascination at how different my own campus experience was from my dad’s.

Maybe my dad just likes to ramble and reminisce about the old days, but I think it is interesting to put packing for college into perspective. While we pack mostly clothes and all of our music on tiny devices, we sometimes forget to look back on how much things have changed.

I found a bit of motivation and reassurance in his stories too. After all, if my dad survived his freshman year with just a wooden box and no pillow, I think I can tackle anything.

Written by Guest Blogger Dan H. of Emerson College


Chat with your parents about their college experiences, you never know what stories may come out of it! Share their wisdom, packing tips and #TBT’s with us @BNCollege OR in the Comments below!


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