College Expectations vs. Reality

A short compilation of my first three months at the University of Iowa.

Iowa in the fall is magical. The highlight of my days are walking to class. I put my headphones in, play some nice music and take my time walking. I take in the beauty of campus every day. The warm sun shining despite the cold wind. The birds flying above. The falling leaves. The warm colored trees. The river and how it looks like it might flood when it rains a bit too much. The constant faces that pass me by. The cambuses. The students on their scooters. The beautiful buildings. This campus is magical.

Prior to coming to college I had so many fears and expectations, but looking back on them now makes them seem so silly and petty. Here’s a list of my expectations vs. how they actually played out.


Expectations VS. Reality

#1. I won’t have any friends.

This is just silly. First of all, you will probably live with a roommate once you get to college. This means that you are already forced to have at least one familiar face on campus. Also, at Iowa you will have many occasions to make friends before your first day of class. Such as: Orientation and Iowa Edge. If you come to orientation, which is a requirement, you will be placed into small groups and in these small groups you will have to interact, therefore that is a solid opportunity to meet people and make friends. This is how I made two of my first Iowan friends: Toby and Laura. Another chance I had to make friends before school started was by joining Iowa Edge, a program for minority students. Here is where I made my friend group. I met soooo many good people through Edge. I am so grateful to have participated in it. Definitely look into it if you are a minority student!

#2. I will get lost.

Tip: Go to your classes before the semester starts. Also, you will get lost. It happens. Once you do, just ask someone for help. It’s not that bad. Also, before the semester started I added all the locations where my classes are into “Favorites” on my Maps application so that I could have easy access to them when I was walking to class to avoid getting lost. Life saving!

#3. I’m going to fail sooo many tests.

So far. So good. *knock on wood* But I mean, I’m definitely not acing everything, so that’s different from high school. Just make sure to put a good amount of work. Study every day. Go to office hours. You’ll be fine.

#4. What if my roommate and I hate each other?

You won’t. Well, at least my roommate and I don’t… yet. Kidding. Hopefully. Anyways, if you end up disliking your roommate, all you have to do is request a room switch and BOOM. Solved. That’s what’s so easy about life; everything has a solution.

#5. I’m going to get the Freshman 15.

Can’t give you a definite answer on that yet because so far I’m 4 pounds in. Yikes! But I’ve been hitting the Rec and let’s just say it’s not helping, one, because I am not motivated enough to have a solid routine that I never skip and two, because the food here is kinda, sorta, high key, really good. So…. yeah. I’m screwed. The Street Hawk food truck is delicious. The River Room cafe stir fry is life. The fact that Flex Meals have the option to come with Oreos kills me. Basically, my will to be healthy just isn’t strong enough. I always, always give in to junk food. Sigh. 

On a good note, as I mentioned before, the cool thing about life is that the majority of things have solutions. No friends? Sign up for clubs. Say hi. Step out of your comfort zone. Keep your dorm room open. Got lost? Ok. Ask someone for help. Pull up Google Maps. Figure it out yourself. Failed a test? That’s cool. Everyone fails every once in a while. Just study more for the next one. Go to office hours. It’s all going to be fine, it’s not the end of the world. We’re all in it together. Dislike your roommate? Request a roommate change. Gained weight? No problem, just go to the gym.

Life is soooo easy, everything has a solution. So don’t fret the small stuff, you’ll be fine. College is amazing. It’s an experience that many can’t have, so enjoy it. You’ll be scared coming in as a freshman, but once you’re here you’ll never want it to be over. Right now it makes me kind of sad to think that next year many of my friends won’t be within walking distance from me since they will all be living in apartments or way farther away. So once you’re here, soak it all in. Enjoy your roommate. Enjoy how just upstairs are some of your closest friends and down the block in the next residence hall are more friends. Enjoy the fact that when you get to the dining hall many familiar faces are eating as well and serving you food. Enjoy it all. It will fly by. Freshman year is possibly the best year because your whole entire grade is taking over the residence halls, so take advantage of it.

Thinking about how first semester is almost over makes me really sad. It really, really flew by. I love Iowa. I love my Iowan people. I love my friends here. I love everyone. So far, so good. I’m loving it. Life is good. Life is so good out here in the Midwest.

Until next time! 🙂

Top 5 Best Study Spots at the University of Iowa


As a student, finding a good study spot is a must. After all, your dorm is filled with distractions that prevent you from properly studying or maybe you just don’t want to disturb your roommate during late night cramming sessions. Therefore, you should make it a priority to find study spots suitable for you. Here are some of mine!

  1. The East West Lounge on the Main Floor of Hillcrest: Since I live in Hillcrest, it is crucial to find a spot to study that’s in my building. This lounge is cozy and the best part is that it is only accessible to Hillcrest residents, so it is usually empty. The only downside is that it is always freezing cold in here! So I always take a blanket with me when I study here. I recommend you find a study spot in your residence hall so that you can leave your phone in your room and then study in that spot. That way you don’t get distracted by those little notifications in your screen.
  2. The Art Building West Library: The scenery. Period. That’s literally the only reason I study here. It is absolutely gorgeous. I write my essays here because something about the beautiful pond inspires me to write. This library is my favorite library on campus.
  3. Java House: My roommate and I go to Java House on Tuesdays and stay there for hours. It has the perfect amount of white noise and an amazing Pumpkin Pie Latte (downside: this latte is kinda, sorta, really overpriced).
  4. Outside the River Room Cafe: Such a beautiful view of the river! They also have the best stir fry ever! So, so good! (And it’s a flex meal!) If I’m not in the mood for stir fry and I’m feeling boujee, then I will go to the ground floor of the IMU and buy some sushi and then study out here. (Not a good study spot for the winter, sigh.)
  5. The Old Capitol Building: I love, love reading on the arms of the Old Capitol building while eating a burger from the Street Hawk food truck. Maybe I should say I loved to read on the arms of the Old Capitol, it is way too cold out now to read a book outside.


Some other spots you should check out: 

  • The law building library
    • Someone told me there were little cubicles you could go into, but when I went and looked for the cubicles my friend and I noticed that they had personal objects inside of them (pictures, notebooks, books) and then we realized that the cubicles were assigned to law students. Awkward. (Maybe we went to the wrong floor and maybe there are actually cubicles that any one can study in, so don’t take my naïve freshman word for it. Check it out for yourself.)
  • The engineering building roof terrace
    • PS. The engineering building has nap pods, so once you’re drained from studying take a power nap in those fancy nap pods (with the massaging chairs and the whispering woman and the spa music) and then get back to the grind once you wake up!
  • The Voxman music building
    • Someone told me that it was a really nice building to study in. I have yet to confirm that. Never been, but hey, check it out for me.
  • The Hawkeye Room at the IMU
    • They also have a nap room here called the Rest Nest, I may or may not spend all of my time in between classes in that room… Whoops. It is just soooo nice.
  • The Catlett study rooms
    • Whenever I eat at Catlett (which is rare, I am forever loyal to the Burge Market Place) I chill in this room before my next class. By chill, I mean watch Netflix, not study. Whoops x2. (Money Heist was so good, let me know any other good shows to watch, please. I have no good excuse to procrastinate my homework now that I have nothing to binge watch.)

Let me know your favorite study spots! 🙂

Packing List for out of State Students

My two checked bags || My dad and my brother saying bye at the airport

Hello, hello! If you are an out of state student looking for some packing guidance, look no further. I remember prior to moving into college I searched all around the internet looking for a good packing list. All of them were so long though, who did they think I was? A billionaire? There is no way I was willing to pay the overweight luggage fee or the extra luggage fee. Airlines charge for everything, one checked bag is $25, how ridiculous. Everything is so overpriced. Anyways, if you’re looking for a minimalistic packing list with all the actual essentials that you will need. You have found the place!

In my case, I packed four bags. Two of them were my carry-ons (a duffel bag and a backpack), the other was my checked bag ($25) and the last one was my mom’s checked bag that I filled with my stuff ($25).

Friendly advice: Don’t overpack. Overpacking is the worst. Think about how hard it will be to move out. Pack as minimally as possible. 

Back Pack Carry-On: 

This bag consists of all the expensive and important objects. 

  • Electronics (iPad, Computer, Camera, Cellphone, Speaker, Chargers, etc…)
  • Personal important documents (Anything you need for applying for jobs [birth certificate, social security…], anything you need for financial aid, etc…)
  • Wallet
  • Keys
  • Make-up
  • Water bottle
  • Umbrella

Duffel Bag Carry-On:

This bag consisted of all clothing and beauty supplies I love and use the most. 

  • Clothes! Clothes! Clothes! (My carry on clothing is usually my favorite clothing and my underwear, in case my checked bags get lost.)
  • Make-up collection
  • Hair straightener
  • Swimsuit

Checked Bag #1: 

  • All of the left over clothing (Pijamas, random shirts, pants)
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, hairbrush, perfume, deodorant etc…)
  • Jewelry

Checked Bag #2: 

This bag consisted of all the heavy things. 

  • Favorite blanket
  • Favorite pillow
  • Multiple winter jackets
  • Shoes (2 pairs of day to day sneakers, 1 pair of work out shoes, 1 pair of heels, 1 pair of rain boots, 1 pair of booties, 1 pair of shower shoes/flip flops, 1 pair of Birkenstocks.)
  • Toiletries

Once you’re in Iowa, buy the other items, such as:

  • Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, loofah, toothpaste)
  • Shower caddy
  • Towels (I got 3: one for my body, one for my hair, one for my face)
  • Mattress pad
  • Sheets and pillow cases
  • Pillows (I got two, I’m a pillow hugger)
  • Decorative plant
  • Calendar
  • Hangers
  • School supplies (Agenda, notebooks, textbooks, pencils, etc…)
  • Cleaning supplies (Wet wipes)
  • Post-it notes
  • Desk lamp
  • Pencil holder
  • Vanity mirror
  • Snacks! (You’ll get hungry at the most random times of the day, like 3am, trust me you’ll want something to munch on.)
  • Pads, tampons, etc…
  • Medicine and first aid kits
  • Lint roller, tide stick, wrinkle remover spray

I hope this helped someone! Good luck moving out and moving into your new home! 🙂

Note: I’m lucky enough to have had a roommate who lives in Iowa and brought a mini-fridge and a microwave from her house. I’m also very minimalistic, so I’m not into decking out my dorm room and putting fairy lights and pictures everywhere, which is why my packing and shopping list is so tiny, but if you’re into that I recommend buying all of those things in Iowa just so you don’t have to carry so many bags! 🙂 



My Dorm Before and After Moving In


Hello, Iowa City! Boy, never in a million years did I think I would be living in the middle of Iowa. I remember when I was in fifth grade learning the states and their capitals and thinking, “It’d be nice to go to college in Florida or New York. Maybe even Washington.” It never crossed my mind to move to Iowa or anywhere near the midwest. I have nothing against the midwest, I simply love living on the coast. After all, it is what I am used to. All my life I’ve lived by the sea in places such as Colombia, Brazil and California. I am used to warm weather and being by the ocean. Therefore moving to Iowa City is way out of my comfort zone.

Whenever I told anyone in California that I would be going to Iowa for college they would all give me a very blank look and immediately say, “Why Iowa?” If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me that question I would have a lot of money saved up for my tuition payments. So, Mariana, why Iowa? Why would a girl living near San Francisco want to go to the middle of nowhere? Well, dear reader, first of all, they have a remarkable writing program, a beautiful campus with a great downtown area and most importantly, the people in the midwest are so, so, so kind! Wow. Seriously. I am in shock. Let me explain.

Prior to coming to Iowa I was influenced by everyone from the west coast that told me that Mid-westerns are rude, close-minded conservatives. Boy was I wrong.  People in Iowa are ridiculously nice. It’s insane. Learn from your parents: Don’t pay attention to stereotypes. My first time ever coming to Iowa was for orientation back in June. I went by myself, how terrifying. Vulnerable, little me catching three plane rides to get to Iowa. (My flights were all delayed and cancelled so I had to do a very pointless route. It was a mess. I had to go from California, to North Carolina, to Illinois, back to Iowa.) Anyways, I contacted the orientation staff telling them I might be late and they were very kind and understanding. Next, my roommate picked me up in the airport. She drove from Des Moines to Cedar Rapids and waited for me in Cedar Rapids for around seven hours due to my delayed flight. It was my first time meeting her and she waited for me for seven hours! Seven. Hours. After that we went to check into the hotel that my dad had reserved, but apparently in Iowa you have to be over 21 to check into a hotel. It was 3 AM and my roommate and I were exhausted, but the lady in the lobby let us in even though we were under age. The next day, during orientation, I was lugging around a heavy duffel bag filled with my clothing and some random girl told me that I could keep my bag in her car. Lastly, the day after orientation I had another hotel reservation and I was panicking because I did not know how I would check-in and I kept thinking I would have to be homeless for the night since I was not 21. But then an upcoming freshman I met at orientation turned out to be 21 and he said he would check me into my hotel room. My whole orientation trip was a mess, I was lonely and vulnerable but it was all okay thanks to the kindness of all the Iowans I met along the way. All of those people that helped me out during my orientation trip I have kept contact with and we hung out during my first week in Iowa. To sum it all up, during the three days I spent in Iowa for orientation I felt incredibly welcomed and loved.


Anyways, moving away from home was not as bad as I thought it would be. Maybe because I already had experience living away due to my year abroad, but it wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be in my head. (It’s only been like five days since I left my family, so maybe I shouldn’t speak so soon. But so far, so good. Kind of. I had like a minute of homesickness like two hours ago, but now I’m all good.) The bad part was packing, I hate packing. I took two checked bags and two carry-ons. I only took the most basic stuff since I had to fly in, that’s why my room isn’t as luxurious and fashionable as others.

Some of the things that took me by surprise were the weather and the dressing style of people here. It is so humid here. You know when you’re walking outside and you walk by an open door and the air conditioner from the building hits you and it feels like heaven. Yeah, that’s what it feels like walking in Iowa during August. I really miss the dry, hot California weather. I hate humidity. Absolutely hate it. But on the bright side, it is not as humid as Florida. The humidity is bearable, thank goodness.

As for the fashion side, apparently Iowans love staying active or so it seems by how they dress. The majority of girls wear minimal make up, sneakers, sports shorts and a t-shirt during the day. It is so different from California where the majority of the girls wear a full-face of make up, crop tops, skinny jeans or short shorts, and Vans. Therefore, whenever I dress like I’m in California here I get a couple stares. Either way, I like the fashion culture here, I like being comfortable so I’m excited to start chilling in my sports shorts and sneakers.

That’s all for now. I love it here in Iowa City. I’ve only been here for five days and I have already made so many friends and done so many things. I love it here. I did not expect my transition to be so easy-going.

My first day of class is in three days. Wish me luck!