All about that home life - homesickness, cooking and decorating

(Note that stuff is not allowed to be tacked onto your walls... I did this before I knew it was against the rules.)
A few people have asked me to discuss apartment-related topics such as homesickness, how to learn to cook and how to learn to decorate the apartment while sticking to the housing rules.  These aren't of vital importance like the last few posts have been, but for many people they are an important part of adjusting to a new home.  Not only that but since a lot of people have little or no experience living away from home this adjustment may be made even harder.  It's my goal to try and help you all to make the adjustment as smooth as possible.

How to curb homesickness

Homesickness can hit like a truck at times.  Even when you feel that you are completely happy where you are you may still have some subconscious apprehensions and these can completely trip you up.  I've lived away from home for school for the past four years (plus my last program) and have gone through all shades of pining for home and my family.  Here are some tips I've found help me personally (though everyone is different, so don't stress if you don't feel better after doing these - you'll find a way to get comfort in your own way!):
  1. Bring along photos or mementos of people close to you.  This is especially important if they are already sources of comfort for you - for example, things that remind you of a deceased loved one.  They may not be their real, living counterparts but they still lend a sense of familiarity to your apartment or bedroom.
  2. Don't forget to keep contact with your friends and family at home.  You will work a ton on your program and probably won't have much free time to devote to lengthy phone calls or such.  However, you won't always know when you're really hurting on the inside and sometimes contact with home can help you in ways you can't imagine.  This doesn't mean that you have to set a schedule for calling people unless you want one - just check in every now and then.
  3. Keep yourself busy - but don't push yourself in the name of fun.  We've all heard it before - keeping yourself busy can keep feelings of grief, loneliness, depression, etc etc etc at bay.  However, you won't always be able to do this - and you'll wear yourself out really quickly.  If it's your day off and you don't really feel like you have the energy to go out - don't!  Watch TV, clean (cleaning is a stress reliever for me), talk to your roommates, play video games, whatever helps you.  Burning out won't help you settle in any faster.
  4. Don't change your routine from back home.  Shower in the evenings normally?  Keep doing so.  Go to sleep at midnight?  Unless you have to work insanely early, keep doing so.  Brush your teeth twice a day?  Keep doing so.  It's important for you to internalize the sense that you are "home", even if it's not your regular house - and keeping a routine can do wonders by helping your body feel that it is in a normal environment.
  5. Be understanding of your roommates.  We're all living away from home, and no matter how much experience we have doing so we all still have our moments.  Be patient with one another.  Some will take to their new lives right away, some may take some time, some will never quite get into the swing of things.  Never pressure a roommate into adjusting quicker than they are ready to or upset them by looking down on them.
  6. Let your emotions out.  If you feel like crying, cry.  If you feel frustrated or stressed, let it out in a (positive) way.  Yes, guys, this even applies to you.  Keeping emotions pent up will do you more harm than good in the long run - and you and the people around you will end up suffering for it.
  7. If your homesickness comes from a deeper condition, don't be afraid to seek help.  I've been there, guys - I suffer from depressive tendencies and anxiety myself.  If you feel in any way that the program will aggravate anything you're currently dealing with, reach out to the person you usually talk to about them.  Don't be ashamed - there are tons of people out there who deal with exactly what you're dealing with every day and you will be just fine.  No one will judge you, and spare no time for those who will.  Lastly, don't let it get in the way of you doing your program - it may do you more good than you think to be placed in a new environment where you can start fresh.
I hope these tips will do you some good, and if you have any tips of your own don't hesitate to share them with me!


So you're on the program, in your apartment with your fabulous full kitchen.  One problem, though - you don't know how to cook.  At all.  Never fear!  Many people don't learn how to do household chores like cooking, cleaning or laundry until they start college and it's nothing to be ashamed of.  Heck, I barely knew how to boil eggs when I started my last program!  That being said, here are a few tips for beginner chefs:
  1. There are beginner's cookbooks out there - buy them.  These are not the same as children's cookbooks - they focus on teaching simple techniques such as the various ways of cooking an egg, boiling pasta, cooking meat, etc.  For a personal recommendation, my aunt gave me Betty Crocker Cooking Basics as a Christmas present before my last program and it helped my skills immensely.  The instructions are very clear and the author takes time to walk you through more difficult steps.  Plus, the photos are excellent.
  2. Start out with meatless dishes until you can cook safely.  Undercooked meat happens - you've probably had an experience at home or at a restaurant where a meat dish has been served to you at an improper temperature.  Same goes for overcooked meat.  Meat can be expensive - don't start on dishes including it until you're sure that you won't waste it with a failed dish.
  3. If you have roommates with cooking experience, USE THEM!  They'll be able to make sure you know what you're doing and that you understand the instructions.  There were a few times when I was starting out where I needed help even on simple cooking terms, and I had two roommates there to help with everything.  Don't have roommates around?  Try Youtube - there are plenty of great tutorials on there you can pause and repeat at your leisure.
  4. Never, never, ever, ever, EVER leave cooking unattended if you're new to it!  As if I even need to discuss fire hazards with you on this!  In addition, the fire alarms in the apartments can be very sensitive and will go off at the slightest wisp of smoke - watch carefully for it.
  5. Don't cook things you're not ready to tackle.  So you've made your first dish without burning it - congrats.  However, there are some dishes out there that are complicated, time-consuming or expensive.  Give yourself lots of practice before trying these - you have time on your program!
So what are some good starter dishes, you ask?  Well, here are some suggestions I have:
  1. Egg dishes
  2. Chili
  3. Stew
  4. Simple pasta dishes
  5. Hot dips
  6. Salads
  7. Simple breads/brownies
  8. Grilled cheese (with actual cheese, not American)
  9. Pancakes
  10. Quesadillas
In addition, there are some great online resources for recipes though they don't always give you difficulty ratings for them.  My favorite website is, which has tons of excellent member-submitted dishes for whatever you could ever want to cook.  Have fun!

Decorating the apartment

Our final topic today will be over how to decorate your apartment - or rather, how to decorate your apartment without breaking any housing rules.  This can be tricky, though anyone who has ever lived in an apartment or dorm is probably familiar with at least some of these anyway!  Even though *cough cough* people will put things up on the walls and take them down for inspections, you technically aren't allowed to do it so if you do, I am in no way encouraging nor discouraging it.  With that being said, here are some decorating ideas you might want to utilize for your apartment:
  1. Use your corkboard - every inch of it!  It's supposedly the only accepted place to hang stuff so stick as much stuff on it as you can! You can have stuff hang below it and even prop stuff up on top of it!  If you haven't secured it to the wall you should be fine (though if the inspectors tell you to take it down for the inspection, abide by their wishes)!
  2. Christmas lights, lanterns and lamps are fun!  Okay, these are cliched decorating ideas and some of you are probably rolling your eyes at me right now.  However, if you're into dimmer lighting than what the provided ceiling lights give you they might just be the way to go.
  3. You have surfaces you can put decorative stuff on!  Jury's still out on potted plants - I can't quite remember if they're banned or not - but statues, figurines, silk flowers, table runners, etc. are all fair game.  If you're putting them in common areas, though, get permission from your roommates.
  4. You may be able to bring larger decorative items into the apartment.  This is not a guarantee (so check with housing's rules to make sure) but you might be able to bring things like shelves or end tables into your apartment.  If I'm right, just make sure you aren't taking up too much room in the apartment.  If I'm wrong, I'm wrong and please don't blame me if you aren't allowed to have it!
  5. Get stuff to organize your closet now.  Men and women with small wardrobes, this may not bother you as much.  If you're bringing a lot of clothing, though, make sure you have space for it all.  Hanging shoe organizers, multi-article hangers and stuff of that ilk will help immensely.
  6. You'll accumulate stuff in your apartment as time goes by - just make sure you have a place for it!  Much like making sure you can easily ship everything home as discussed in my post over packing for solo flights, you always want to make sure you buy only what can fit comfortably in your living space.  Don't get too much stuff - you'll regret it.
In addition, here are a few items that are not only decorative but may also be necessary for your apartment anyway:
  1. Shower curtains
  2. Bath rugs/rugs for the kitchen
  3. Dishtowels
  4. Drying racks
  5. Bedding
  6. Hooks for bath towels (if your bathroom doesn't have enough room to hang two towels)
  7. Hand towels for the bathroom
  8. Calendars
Well, that about wraps it up for this post.  If you have any other questions over this or have comments you'd like to add, I'm always open to hearing them!  Twitter and the comments sections on this blog are always open.  Until then... have a great night!

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