It is very easy to thrive in your college dining hall—as long as you abide by certain rules. (Legend has it, these rules were first instated in a little-known university in rural Iceland in the eighteenth century.) (Not really.)
1. You do not share your meal swipes
2. YOU DO NOT SHARE YOUR MEAL SWIPES
Sure, it may seem like you’ve got more than enough swipes to get you through the semester, and you probably do, but you don't want to risk running out. Once midterms and finals start, you may find that you require extra energy to keep going, and you may start indulging in second dinners, and possibly even third dinners if you're pulling an all nighter. Share your company with friends in the dining hall, but be very wary about sharing meal swipes, or by the end of the semester you could end up living on Cheerios and CVS-brand distilled water.
3. You must always get a salad
At the dining hall, you’re bound to be tempted with the intoxicating aroma of french fries, chili dogs, and bacon-based meals, but don’t forget to order a salad. You’re on your way to becoming an adult, and you are expected to act as such. Even if you succumb to the temptation of an entrée composed solely of nitrates and processed cheese, make sure to include your side salad. Romaine lettuce tastes delicious dipped into melted cheddar cheese.
4. Bring a book if you’re eating alone
Are you nervous about the possibility of eating by yourself? You shouldn’t be. There is nothing wrong with eating alone in the dining hall, and you will notice that everybody does it. All you have to do to ward off awkwardness is bring a book (a newspaper works, too). You don’t have to read the book, or even open it, for that matter. All you have to do is leave it on your table, and people will understand that you’re eating alone for a good reason: you’re studious.
5. Be friendly to the staff
Are you looking to get your visiting friend into the dining hall for free? Do you want to be able to eat before your 3-hour Biochemistry workshop even though you forgot your ID? Would you like somebody to grab you silverware from the back room when there are no forks to be seen? Unless you’re okay with the possibility of eating macaroni and cheese with your hands, you’ll want the dining hall staff to be on your side. Be friendly to them, and they just might turn a blind eye when you decide to smuggle some extra bananas into your backpack after lunch.
6. Chew with your mouth closed
Okay, this is obviously a very basic one, but a friendly reminder never hurts. You’re going to be excited to talk about all sorts of subjects with all your new friends over your bounty of chicken nuggets and salad. Just make sure to remember all the manners the parentals taught you, and you’ll be golden.
7. Talk about cartoons
As we already discussed, it's cool to talk about cartoons in college. Cartoons are a particularly great topic of conversation for the dining hall, and everybody can participate because everybody watched cartoons as a kid (and if you didn’t, just smile and laugh and say things like “oh yeah, that was a great episode”). Some examples of solid cartoon-related conversation pieces include “Rugrats,” “Hey Arnold!,” and “CatDog.” For the slightly older crowd, “Doug” is a spectacular topic of conversation.
8. You do not share your meal swipes
Has this point been fully pounded into your head yet?
9. Choose meals wisely
Depending on the quality of your dining hall, it is quite possible that you will have many different food options to choose from. Sure, it may seem like a good idea to get a bean burrito, a glass of milk, and three scoops of chocolate ice cream, but be smart with your meal choices. If you’re lactose intolerant, you may want to avoid a tall glass of milk before a two-and-a-half hour final. If you have a date later that evening, you may want to limit the spicy Mexican food. As a rule, be sure to think before you eat. Your stomach will thank you…and so will your date.
10. Enjoy yourself
This is the only time in your life when you'll eat meals that have been paid for in advance, so enjoy it. Unless you’re eating between classes, don’t rush through your meal. Bask in the glory of your dining hall, where you can eat a grilled cheese sandwich, and then, if you’re still hungry, go get another one. Revel in the knowledge that even though you're worried about homework and exams, there’s a very special place where you can eat soft-serve frozen yogurt while you brush up on your Hemingway. Enjoy the dining hall, eat three meals a day, and eat well.
If you were to expand this list, what rules would you add?
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