Seven Yale Purchases I Wouldn’t Have Thought to Make Ahead of Time

Man carrying several shopping bags

The first time I came to Yale, I brought a suitcase, a duffel bag, a backpack, and my French horn.

Man carrying luggage and bags and walking away from camera
No, I didn’t look as classy as this man while carrying all of my junk.

This was simultaneously a lot of stuff and not much. Though air travel is notoriously unfriendly to people unwilling to travel light, I  at first only had to carry everything about 100 feet between my car and the baggage check counter. I also got to check two bags free on my flight, so I made it to JFK airport without feeling too ridiculous (or broke). But when I started huffing and puffing through the NYC subway system – which I had never used before, let alone while carrying upwards of 60 pounds – the silliness of my situation was readily apparent. You know you’re really struggling when a New Yorker stops to help you, and it happened to me multiple times. 

I haven’t bought too much since arriving at Yale – except for a few big things, my acquisitions fit into three large boxes. For anyone thinking about what they’ll eventually bring to college, I’ll offer a perennially useful reminder that the less you bring, the less you have to move in and out of a fairly small dorm room. Packing and unpacking is not fun. Bring the minimum amount of stuff you’ll need to make your room feel homey. Trust me.

That said, there are a few purchases I’ve made while at Yale that probably aren’t on many college packing lists, but were definitely worth it for me. Here are a few:

Kick Scooter:

Girl on scooter making an intense face
This is how intense I feel when I scooter down Science Hill.

I know, I know. It took me a long time to become a scooter guy, and I won’t say that I’m proud of it. But a twenty-minute walk translates to about an eight-minute scoot. As you can imagine, this makes poorly-timed naps and tight connections between classes challenges far more surmountable challenges than they used to be.

Other human-powered transportation can serve this purpose well, too. But I think of a scooter as a good middle ground between a bike and a skateboard. Like a skateboard, a scooter is light and easy to tuck away inside of a classroom or building, meaning you don’t have to worry about locking things up (as long as you make sure your scooter doesn’t become a tripping hazard!). And, like a bike, you don’t have to be cool to ride one – it’s pretty easy to pick up. I say this because the last time I tried to learn to skateboard, I accidentally kicked someone else’s board into the road, where it almost got run over by a car. Multiple times.

Shoe horn:

Person using shoe horn to put on sneakers
It took a lot of scrolling to find a picture of someone using a shoe horn to put on normal sneakers. Enjoy.

I’m lazy. Sometimes, I treat my lace-up shoes as if they were slip-ons. I know this is bad for them. I know that it destroys the heels of the shoes. But I know that this old habit will not die without a fight.

So I bought a shoe horn (improvise, adapt, overcome). It was cheap, it maintains the structural integrity of my shoes, and it’s surprisingly fun to use.

Alarm Clock:

A personified alarm clock
To wake up and ‘face’ the day.

My inconsistent sleep schedule may not show it, but I take my sleep hygiene seriously. I’ve decided that my phone belongs outside of the bedroom at night, per How to Break Up With Your Phone author Catherine Price’s suggestion. To avoid having my phone (and email and social media) be the first thing I see in the morning, I’ve switched from my phone alarm to an old-school alarm clock. Plus, this way I get to wake up to whatever is playing on FM radio, which is a fun throwback to a time when we didn’t have 2,578 liked songs on Spotify available to us at any given moment.

Picnic Blanket:

Picture of people sitting on cross campus with tree cutting through the image and a shoe in the corner
This is the only picture I have that shows people out in the sun on Cross Campus. Don’t worry; its composition mystifies me too.

You’re gonna want to have a Cross Campus moment eventually at Yale. I discovered picnic blankets my first Spring at Yale – there’s not a huge sit on the lawn culture in my hometown, seeing as it’s nestled within a temperate rainforest – and haven’t looked back. Now I can sprawl outside of Sterling to see and be seen on the first sunny day in April, when you can’t go three minutes without seeing someone you know outside, without my clothes getting wet or grass-stained.

Laptop Stand:

Laptop stand made out of stacked Macbooks
If you make reasonable life choices and don’t want to construct your laptop stand from four Macbooks, I bought a nice, easily portable one for like fifteen bucks.

You’re bound to spend long nights staring at your laptop at some point in your Yale career. I bought a super portable laptop stand a few years back and it’s made these long nights much more enjoyable. Especially if you’re taller than the average bear, a laptop stand (and maybe a mouse and external keyboard) are pretty worthwhile investments in your comfort and back health.


Woman holding passport and luggage in front of blue wall
Passport = :). Take it from the woman in a zany shirt and red sunglasses.

If you don’t have a passport, it might be worth it to get one now. You might be inspired to study abroad, or do an independent project outside of the U.S. at some point. Or maybe your friends will plan a trip outside of the country during Spring or October break (my friends and I roadtripped to Toronto in a bright yellow Jeep with cowprint seats this October, for example). Passports last for ten years, take a while to ship, and only ever get more expensive to purchase. So if you’re happy with your haircut, it might be worth it to get one sooner rather than later.

A Kindle:

Man reading digital book on beach
Disclaimer: I don’t think I’ve ever read an eBook on the beach. What if sand gets in the charger spot? Seems dangerous.

I don’t work for Amazon, so any e-reader works just fine. But my life is too transient to start a physical book collection – and books are expensive anyhow.

However, I’m an English major, which means I have to do a fair bit of novel reading at Yale. Sometimes, I can find books through my state’s digital library to loan for free and send to my Kindle, which saves me a few bucks and supports my local library. It’s also usually possible to loan required books from one of Yale’s libraries. But if I can’t find it for free, digital versions of books are often cheaper to purchase than their physical counterparts. You can also get an ebook at 10:00 PM the night before a class, when Barnes & Noble is definitely closed and an online book has no chance of arriving in your P.O. box on time, without much consternation. I’m certain my Kindle has more than paid for itself by now.