Thinking about being back as a Junior at Caltech this year was nothing short of terrifying. It felt like it was just yesterday that I was a frosh getting lost in Linde trying to find the recitation for Ma1a: Calculus of One and Several Variables and Linear Algebra. Now, I was responsible for being a source of support to the new frosh and sophomores.
Nevertheless, I am very much excited to be back on campus. A lot of things have changed, like the twice a week COVID-19 testing and the absence of blue books for midterms and finals. Some things never change (favorites including Red Door Caramel Lattes and playing pool in the Page lounge with my friends). But to get back on campus, I did a lot of planning and shoving things into my suitcases. I may suffer from a very serious condition known as overpacking, but I whittled down my items into a list of essentials to succeed at Caltech.
This combination of items below are from my own packing list along with some honorable mentions from the wonderful people in my alley. Let’s go through every item together!
Headphones - An essential for doing sets in the Sherman Fairchild Library if you’re going to be sitting and working for a long time. Usually, I listen to a combination of R&B and new playlists made by friends.
iPad - Now that most of our sets and exams are submitted virtually, I’ve found it life-changing to do my assignments on the iPad and submit them directly without having to scan a paper copy. An iPad is also great for sharing notes with friends or screensharing to collaborate on a set. Caltech offers an iPad loaner program for all students, where you can borrow a new iPad for the duration of your time at Caltech.
Phone Wallet/Keychain Wallet - Your Caltech ID is necessary for entering buildings and purchasing food across campus, so getting a nifty restickable pocket wallet to put on the back of my phone helps me carry it everywhere I go.
Laptop - My preferred device when I am supposed to be “working”.
Chargers/Cables - I am a fan of the extra long cables (I’m talking 6 to 10 feet) especially if you end up in a Loft Room where the beds are about 7 feet up in the air. This way, I can keep my phone charging at night with my alarms set right next to me.
Desk Lamp - Super important for studying at night or during the day if your roommate is sleeping in.
Speaker - When you just need a little bit of background noise when you’re churning through a set.
Masks - In the time we live in right now, I like to have a variety of masks at my disposal. I keep them in every bag and in a box on my bookshelf for visitors to wear!
Water Bottle - Caltech has great water filter stations and fountains all over the place so this is super handy if you’re walking between classes.
Shower Caddy/Shoes - With almost all students using communal bathrooms, shower shoes and having a caddy of all of your products is a necessity.
Slim Hangers - As a symptom of my overpacking syndrome, I definitely brought more clothes than the average person would need so these slim hangers did the trick! They save a ton of room and are more lightweight. (I got mine from the local Target but they can be found anywhere).
Winter Jacket/Bathing Suit - Living in sunny Pasadena is perfect because we are roughly an hour from the mountains, an hour from the beach, and an hour from the snow. Having a jacket and a bathing suit is great in case your house wants to go on an impromptu trip to Manhattan Beach (my favorite around here) or skiing at Big Bear.
Laundry Basket (with straps) - My freshman year, I quickly realized that lugging my hamper down multiple flights of stairs was not fun in the slightest so I fashioned some straps to wear it as a backpack.
Here’s my two cents on dorm essentials from someone who has moved in and out of Caltech a few times now. The rooms have an ample amount of storage but bringing your own bins and organizers (drawer liners, pencil cases, etc) is never a bad idea. Add and subtract personal items that best fit your needs to this list and you’ll be ready for a year at Caltech! Check out the thumbnail for a picture of my friend’s dorm room!
Got anything else that is an essential for you to have at school? Let me know down below!