Eating on Campus: The Hot Take

Here’s a list of where to eat on campus and when it’s open. Info taken from the UMW Dining site, which is subject to change week-to-week. Sometimes information is hard to find, especially around holidays. Check up on UMW Dining’s social media (Facebook is their most used site, but they have Twitter and Instagram, too).

University Center (UC)

This is where you get unlimited meal swipes. You can eat there at any time and as often as you want. However, food is not always being served. You can go in at any time, but you might end up sitting and waiting for the stations to be prepared and stocked (you can look up times individually per station). The employees here are always busy, so remember to be patient and thank them for your food!

Monday – Thursday: 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Friday: 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday: 9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. (Continental Breakfast); 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. (Brunch); 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Dinner)

Vocelli Pizza (The Nest)

This is the best pizza on campus because it is the only pizza on campus (outside of the UC). If someone asks if you want to eat at The Nest, they’re usually talking about Vocelli. The standard meal is two slices of pizza for one meal swipe. Other prices will be marked at the service station. You can also see a menu of to-order food that can be picked up or delivered. I’ve heard there will be a delivery charge this year, but I have to confirm that. Delivery and most to-order food is also exclusively flex, so keep an eye out on how much you spend here. Grab some of those quality cookies for flex or a meal swipe while you’re there.

Monday – Thursday: 10:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Friday: 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 a.m.
Saturday: 12:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.
Sunday: 11:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.

Simply to Go (The Nest)

This is our little food market on campus. You can pay with money or flex if you’re on the run and need a sandwich. Food is a little expensive here, and you only have so much flex, but it is another option for you.

Monday – Thursday: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Friday – Sunday: Closed

Naturally Woodstock (The Underground)

I’ve been fighting with the Underground for years on its hours. Everyone push for lunch AND dinner hours when surveys come around. To clarify, Naturally Woodstock is the name of the food service, the Underground is the name of the location under Lee Hall. People usually refer to it as the latter. It offers mostly sandwiches, some drinks, and other food items like chicken and waffles. Some of the food is paid for by meal swipes / meal + flex, although a lot of it is moving more towards flex-based payment.

Monday – Sunday: 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.

Blackstone (Blackstone)

My favorite place. This is where you can get coffee, snacks, cupcakes, tea, and (most importantly) breakfast. They also have sandwiches, which usually cost meal + flex. Breakfast is almost always one meal swipe. Drinks are always flex, snacks can be meal or flex. I love coffee from Blackstone (mocha with almond milk is my favorite, if you wanna try something new). As long as Blackstone has been open, I have been eating their breakfast and drinking their coffee. It’s a wonderful place, especially when you need to be in the HCC in the morning. Be wary of how many meal swipes and flex you have, though; this is a big draining point for a lot of students’ flex accounts.

Monday – Thursday: 7:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Friday: 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Saturday: 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Sunday: 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Eatz on the Street (Food Truck)

This is almost exclusively flex-based and sometimes hard to catch. It has a habit of disappearing on days it’s supposed to be around, but if you want to grab food real quick and you see it, the food truck is gonna be there for you.

Hours haven’t been posted yet.

Jamba Juice & Lil Joe’s (Jamba Juice)

Jamba Juice is here for all your smoothie needs. If you need some fruit, you can get a 16oz of what you want for a meal or flex. Lil Joe’s has some sandwiches and lunch-based meal food if you want to grab something. Almost all meals are meal + flex. While this is located on the first floor of the UC, it doesn’t count in your unlimited swipes (despite how amazing unlimited smoothies would truly be). This area is also nice to just hang out in, since there’s lots of seating and comfy places to get some work done.

Monday – Friday: 7:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday: 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Qdoba (Qdoba)

This is one of my favorite places to eat, since it is very customizable. Food is almost always meal + flex and contests Blackstone in its draining rapid draining of flex. Like Jamba Juice, it is located on the first floor of the UC but does not count toward unlimited swipes. It has burritos, burrito bowls, salads, nachos, queso, guacamole, and others. I’m a big fan.

Monday – Friday: 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday: 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.


Please note that all food closes at around 10 or 11pm, so if you eat late, plan ahead. Weekends can be rough, since food hours are much more limited. Giant is a short walk past the Anderson Center, if you need to buy food to tide you over in weird hours or weekend holidays.

If you have any questions, let me know! As always, I’m here for you first and foremost.

Roommates, Res Halls, and RAs – Oh My

One thing UMW boasts (rightfully so) is its stalwart roots in community. The university is a great place to make friends, join groups, and be around people.

The most important people in your life, though, are the ones you live with.

Most of you will have a roommate or roommates throughout your years of college. For at least the first two years (unless you commute), you’ll be living on campus. For as long as you’re on campus, you’ll have a Resident Assistant (RA). These three components of campus life can shape your experience in interesting ways. Keep in mind: the people around you can make or break your college experience. Do all you can to ensure the former over the latter! Let’s break it down.


If you have a roommate, you probably already know about them. Maybe you’ve met them already! If not, send them an email, a Facebook message, whatever you need. The best way to start a good roommateship is by early and frequent contact. The more you talk to your roommate, the better off you will be once you move in together.

Some things to establish before moving in:

  • Who brings what
  • Allergies
  • Lights out times (who wakes up earliest, who sleeps latest, what times these end up being)
  • Bathroom etiquette (if a suite-style bathroom; get your suitemates in on it, too)
  • Cleaning schedule
  • Visitor policy (significant others, friends staying late, overnight visitors, etc.)
  • Quirks, needs, and other miscellaneous info

Your RA will cover all of this in more detail with you, but here’s one thing to keep in mind: don’t be “fine with whatever.” I’ve had a few roommates over the years, and the best ones were the ones that sat down with me and honestly established what their expectations and needs were, then listened to what mine were. Once we got to that point, we compromised on certain items, put together a cleaning schedule (room and bathroom cleaning, swapped between the two of us intermittently), and lived happily ever after. The more upfront you are with your roommate, the better living with them will be.

You might not know what your needs are right away. Moving on-campus is weird, especially if you’ve never lived without parents before. You have new responsibilities, set your own bedtime, and get work done at your own pace. If you find you’re establishing patterns that you didn’t predict, talk to your roommate about making a new set of rules. Get the RA involved if you want to make it official, but hopefully you and your roommate get along to the point where you can just write it down and have it be law.

If you don’t get along with your roommate, let your RA know right away. The sooner they find out about it, the sooner they can monitor the situation and help you out if you need to move into a different room. You don’t have to stick with someone you’re not comfortable living with, but take advantage of the resources you have available to you instead of letting it build up to an unhealthy point.

Res Halls

Your residence hall is your new home. Congrats! It can be anywhere on campus with a number of different quirks, fancies, and difficulties. Each res hall has its own personality, depending on the crowd living there at the time. Most often, if you live in a big building like Virginia Hall, your neighbors will keep to themselves and form groups that may not be with the people they live among. If you live in a small building, like Madison Hall, you will likely get to know the people around you, if not by name then by face.

How you manage your neighborly ways is up to you! Maybe some of the people in your hall will become your best friends. Maybe they will be people you hope to never see again. Most likely, they will fall in the middle. If you want to get to know your neighbors, keep your door open! Someone might come by and chat if they see you’re available to them. Some of my favorite meeting-friends stories happened in the kitchen, when someone was baking something. If you’re a baker or a cook, you will get friends very quickly.

Hang around your common areas, too! Ask on Facebook or Twitter if anyone wants to join you in playing a game or watching a movie/show. Vice versa, if you’re looking to meet someone, check out your social media and see if anyone is offering to do some things. Don’t be afraid to wander and introduce yourself.

Some serious business: be courteous in your res hall. Respect quiet hours, don’t steal people’s food, and keep your trash orderly. Building a good community in your hall comes out of following those three simple rules. If you need something, ask for it. If you have a lot of trash, just take it to the dumpster. You have to be pretty loud to break quiet hours, so if you get a complaint, please take it seriously. Being kind will get you the best results in the world of coexisting.


Your RA is in an interesting position. They’re a student, like you, but they are also in a leadership role. Those in charge of orientation have probably told you that they’re one of the three people you can rely on while you’re at UMW – aside from your OL and Peer Mentor.

I’ll be honest: my first year on campus was weird because I barely saw my RA. I felt like I was on my own when I had problems, and when she did get involved, it was usually a mess. Of course, it wasn’t entirely her fault; she was a senior in an all-freshman dorm, so she didn’t end up spending too much time around her building. She was also just a generally busy person. One thing I learned from feeling that disconnect, though, was that I needed to make sure my future RAs knew who I was so that reaching out wouldn’t be so difficult. The next two years I lived on campus consisted of me getting to know my RAs right away and even befriending them to the point where they recognized me around campus.

Keep in mind your RAs are students first and RAs second. While it is their job to keep their residences in order and a comfortable space, they’re usually pretty laid back. They have their own stresses, homework, and jobs to do, but they won’t hesitate to lend you an ear if you need to talk. It doesn’t have to be a formal complaint; maybe you’re having a hard time in class and you want some advice or someone to vent to. They’re the most accessible mentor you have, so take advantage of their presence. They don’t have to be some ominous authority looming your halls. They’re pretty cool cats and full of good stories.


Again, leave a comment or send me a message if you have any questions! Living on campus can be hairy, but it can be super fun, too.

As always, I’m here for you first and foremost.

The JFMC and You: Getting Past the Language Requirement

As stated before, foreign language textbooks can be some of the priciest you encounter. You’ve already taken the placement tests, and no doubt some of you wondered why there were only a few languages available to place in. Some of you may already know another language or two. If the goal is to make everyone know at least one other language, how do you prove to the university you already speak another language or even a few languages?

This is a little-known fact across campus, but your solution isn’t to take one of UMW’s offered languages. Actually, you can head over to the James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) and let them know you technically fill this requirement. They will take you through the process of being exempt from needing four semesters of a language from there.

The JFMC is a staple in UMW’s student living, so don’t be afraid of stopping in and asking questions about UMW and how to better figure out what you’re doing. The people working in this center are really nice and helpful, and some are students! They have a lot of tools and knowledge for any students who have questions either specific to multicultural affairs on campus or generally regarding campus life.


Not much information here, but this bit is so important to highlight and isn’t nearly discussed enough. Even if you don’t need to get an exemption for language classes, just stop by the JFMC and talk to the folks there. You might learn something new! As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments. I’m here for you first and foremost.

Why Does this Cost $300?: Buying Textbooks

I can’t sugar coat this: Textbooks are a pain. They are expensive, heavy, and sometimes not even used by the professor who requested you buy them. Luckily for Beyond the Selfie, there are no required textbooks, but I assume that’s not the only class you registered for this semester.

Where and how do you buy textbooks? How much do they cost? Are they really necessary for this class? Am I really dedicated enough to this class to spend $150 on a book for it? How do I minimize the cost without failing my classes?

I’m going into my senior year this semester, so I can tell you I’ve asked these questions a hundred times. Better yet, I’ve found the answers to most of them. Read on to find out how you can best prepare for the semester without putting yourself in debt.

Where to get textbooks

Check out the UMW Bookstore’s website and look at their Price Comparison tool to see which books you will need for each class you’re registered for. The site will also give you the option to buy them from the bookstore right away, if you want. In the three years I’ve been at Mary Washington, though, I can say with full confidence that shopping around online has cut my book costs by a third (at least) per semester.

Next, take the ISBN codes of your books and plug them into a few sites. Amazon is my go-to for books, since rental times are always very reliable and materials are always pretty cheap. Chegg is also very good for textbook rentals, but if you want to maximize your savings, check out Slug Books, a comparison site that pulls from all over the Internet to find your cheapest options.

How much books cost

Book prices vary based on subject; the humanities (History, English, etc.) don’t cost too much, since few books are actual textbooks, whereas STEM, foreign languages, and other sciences tend to cost more, since they are more textbook-reliant.

I highly recommend buying your humanities books. If you don’t want them afterward, selling them to other students is a great way to reduce costs all around, especially when there are a lot of books to buy. Also, especially for English classes, check out Project Gutenberg and Librivox to see if you can access books for free. Older literature becomes public domain after a while and gets published by these programs for anyone to use. Always check here first if you think a book is old or popular enough to be public domain.

Renting textbooks is the best way to save money (except when you need the book for multiple semesters). Be careful, though; if a class requires an online access code, an online rental or used purchase might not come with the code you need. Because of such specificity, these will inevitably be the most expensive books you have to deal with. Almost all language courses require you to buy these kinds of books, which can run from $150-$200 a book-access-code package. If you need to fill your language Gen Ed, prepare accordingly for each cost. Usually 101 and 102 use the same books and access codes, as well as 201 and 202.

Figuring out how badly you need this book

The most frustrating thing about buying books is when you get all of them for a class and realize your professor doesn’t really have you use them that much. To avoid the hassle of buying unnecessary books, or using all of your semester budget in one go to buy them all before class, consider waiting until you get your syllabus to start making purchases.

You do run the risk of getting behind the first week or so of readings, but you can ask your professor if there is any way you could borrow the book if that’s the case. Most professors are accommodating and more focused on you doing the readings than falling behind because of your financial situation. If you feel comfortable waiting, then you can budget out your book-buying over the course of the semester. This method is especially helpful for those who plan on working or rely on financial aid to help pay for college.

If you’re worried about missing readings or don’t want to approach your professor about it, then shoot them an email before the semester starts. Just ask them what books you will need for the first couple of weeks. This way, you can still plan ahead without worrying about the anxiety that comes with asking to borrow something.

Minimizing the cost

As stated before, finding books on Project Gutenberg and Librivox help immensely with reducing certain classes’ book costs to zero. Also consider looking for books at UMW’s Simpson Library. Usually, books that are class materials are not allowed to be checked out for more than a few days at a time, but there’s no harm in just going in and doing your readings there. If Simpson doesn’t have it, consider getting a library card at the Fredericksburg Public Library. All of these free (and legal) ways of obtaining books are the easiest way to cut out some of the staggering prices you’ll encounter.

Again, rent textbooks. Even if they’re in your field of study, there’s very little in them worth saving that won’t also end up in your notes. Renting instead of buying helps with both the cost and the clutter that comes with big, heavy books.

Finally, check multiple sites when buying. The UMW Bookstore is the most convenient way of getting books, but it is definitely not the cheapest. You can find cheaper books by using Slug Books and simple Google searches and cut your expenses by a third or more.



Good luck buying and budgeting! Money can be stressful, especially when you’re on your own financially. Just keep an eye out for good deals and buy smart. As always, you can shoot me a message or leave a comment if you have any questions! I’m here for you first and foremost.

How to Make the First Semester Not Terrible

Moving isn’t the only thing you need to worry about – in fact, it’s the quickest and easiest part of your first week, more or less (if you’re moving at all). The most important thing to keep in mind when prepping for the semester is getting ready for classes. You need to buy textbooks and supplies, figure out what your schedule looks like, find your classrooms, and learn your professors’ names.


Just like last time, we’ll start with shopping. The first thing you need to do is make a list of what you think you’ll need. I recommend a pack of pencils, a few good pens, notebooks, and a backpack. If you’re taking a language or science class, consider getting notecards (but there are also apps like Quizlet that reduce your need for stacks of notecards, so consider your options before jumping to buy a pack of 200).

You might also want to get folders or binders, depending on your preferred organization method. I use folders, since most of my classes don’t usually require me printing or keeping too many paper copies of assignments. If you read on paper better, though, definitely invest in some binders so you can print off PDF readings for class.

Once you’ve figured out what you need, keep an eye out for back-to-school sales so you can get your items cheap. Right before the semester starts, you can get notebooks for just ten cents, among other insanely cheap supplies. Buy enough for both semesters, too, so you don’t have to invest when everything is much more expensive. Assume you need supplies for ten classes to start, then go from there. Take advantage of these sales for clothes, shoes (you’ll need a comfortable pair for walking across campus), backpacks, electronics, and whatever else is on your list.


Textbooks are a fickle thing. They can be immensely expensive and a major money risk if you end up changing around your schedule. Luckily, there’s a method to minimize the stress of figuring out how to work out the best cost.

This stuff is incredibly important to work through, so it’ll actually go into its own post. Please give it a read before you get your books!


You can change your schedule during the start of the semester if your classes don’t work out or if you want to get into something that was full. The best time to squeeze into a different class is after the first day; many people, after seeing the syllabus, will decide to leave the class! You can add a class up until the end of the first week of classes and drop one up until the end of the third week. Check out the Schedule of Courses to see every class in one place across multiple semesters.

Also, take a look at how many credits you have this semester. Fifteen (five 3-credit courses) is an average workload, twelve (four 3-credit courses) is full time but much easier, and eighteen (six 3-credit courses) is usually quite a handful. I only did twelve credits my first semester, which really helped with transitioning into campus life.

I would highly recommend starting slow like that to best ease yourself into college and avoid potentially damaging your GPA from overworking yourself. Don’t take too many 12-credit semesters, though, or you could fall behind and need an extra semester before you graduate. I’ll go over credits and requirements in more detail later.

There are a couple mistakes all freshmen make their first semester regarding scheduling, and it’s nearly impossible to avoid them. Most of the time they aren’t devastating, so if you find yourself making them, don’t fret; you have plenty of semesters to try again.

But the biggest thing I absolutely must warn you about is this: Don’t treat your college schedule like high school. You build your own schedule, so make sure you realistically consider every part of it. You don’t have to start every day with an 8 AM class, especially if you aren’t a morning person. You don’t have to take three or four consecutive classes every day. You don’t need to take all of your general education requirements in your first year. You don’t need to go to class every single weekday.

Okay, let’s break this down bit by bit. In college, bedtime doesn’t exist. You sleep when you want to, and for some that means at 4 AM every night. For the love of everything on this planet, please don’t take an 8 AM if you know you’ll be that person. Especially if it’s a class you know you won’t be really interested in going to. It’s so easy to just sleep in when all you have in the morning is Finite Math and you want more than 4 hours of sleep to run on for the rest of the day. Suddenly you’ve slept through that whole semester and you have to retake math, which sucks big time. Save yourself. Don’t schedule classes before 11 AM if you’re a night owl. You, your friends, and your professors will love you more for it.

Pace your Gen Eds over the course of your semesters. If you’re more of a Humanities than a STEM person, don’t take your sciences and maths at the same time. If you don’t like writing, don’t take three Writing Intensive courses at once to get them out of the way. If you hate public speaking, don’t take classes focused specifically on that. Love yourself.

And hey, you really, really don’t need to go to class Monday through Friday. Maybe that’s your jam and you like only doing two or three classes every day. But maybe you want longer weekends or fewer high-stress school days. Maybe you want more time in the week to get stuff done or get a job, and you just can’t plan around five-day class weeks. Well, take a look at your classes. You’ve got Monday-Wednesday-Friday (MWF), Tuesday-Thursday (TR), or sometimes 3-hour-long, once-a-week classes. There’s other variations smattered in there (4-day language courses, one-credit courses, etc.), but these are your biggest scheduling hurdles to jump over. My first semester consisted of four classes, all of them on a TR schedule. I was living the dream. Everyone’s ideal schedule is different; don’t hesitate to play around with what you’re working with until you’ve found yours.


You get the chance to be on campus well before you start classes, so take the time to wander around. Make a list of your classrooms and buildings, bring a map with you (marked up, if needed), and take a walk. The class buildings should be unlocked, so feel free to go in and take a look around. Try to find your classrooms. I guarantee if you can get to them once, you won’t feel so much stress and pressure when getting to them a second time, when it really matters.

If you have one class right after another in a separate building, time your movement speed as you go from one to the other to see if you can actually make it. If you can’t, notify your second class’ professor that you might be a minute or two late every day as you make your way across campus.

Here’s a helpful hint: It takes me 6 minutes to walk from Monroe to Combs, 8 minutes from the UC to Jepson, and 8-10 minutes from the HCC to Combs. Those are the farthest I have had to travel between classes, so you can see how doable each walk is according to the campus map. My stride isn’t very long, but I am a fast walker.  Finally, if you need accommodations for getting around, get in touch with Disability Services. You will get an escort between classes, but be sure to tell your professors you use this service just in case; golf carts can only do so much in bad weather, so you might be late every now and then.

Also check out dining areas and figure out when they’re open. The dining options on campus have been up in the air recently, so I can’t give you a comprehensive list of times or places, but I’ll be sure to direct you to what you need to know once the information is available.


Finally, make sure you know who your professors are. Learn their names and maybe a little about them. UMW has a biography database for its professors, so you can read up on what kind of work and research they do. This especially helps with your FSEM class, since those professors are from all kinds of departments. Here’s Dr. McClurken’s page.

(Quick sidenote: Assume your professors are “Dr. Lastname” unless they specifically give you an alternate title to call them. Almost all professors have doctorate degrees at UMW, so it’s the safest route to go.)

You can also look them up on RateMyProfessor, a free website that allows students review their classes and professors. Take the ratings with a grain of salt, though; sometimes professors are tough but incredibly passionate about teaching, sometimes they are well loved but a little too quirky for some learning preferences.

Along those same lines, ask other upperclassmen about professors. Students are always willing to share their classroom experiences, especially when it helps others who are considering classes. You have complete control over your schedule, so don’t hesitate to take advantage of it to best shape your college experience. All college students are gossips and busybodies; even if they haven’t taken a class, they might know something about it anyway.


Make sure you’re prepared for the semester by knowing what you need. I’m sure you already covered a lot of this information during orientation, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate some of it. Again, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send me a message if you have any questions or comments! My first and only job as a Peer Mentor is being helpful to you.

Good luck, and I can’t wait to see you!