College research project No. 1: packing

Joe Vickers sits with his fully-loaded van as he gets ready to head to Virginia Tech.

After saying his good-byes to his former Rappahannock County High School teachers, Joe Vickers strolled to the parking lot and popped the door to the family van.

A smile came over his face.

“Inside,” he said, “is my life for the next three months.”

Clothing for every kind of weather.

A laptop computer.

Sheets, towels and blankets.

Cleaning supplies. Toiletries.

School supplies. Storage containers, and a cell phone.

Destination: Blacksburg, the home of Virginia Tech.

“It’s hard to pack for college, because you don’t know what you are going to really want,” said Vickers, who is an incoming freshman engineering major. “You have lived at the same house for the past couple years, and then you are expected to pick up and move everything.”

Like thousands of incoming freshmen across the nation, Vickers and many of his fellow RCHS graduates are making that transition to college life this fall.

They beam with childlike enthusiasm when chatting about moving into the dorm, meeting new people from all over the world, taking interesting, unique classes, going to this football game or that club meeting and, in some cases, living without their parents supervising every move.

Once they arrive at their campus, they will check into their dorm, pick up their room keys and start unloading their possessions.
Maybe they can organize their rooms quickly and hit one of the many orientation activities that most colleges and universities hold two or three days before classes begin.

A concert. A dinner. A preseason game.

Vickers said Virginia Tech has a movie to be shown on the drill field, while the engineering department planned a picnic.

Austin Burnett, who joins Vickers at Virginia Tech, said that he planned to spend one afternoon walking the campus so he knew the location of his classes. He also wanted to check out what businesses, shops and eateries were in downtown Blacksburg.

But that move from one’s bedroom to a new bedroom that he or she most likely will share with a complete stranger may be the first big challenge as the incoming freshman faces as he or she enters the world of college life.

“I know I’m going to overpack, but I’m not too worried about it,” said Brooke Hatcher, the 2010 RCHS salutatorian who heads to the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg where she is interested in studying history. “I have so many room decorations I want to bring down to make it feel more like my own room, but I have to take in consideration it’s not just my room, but another (person’s).”

Hatcher likes to build piles for the items she wants to have at college.

Plenty of notebooks. She prefers to take notes by hand rather than using her computer.

Lots of shoes.

Lots of clothing. More clothing than she probably imagines.

She did not want to forget her Doors music poster. That would dress up the usually bland dorm walls.

“(Packing for college) is just like a huge research project,” Hatcher added. “So many categories and subjects of materials to cover. It’s hard to begin where to start packing.”

Her friend, Natalie Tupper, agreed that students need to have something that reminds them of friends and family, particularly those first few days when they may not know many people.

“Pictures and other decorations make your room seem more like home,” she said.

This is the third time that Tupper has been involved in a college move. Three years ago, older sister Rebecca left for James Madison University. The two sisters attend the same school, but Natalie will live on campus as a freshman.

Last August, older brother Chase headed for the University of Virginia.

“I definitely don’t worry about underpacking,” she said, laughing, “but yes, I am afraid I packed too much . . . I always seem to do that whenever I pack for trips so I’m sure I’ll probably pack a little too much. But I think it’s okay, because if I do, I can just send some stuff home with my parents.”

Ashley Riggleson, the 2010 RCHS valedictorian, said that gathering her belongings for her freshman year at Mary Washington was a bit overwhelming.

Not only did she head to Fredericksburg where she plans to study English, but Ashley’s twin sister, Krista, is also a member of the UMW Class of 2014.

The two, however, will not room together.

“We are right across the hall from each other, so we can share some things,” Ashley said. “For example, we bought a wireless printer today, so we can both use it, regardless of who has it in their dorm room. But, we are going to be sharing more with our roommates than with each other.”

The room that once served as the Riggleson twins’ playroom and the hallway between their bedrooms served as College Central this summer. There, they made piles of all the items that they would need for the fall semester at UMW.

Ashley said that there were “some basic domestic staples” that were on the must go list.

A coffee maker.

After all, being freshmen, they may have that dread 8 a.m. class.

A vacuum.

Got to keep the dorm rooms clean and dust free.


Not all college dorm rooms have air conditioning.

“We have spent a lot of time worrying that we will under-pack, but it isn’t really a big problem, because we know our parents will bring anything we have forgotten at the first opportunity,” Ashley said. “We have been thinking more in terms of, ‘What will we need to survive the first week?’, as opposed to ‘What will we need for the first semester?’ ”

Burnett added that a dorm-sized refrigerator is essential for any college student.

But so is having the proper clothing.

Today, temperatures may be in the 80s. Burnett pointed out that the nice weather will not last for the next three months.

“Due to Blacksburg having the popular name Bleaksburg, I will be taking down my warm clothes,” he said. “It will be getting cold and windy down there in no time.”

Monica Figueroa anticipates making a few trips home during the fall months to gather her winter clothing.

Christopher Newport University in Newport News should enjoy warmer weather than Virginia Tech, she said.

So, her list had practical, everyday items that she marked as must-haves.

“Lots of cleaning supplies to disinfect everything!” Figueroa said. “Food like cereal and stuff to make sandwiches. Also, plates, silverware, and paper towels. School supplies and a calender. Don’t forget a good agenda, because it will be your life!”

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