I brought seven notebooks on this trip. (This trip is my trip to Washington, and it’s not so much of a trip as a sojourn, and it’s not so much of a sojourn as a study abroad.) But apparently seven notebooks is not enough space to take down all of my thoughts, so here are a few.

Here is a guide I jotted down to help anyone who follows me through the first week on campus. No, it’s not oddly specific and it’ll definitely be helpful to people not in my exact specific context.


How do I fold a fitted sheet?

  1. Shake out your sheet until both pairs of underwear that were hiding in it fall out.
  2. Search “how to fold a fitted sheet” on YouTube.
  3. Watch the first video. Attempt folding the corners into each other. Get frustrated.
  4. Watch another video, promising to be the only video you will need. Completely fail at following the instructions that sound deceptively simple. Get more frustrated.
  5. Find a Martha Stewart video about folding a fitted sheet. Attempt to keep up with the instructions that the sheet folding expert swears are easy. Laugh at Martha’s joke about being divorced, so as to distract yourself from the fact that you still don’t understand how to fold a fitted sheet. Ponder on the fact that Martha Stewart became a homewares and lifestyle powerhouse despite a former career as a stockbroker and a conviction for insider trading. Get more frustrated and annoyed at Martha Stewart.
  6. Watch another video. Attempt to fold the corners over each other on your bed in a completely new way, as if this will help.
  7. Roll the sheet over itself.
  8. Develop a passionate anger for your paradoxical desire to see things neat and your inability to actually make them neat.
  9. Throw the sheet onto the floor petulantly.
  10. Follow a few of the rules from the videos about folding corners over one another and then eventually scrunch it up but fold it neatly and put it on the shelf.
  11. Tell your mother that you can’t fold a fitted sheet. Get frustrated when she tells you that you have to fold the corners in on each other. Again.
  12. Have a rest on the other set of sheets you bought from Wal-Mart.

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How do I fix the dry rot on my wall?

Stick a copy of the Bill of Rights on top of it and pretend it’s not there. (Any of America’s founding documents will do the job. The Constitution, which is four pages, is best saved for larger stains.)

How do I cope with the obscenely bright light shining through a grid of glass windows on my wall, facing the aisles between apartment buildings?

Buy an eye mask from Bed, Bath & Beyond. (A padded one with moons and stars and things so as to not get a headache from the pressure on your eyelids.)

What do I do when my flatmates move my shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel to the bottom of the four-rung shower caddy?

  1. Buy larger versions of the same items from the Lush on M Street.
  2. Decide unilaterally to be more comfortable in the apartment by asserting your right to more space.
  3. Move whatever is on the second rung of the caddy to the bottom and replace it with your things.

How do I get my flatmates to stop watching loud documentaries about the production of honey in the living room at 1am?

Tweet exactly what you hear in a thread. They won’t stop the behaviour, and will likely repeat it every night, but you’ll have an outlet to vent your ceaseless frustration.

What do I tell myself if I catch myself thinking “maybe I’d be happier if I were at home and not on exchange”?

but ya are blanche

What’s the best laundry detergent to buy?

Definitely liquid based. You can moderate the amount you use based on the size of your load, which you can’t do with pods. Also, consuming liquid detergent is not (yet) a meme.

What do I do if I lose my keys?

Honestly I have no idea and I’m terrified of finding out.

How does eating in the dining hall work?

  1. The person at the entrance to the dining hall swipes your card, gives it back to you, and does not make eye contact.
  2. You walk through the hall and glance at each of the options.
  3. You make a selection and put this on your plate. This may entail seeing something new that looks appetising, which goes on your plate, but does not end up tasting like the thing it was labelled to be. It may also entail you giving up and putting two slices of plain cheese pizza on your plate and, if available, some curly fries.
  4. Fill up a plastic cup with something from the soda fountain. Do not select pink lemonade; it does not taste like the pink lemonade from Bondi Pizza that makes your mother roll her eyes and your father scoff every time you order it. It tastes like swill. Also, do not select Gatorade. Drinking Gatorade from a soda fountain is like drinking Moët from a goon bag.
  5. Deposit your empty dishes on the metal conveyor belt in the small nook on the right hand side of the room.
  6. Return to your room and inhale a family-sized bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos.

How do you cope with the sudden bursts of existential angst, homesickness, utter confusion, and sheer terror?

You don’t. But every time they happen, they’re a bit less bad than the last time they happen. Just maybe, by the time you’re getting ready to leave, you’ll realise there was nothing to be terrified of. (At least, I hope so.)

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