How We Executed Move-In


It was hard to believe the day had finally arrived. I would finally be moving into my dorm room and starting college. I was excited for taking my first assistive technology course, making friends in my classes, and being right outside of Washington, DC. I was less excited about moving into my dorm and unpacking everything. Luckily, my mom, dad, and (teenage) brother helped to make sure everything went smoothly, and we seemed to be professionals by the time I moved in sophomore year. Here is how we executed moving in to my dorm without losing our minds. Please note that I live in a single room, meaning no roommate, with a suite style bathroom shared with 1-3 people.

Does it make sense to buy things in advance?

I was going to be attending a school in my state that was several hours away, and we were driving to get there. It made sense to buy most items at stores in my town, but we waited to buy bulkier items like my mini fridge and desktop computer (more on why I brought a desktop computer here) until we got to the school.

So, what’s in the car?

I have a list of everything I bought for college here (but not all of this was purchased before move-in day), but the items that came with me in the car freshman year were clothes, items for my bed, desk items (no electronics), bathroom items, closet items, a TV stand, and that was about it. Read about all of the technology in my dorm room here.  For ten uncommon/”weird” items I brought to college, read this post here.

Getting there

We took two cars when we traveled to campus, which is a 2.5-5 hour drive depending on traffic. Everything managed to fit in two cars. Everything could have fit in one car, but then people wouldn’t have fit. Note that I was not going to have a car on campus, as I don’t have a driver’s license- read how I travel by public transportation here.

Reusable containers

We packed everything in clear plastic boxes to save space and to cut down on waste. Each container was labeled with my name, building, and room number. Even the trash can had a label on it. We didn’t want to worry about things going missing, and nothing did.  There were garbage cans in the dorm lobby and places outside to put cardboard and other recyclable items, if needed.

Move-in crew

My college has student volunteers that bring bulky items up to the room. This is an awesome resource, and we really appreciated having them available. Check on the housing website when they will be available- usually, there is a time for each building/floor.

Locate the nearest entrance/exit to your room

I lived on the first floor my sophomore year, and we discovered I was right next to an exit door, right across the street from where we had parked. I sat by the door and opened it as my parents made trips out to the car, so we didn’t have to walk all the way around the building.

Unpack bed items first

Right after we got into the room and finished room inspection, my mom set up my bed so I could lie down on it while other things were unpacked. I have a chronic migraine condition and had a migraine coming on by the time we got to the dorm. It felt amazing to be able to rest without feeling overwhelmed about unpacking my bed. Read more about my college bed here.

Take measurements of everything

My brother measured the walls, floor space, desk, bed, closet, window and more so we knew what sized items would fit and how much space I have. My freshman dorm room size rivaled a small closet, as no more than two people could stand in it at the same time, and my sophomore/upperclassmen dorm room was huge!

Hello, RA!

My resident advisor, or RA, came to visit all of the rooms on move-in day in case we had any questions. This was really helpful when we couldn’t figure out how to work the school-provided vacuum.  The RAs in freshmen housing also did a program for the parents later in the evening to answer any questions.

Storage unit

The reason my sophomore year move-in went so smoothly is because we rented a storage unit, located about ten minutes from campus, and put a lot of items in there at the end of the year. We only had to drive up one car as a result.

Move-in can be very stressful, since dorm rooms can be much smaller than they appear, like my freshman dorm, or much larger than they appear, like my upperclassmen dorm. Just take things one at a time, and remember everything does not need to be unpacked, or purchased, all at once.

Good luck!

My Favorite Kitchen Appliances


Believe it or not, I have never set off the fire alarm while cooking something, nor have I given myself food poisoning or had to go to the hospital for stitches because I cut myself. People commonly expect that since I have low vision, I’m horrible with cooking and will either consistently overcook or undercook food, or injure myself in the process. While my family likes to tease me that I am used to the taste of burnt food, I have been able to tremendously improve cooking for myself in the last couple months. Here are the five appliances I use the most often to cook food and ensure that everything is prepared and cooked safely. All of these items can be purchased on Amazon Prime, and some can even be delivered in two hours with PrimeNow- more on that here.

Egg cooker

I never really ate a lot of eggs until I got to college, and now I love having poached eggs, scrambled eggs, soft-boiled eggs, omelets, and more. With the egg cooker, all of these are ready in seven minutes or less. It’s very easy to clean, and I have never had a problem with overcooked or undercooked eggs. One thing though- it sets off a loud alarm reminiscent of a smoke detector when it is done cooking, or if it is turned on before water is added. Get it here.

Rice cooker

I love eating grains like quinoa and rice, but if I am cooking on the stove and the water boils over, I’m not going to notice and will be left with a puddle on the stove or floor. I use the rice cooker for cooking grains, of course, but I’ve also used it to make pasta, oatmeal, soup, broth, steamed vegetables, and even curries. I have been surprised with how much I use it, and I appreciate that it is so easy to clean. Get it here.

NutriBullet

My family became obsessed with the original Magic Bullet when I was in middle school, but I am a huge fan of the NutriBullet model. I use it every morning to make a smoothie, and have never had to deal with chunks of frozen fruit in my drinks. I also have used it to chop items easily and make nut butters, as well as other recipes. Cleaning it is simple- I rinse out the components immediately after use and then hand wash them, though they are also dishwasher safe. Get it here.

Yonanas

This is far from being a kitchen essential, but I have been using this every day for a month now so I thought it should be included. The machine turns frozen bananas into the consistency of soft serve ice cream, and there’s infinite possibilities for flavors- my favorite combination is bananas, mixed berries, and peanut butter. I’ve also used it frequently when I have friends over, as a lot of my friends can’t have ice cream. It is a little loud, but it has never taken me longer than thirty seconds to use it and no one has ever complained about the noise. Get it here.

Vegetable chopper

While not technically an appliance, this tool is the reason I still have all ten of my fingers. All I have to do is load a fruit or vegetable into the top section and then push a lever down, and then food is chopped. In order to get food items to fit, I use knives that were designed for children to ensure they don’t cut themselves while chopping, and have found that the knife + chopper combination has been sufficient to prep any produce I please. The exact model of the veggie chopper is sold out, but here is a similar model.  The knives can be found here.

I love being able to cook for myself, and am grateful for these tools that have helped me be able to eat well. If you are cooking in a dorm, check the rules before purchasing any of these appliances to make sure they aren’t prohibited- there may be restrictions on devices with heating elements, certain wattages, or knife sizes. Since all of my items stay in the kitchen, I have had no issues with housing regulations.

For more on how I get food, read my post on Amazon Fresh here, a grocery delivery service for Prime members.

Here Is Everything I Bought For College


Below, I have outlined everything I purchased for my college dorm room, organized by store.  Not all of these items were purchased at the same time, but this is probably 90% of the stuff in my room.  Note that I live in a single room, meaning no roommate, and have a suite style bathroom I share with 1-3 other people.  I also excluded most technology from the list- read about all of the technology in my dorm room here.

Target

5 towels

Plastic bath tote

Collapsible hamper

Chromecast

2 sets of pocket sheets

6 individual pillowcases

2 fuzzy pillowcases

Dorm comforter

Fuzzy throw

Small blackout curtains

Curtain rod

Shower rings

Shower curtain

Remote controlled outlet

Small fan

Bed, Bath, and Beyond

Pillowtop mattress topper

Step ladder

Amazon

Fuzzy blanket

6 pillows

1 cooling pillow

1 bamboo pillow

Headset stand

Marble contact paper

Command hooks/strips

USB hub

Echo Dot

Chair support

Velvet hangers

Furniture corner guards

Scarf organizer

Walmart

Bedrail

Cork board

TV stand

Large trash can

Plastic bins

The Container Store

2 hanging shelves

7 Urbio boards

8 Bitsy containers

3 Stumpy containers

4 Twiggy containers

2 Biggy containers

Earrings storage

Yogibo

Caterpillar roll

Support

Moon pillow

Cozybo

 

For more on why I chose these items, check out these posts:

My College Bed

My College Desk

Ten Weird Things I Brought to College

Yogibo for Chronic Pain

My College Desk


If I’m not sitting in my bed, chances are I am typing away at my dorm desk.  Between running a blog, taking virtual classes, working on assignments, and talking to friends, it’s no surprise that I can easily spend several hours reading, typing, and browsing (learn more about reducing eye strain here).  Here are the various tools that help me with productivity, just in time for back-to-school shopping.  Links to products are included throughout the post.

The desk

My desk tabletop measures 22″ x 43″, and is 30″ tall.  There is a bottom opening that is 24″ wide, and three drawers on the side (note that they do not have drawer pulls).  Originally, my desk had a hutch screwed on the top of it, so to fit my computer, my brother unscrewed the hutch and we put it in a closet.  I did not have to file any accommodations to get this type of desk- more on filing housing accommodations here.

Marble contact paper
I wrapped the entirety of my desk in marble contact paper to protect against spills, scrapes, and other minor damages.  It took about three rolls to cover my entire desk.  A cool bonus feature is that I can write on it using dry erase markers.  Here are the rolls from Amazon.

desktop computer
Because I have low vision and type all of my assignments, I have a desktop computer that takes up a large portion of my desk.  I have an entire post on why I chose to bring a desktop computer to school here.  I have an HP Sprout, an unique computer with a large touchpad and 3D scanner that runs Windows 10.

headset
A few of my online classes required that students purchase a headset for interactive sessions, as well as recording audio for assignments.  I also purchased a headset stand that plugs into the computer via USB, and has a few USB ports built in as well.  Here is my headset stand– my headset was discontinued, but it is a wireless model by Logitech.

usb hub
I have a fifteen port USB hub that allows me to plug multiple devices into my computer at once.  Normally, I plug in things that I don’t need to unplug often.  Currently, I have my headset stand, cables for my main electronics, my wireless mouse, Echo Dot, printer, and my wireless keyboard plugged in, and I have extra ports as well.  Get a similar device here.

urbio perch
I have one of the Urbio Perch magnetic storage systems hanging on the side of my desk.  I have two of the “Bitsy” cups and one of the “Stumpy” cups.  These cups hold my highlighters, sharpies, markers, and pens easily, and I’ve never had any issues with them falling down.  Here is a link to Urbio products available.

printer
While this is technically not on my desk, I got a Brother printer and paper on super sale, and it is fantastic for when I have to print a class assignment at the last minute.  The printer sits on top of my mini-fridge about five feet from my desk.

amazon echo dot
I have an entire post on the Echo Dot here, and it has been amazing to see how much it has helped me in college.  I most frequently use it to listen to music, check the weather, perform calculations, and listen to the news.

surge protector
I have a lot of electronics in my room- see the whole round up here.  A surge protector is a definite necessity!  Please note that some colleges may require students to buy a certain brand, or have a limit on how many outlets the protector can have.  In addition, my college bans extension cords from dorm rooms.

medication drawer

Medication

In order to help me figure out how many pills are in a dose, I added tactile labels to the lids of pill bottles so I would know how many to take at a time (get the labels here).  Some of the over-the-counter medications I keep in my apartment include allergy pills, Neosporin, Ibuprofen, and Aleve.  I keep all of my medications in their original containers, and have copies of prescription labels stored to my computer, where my name is clearly displayed.

Band-aids

Part of life with low vision is constantly bumping into items and falling over.  As a result, I have amassed quite the collection of band-aids, and store them in small fabric pouches for easy access.

Spare glasses

My glasses are an absolute necessity for me- if I’m not wearing them, I’m either asleep or something is horribly wrong.  I keep my spare glasses in my top drawer for easy access, and my friends also know this so they can grab the glasses if need be.

Braces

I keep an ankle and wrist brace for helping me deal with spasms, as well as various copper-infused compression sleeves.  I believe I got these from the local drug store.

First aid kit

My first aid kit was a prepackaged kit from Target- get it here.  It contained 140 pieces when I bought it- items like gauze, tweezers, band-aids, tape, gloves, instant cold pack, and wipes.  I probably could have purchased all of these items separately, but I like having the plastic box.  Inside the box, I also have medication that may be more likely to spill, such as ear drops and eye drops.  I also have a smart thermometer that synchronizes with my iPad and Android phone, and while I may not use it a lot, I purchased it in a flash sale on Amazon for less than $10, and appreciate having a thermometer I can see.  Get it here.

Pain relief

I have various pain relief devices to help me with my chronic migraines and chronic pain.  If there is one that I couldn’t live without, it’s my portable TENS unit by IcyHot.  It feels like a massage and delivers powerful relief on my back, shoulder, and legs.  I have two units because I thought that the unit for knees was different than the one for back pain, but it’s only the pads that are different.  I literally recommend this every time someone says they are in pain.  Aleve makes a similar device as well, and both frequently go on sale- I got mine for $20.  Get it here.

Extra cables

I keep extra microUSB and lightning cables in case one of my cables suddenly breaks.  I get these from Amazon, and I get free two hour delivery as well.  There is also a vending machine on campus that allows customers to purchase cables and AC (wall) converters.

Assistive technology devices

I keep smaller assistive technology devices like magnifiers, eReaders, and iPad cases in here for easy reference.  I have more assistive technology devices than average because this is what I am studying.  My E-Bot Pro does not fit in a drawer, and instead is next to my desk.

Headphones

I keep a couple of pairs of earbuds that I received with various devices, as well as a wireless Bluetooth headset that can connect to my phone.  In addition, I have a pair of ear plugs that I use for band and for taking tests.  Get them here.


My bottom drawer is where I keep all of my printer paper, cardstock, printer supplies, and other bulky items.  I also store a sliding table for my E-Bot Pro in here that I received from the Department of Blind and Visually Impaired.  This is twice the size of the rest of my other drawers.


At my desk chair, I have a back support pillow that wraps around the back of the chair.  The support level is amazing and I can type for hours without aggravating my back.  I love it so much, I got it for my dad for Christmas, and he uses it while sitting on the couch.  Get it here.

I am very lucky to have so much technology accessible to me, as well as a quiet place to work.  I did not receive any form of compensation for reviewing any of these items, I genuinely love them and recommend them to everyone.

Ten “Weird” Things I Brought to College


As a student with low vision and chronic illness, my dorm room looks a little different than a typical room. I live in a single room, meaning I have no roommate, and share a bathroom with one to three people, as opposed to with the entire hall. I have been very fortunate to have this housing arrangement, and cannot recommend it enough for students with chronic migraines. Because of this atypical arrangement, I brought a couple of “weird” things to college with me to help me both inside and outside the classroom. Here are ten of the items:

Bed rail

My first morning at college, I rolled out of bed, literally- I fell from three feet in the air and landed on my face. My parents bought me a toddler bedrail for me to use at night so this experience wouldn’t happen again. I found it also keeps all of my blankets from falling on the floor. A bunch of my friends even went on to buy bedrails for their own dorm bed. My parents found a bedrail for $20 at Walmart.

Desktop computer

I will have a full post on why I chose to bring a desktop computer, but here are the simple reasons- about 50% of my classes are virtual, I rely on digital tools for school, and type all of my assignments due to dysgraphia. My specific computer also has a built in 3D scanner so I can easily enlarge items.

Contact paper

Having low vision means I’m more prone to spilling things and knocking them over- it happens so often, my mom called to tell me she saw a child with glasses knock over a cup and thought of me. I decided to cover my dresser, desk, and closet doors in contact paper to help protect against water that will inevitably be knocked over, or other messes. It cleans up very easily and doesn’t damage the furniture. I got marble contact paper from Amazon for about $7 a roll, and used 7 rolls total.

Blackout curtains

I have severe sensitivity to light when I have migraines, and require a completely dark environment to recover.  Lightning storms, or as I call them, nature’s strobe lights, can also affect my recovery.  My family purchased these blackout curtains from Target that block out all light when they are closed, and I had them fire proofed for free at a college event on campus, as curtains are required to be fire proofed in the dorms.  I got two of these curtains here.

Google Chromecast

There’s a full review of the Chromecast here, though I have used this device often. I stream videos, use it as a second monitor for my computer, screen-cast my phone, and more. It was a little difficult to set up, but my post explains how I did it. Get one here.

Rolling backpack

Starting my senior year of high school, I would use a rolling backpack for all of my school supplies. I am able to carry all of the materials I need for class without throwing out my back or shoulders. While there are some days I have to use a backpack (like when I have to bring my E-Bot Pro or musical instrument to class), it has saved me on many days. My backpack was purchased at Costco, but I found a similar one here.

Video camera

While my college has video cameras for students to borrow, I chose to bring my own video camera to school. I had purchased my camera about a year prior for a mentorship, and enjoyed doing videography in high school. I have used the camera surprisingly often, from doing class projects to practicing lectures to entering contests, along with helping many friends with film projects. In addition, I brought a tripod that fits in a bag stored underneath my bed, and a camera bag. My camera has been discontinued, but it is a JVC shock, drop, and freeze proof camera with a touchscreen.

Tons of stuff for my bed

I have a full list of the items on my bed here, and probably brought way more items for my bed than the average student, mostly because I spend a lot of time in bed recovering from migraines. As a result, I probably have one of the coziest beds on campus.

Urbio

The Urbio Perch is a wall storage system that uses command strips and magnets. I use Urbio boards on both my walls and on furniture- I attach pens and highlights to the side of my desk, toiletries to the side of my dresser, and I have four boards on my wall that contain my hair dryer, chargers, winter items, and important papers. Stay tuned for a post on how they look in my dorm room. Get it from Container Store here.

Echo Dot

This is a new addition to my electronics collection, but it has been an amazing tool. I wrote a full review on it here, but some of the many things I use it for include as a talking clock, timer/alarm, weather forecasts, calculator, news source, and especially for music. Get it here on Amazon.

While these are definitely uncommon items to pack for college, I have gotten a ton of use out of them and am glad I didn’t have to have my parents mail me these items later.

15 Addresses to Memorize in College


Recently, a sighted friend at my college asked me how I was able to navigate campus with a blindness cane better than they could without one. I have gotten lost several times on campus, but I have found that having important campus addresses input into my phone, as well as memorized, has helped me tremendously with learning to navigate. Here are the fifteen addresses I keep immediately for reference. This is also a great list of places to go over during orientation and mobility instruction.

General campus address

While this isn’t very useful for navigating around campus or getting to a specific location, having the general address is helpful when trying to find where campus is, or for filling out forms that ask for a generic address.

Dorm building

This is your home away from home, and it’s very important to know how to get there. There is a huge sign in the lobby of my building with the address, which is necessary for contacting emergency services. It’s good to have a list of instructions on how to locate the dorm- for example, 1411 is located on the fourth floor, right side, next to the trash room.

Neighboring buildings

Whenever the fire alarm goes off, I often navigate to neighboring buildings so I don’t have to deal with the flashing lights. I also put down my delivery address for Amazon PrimeNow and Amazon Fresh as a neighboring building, as it is easier to locate those buildings from the street.

Dining hall(s)

I frequented the dining halls so often my freshman year that my phone recognized the dining hall address as my “home.” It’s very important to be able to find food, as well as navigate the halls themselves.

Disability Services

This is in the same building as a student center, but I have found myself getting lost several times when walking here. Having the exact location of the office is also helpful if it is a large building- though from my experience, staff are likely to notice a lost-looking person with a blindness cane and show them where Disability Services is.  Learn how to create a file here.

Neighborhood desk

Locked out? Learn how to walk to the neighborhood desk both with and without a blindness cane. Half of the time I’ve been locked out, my blindness cane has been in my room. The neighborhood desk also has free rentals for items like DVD players, board games, cleaning supplies, and rolling carts.

Library

Yes, libraries have so much more than just print resources! It’s a common meeting place for students and study groups, too.  The library often has free rentals for technology and quiet study environments, as well as assistive technology resources.

Class buildings

Knowing how to get to class is extremely important. I write out building addresses, followed by directions to get to the classroom. A lot of my professors keep the door open before class and listen for my blindness cane, or watch to make sure I make it to class. One professor started doing this after they noticed I would constantly walk by the classroom when trying to locate it.

Advisor’s office

While having my major’s department location is helpful, I have benefitted a lot more from having the address for my advisor’s office. My advisors have helped me frequently with navigating to other buildings, especially in mediocre weather conditions.  My advisor also has my dorm building name written down in case they have to help me navigate back to my apartment.

Stadium

I have had many band performances inside the stadium, and many school events are also hosted there. Some examples include freshman welcome week, concerts, graduation, department events, speeches, and sports events.

Dorms of friends

Knowing how to get to dorms of friends is great for when a friend can’t come meet you outside your dorm. I keep a mix of addresses, both for buildings close to me and further away. I also keep one address for an off campus friend that I can access in case of emergency.

Student center

Another popular gathering place, I often navigate to the student center for club meetings, food, and for meeting friends. I would say I’m probably there 3-4 times a week.

Mailing address

The mailing address for packages is often different than the general or dorm address. Make sure to write this down so you are able to order items online, as well as instructions on how to get to the post office.

Nearest parking garage

While I don’t drive, I give this address to visitors so they are able to easily find parking.  It’s important to be able to walk there for escorting guests around campus, or for making trips to and from the car.

Bus stops

Being able to navigate off campus is almost as important as navigating on campus. I keep the bus stop addresses, as well as their neighboring buildings, with a large print copy of the bus schedule.

I programmed all of these addresses as contacts in my phone so I can use Google Maps for walking directions. I also have the information stored on my iPad and other electronics. I found the addresses on a public document published by the college. This has been a fantastic resource in helping me make sure I don’t get lost every day….just every few days.

Life with Chronic Migraines


The year is 2011, but I’m in too much pain to remember that at the moment. I’ve forgotten a lot of things- my own name, the name of my cat, what town I lived in, and who the president is. All I can sense is levels of pain that I have never felt in my life before, and I wish they would stop. My parents thought I was having a stroke, the local hospital thought it was a drug overdose. It wouldn’t be until three days later at the children’s hospital that I would get pain relief and the diagnosis of chronic migraines, something no one else in my family had.

Chronic migraines are defined as “more than fifteen headache days per month over a three month period of which more than eight are migrainous, in the absence of medication over use (International Headache Society).” Migraines commonly run in families, and can coexist with other neurological conditions as well. Another name for chronic migraines can be chronic daily headache. Since 2011, I have had more than 15 headache days a month, sometimes reaching up to 30 headache days, where I have a debilitating migraine every day, a symptom connected to my diagnosis of Chiari Malformation.

For me, my migraines are drug resistant, though my neurologists over the years have had me try several different medications with awful side effects. Topamax made me never hungry, Verapamil made me dizzy, Amytryptiline and Imitrex gave me allergic reactions, and Neurotin gave me worse side effects than I ever could have imagined. I was missing school to go sit in the nurse’s office or missing band performances because the flash photography was similar in frequency to a strobe light, my biggest trigger. I had to navigate freshman year of high school while on large amounts of migraine drugs with weird side effects, yet still having chronic pain. I wish that experience on no one.

I started to manage my symptoms with massage therapy and acupuncture, and found that helped a lot with managing my migraines. It didn’t lessen their frequency, but because there was less pain in my neck and shoulders, the pain seemed more tolerable. I also start finding simple remedies that help me manage my symptoms, like peppermint essential oil to combat nausea or doing yoga to release muscle tension. Using alternative medicine has helped me a lot, though I understand that it isn’t meant to cure my migraines.

My senior year of high school, I was in almost all virtual classes for several reasons, one of which was my chronic migraines. I would sleep through my first period class, come to school for second and third period, and often leave during fourth period. Alternatively, I would stay through fourth period and then go home and crash in bed. Sleep was really the only way I could manage my migraines, which could be triggered by flashing lights, loud noises, the weather, or seemingly nothing at all. Food triggers were ruled out as the cause of my migraines, as well as vitamin deficiencies and similar conditions. My migraines were confirmed to be caused by Chiari Malformation in October 2015.

Fortunately, I have been able to attend college several hours from home and continue to manage my migraine condition. I have a private bedroom, meaning I do not have a roommate, but do have 1-3 suitemates who I share a bathroom and living area with. My disability housing accommodations state that I should have a lower-level private room with air conditioning, and the ability to make my room completely dark, as I am sensitive to light and sound when I have migraines. I also have a file with Office of Disability Services that says I have migraines. I schedule my college classes at times where I usually don’t get migraines and often come home from class and sleep (read more about my bed here). I have also gone to class with migraines before, as I know the migraine won’t improve whether I’m sitting in my room or sitting in the classroom.

Often times, people can’t believe that I am able to function through my migraines so well, and ask how I am able to live through this pain. The truth is, I have two options- let everything consume me and just sit in my room all day, or get used to the pain and live my life. While that first option may be beneficial for some people (and I understand pain is relative), I have chosen the second option of developing a superhuman pain tolerance and just living life. I do not like talking much about my condition in real life, because I do not want sympathy or attention from others, especially people I barely know, as I can manage my pain just fine. My close friends and family know the depth of my condition, and that’s more than enough.

I can’t say that life with chronic migraines is the best thing ever, but I can say it has made me a more understanding person. Whenever someone around me experiences migraines, I can relate on a deep level to the pain, sensitivity to the world, and feeling like hair weighs 100 pounds. I understand there are people who have it worse than me, but my hope is that my experiences with chronic migraines can help someone else understand their condition more.

My College Bed

My College Bed

When I was shopping in preparation for freshman move-in, one of the main things I focused on was my bed.  I have Chiari Malformation, which causes severe back and neck pain, as well as chronic migraines that can only be treated with sleep, so I spend more time resting in bed than the average college student.  Because of this, it was extremely important that my bed be as comfortable as possible, and be a place where I could easily recharge, as well as manage my pain.  Here is everything I have for my bed, starting from the foundation.  I live in a single room, meaning I am the only one in my bedroom.

Mattress

While I didn’t have to buy this, I thought it might be helpful to show off my mattress with nothing on it.  While it is possible to request a full size mattress through disability housing, I have the standard college sized mattress, which is a Twin XL.  After sleeping on it at college orientation with nothing (and lots of back spasms), I got an idea of what I would want to look for in padding.

Wamsutta Cool and Fresh Fiberbed

The Wamsutta Cool and Fresh Fiberbed is the only mattress topper I have ever needed for my dorm bed.  It is very soft, but still provides fantastic support.  It also fits nicely in the college washing machines.  I never had to add any other mattress supports, as this provides everything I needed.  It is a soft pillow top cover that fits my mattress exactly.  It can be found at Bed, Bath and Beyond and Amazon.

Room Essentials Pocket Sheets

I bought a fitted sheet for my bed as well as several different pillowcases from the Room Essentials brand at Target.  They are easy to care for and remind me of t-shirt material.  One of my favorite features is that the fitted sheet contains side pockets, which work as a great holding place for my glasses at night.  I bought two fitted sheets and seven pillowcases (more on why I bought so many later in the post).  Sheets can be purchased here, and pillowcases can be purchased here, but are only available in-store in some regions.

Life Comfort Blanket

I bought this blanket from Costco about two years ago and loved how soft it was- in fact, I fell asleep during move-in while using it.  One downside though was that it MUST be washed before first use, or else it sheds everywhere!  I was covered in gray fuzzballs, but the problem went away right after I washed the blanket.  It can be found on Amazon here.

Twin XL Heated blanket

My college allows students to have heated blankets, but not heated mattress pads.  I received a heated blanket as a Christmas present in high school, and it has been one of my favorite gifts ever.  I got a Twin XL sized blanket for college, and I use it often- I like to turn it on a few minutes before I go to bed so that my bed warms up.  I cannot find a link for the one I have, but it was purchased for less than $50 at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

Room Essentials Microplush Blanket

This blanket is great for layering with other blankets, or simply on its own.  I have a very similar blanket on bed at home, so I knew I would want one in college as well.  It hangs off my bed a bit, but I think that is because of how my bed is pushed against the wall.  Get it at Target. 

Room Essentials or Xhilaration Comforter

I have both Room Essentials and Xhilaration comforters layered on my bed.  They are fairly lightweight, and I can also rearrange my blankets so that I am sleeping on top of one (the comforter pictured is from Xhilaration).  I found very little difference between the Twin and Twin XL sizes between these brands, as the comforter on top was labeled a Twin size and it generously covers my bed.  They come in a variety of designs- here is my Room Essentials comforter, and here is my exact Xhilaration comforter.

Yogibo Caterpillar Roll

This pillow is what keeps me from rolling face first into the wall every morning, a problem that I often faced when I lived in a dorm with concrete walls.  It also provides great support for my back when I sleep on my side.  Get it from the Yogibo website or on Amazon, with Prime shipping.

Room Essentials Extra-Firm Pillow

I needed a pillow that was cheap in comparison to my other pillows that I could use for layering, so picked up one of these at Target.  I don’t use this as my main pillow, so it didn’t really matter how much support it had.  Get it at Target here.

Beauty Rest Extra Firm Pillows

Why do I have five of these pillows?  Well, with all of my different spasms, I have found that these pillows, in combination with firmer ones, provide optimal support and help me rest when I have terrible pain.  They do not put additional strain on my neck, and I can sleep in any position that I want.  Why do I have an odd number of these pillows when they come in packages of two?  I don’t know.  I originally purchased these from Costco, but they appear to no longer be available.  Get them from Amazon with Prime shipping here.

Yogibo Sleepybo

I talk about Yogibo products more here, but this Sleepybo is a very firm pillow that reminds me of my beloved Yogibo at home.  This pillow works amazing when I have pain behind my eyes or for elevating my legs.  It is also one of the main pillows I use at night.  It is currently out of stock on the Yogibo website, but can be found here.

Purelux comfort cool pillow

Another great Costco purchase, this is the firmest pillow I have, and the cooling sensation is absolutely amazing when my migraines make it feel like my hair weighs a hundred pounds.  It also has a curved end, so I can insert in a neck pillow if I need one, which works awesome for when I have neck spasms.  I found it on Amazon here.

Cozybo

Since I use so many blankets,  I like to keep a lightweight one at the top for when I am sensitive to temperature, or suddenly develop a migraine and find that it’s too much energy to be underneath the covers.  As mentioned in my Yogibo review, this is my brother’s favorite blanket and Yogibo product, because it is both warm and lightweight, and the material is very smooth.  Get it on the Yogibo website here.

How I stack pillows

When I stack my pillows to go to sleep, I usually do it in this order:

  • Cooling pillow on the bottom
  • Beautyrest pillow
  • Sleepybo
  • Beautyrest pillow
  • Beautyrest pillow between pillow stack and wall
  • Extra firm pillow on side facing wall
  • Beautyrest pillow on side facing wall
  • Extra Beautyrest pillow for rearranging or against the wall

Toddler Safety Bedrail

So, my first morning in my dorm room, I rolled out of bed…and then fell three feet to the floor because I forgot how high the bed was.  My parents bought me one of these toddler safety bedrails from Wal-Mart and set it up for me, so I wouldn’t do something like that again.  Weirdly enough, I’ve gotten lots of compliments from friends who would visit my apartment and talk about how they were constantly falling out of bed.  It also helps to reinforce my stack of pillows. Get it from Walmart here.

I am lucky to be able to sleep for hours at a time, and have so many things to help me sleep as well.  A lot of these items will be on sale in the coming weeks for back-to-school, so keep an eye out and set price drop alerts!

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10 Staff Members To Meet in College


Before I even started at my university, I had already talked to almost three dozen faculty and staff members on the phone and in person to ensure that I would not have any disruptions in receiving my approved classroom and housing accommodations.  Because of this, I was able to learn what staff members would best help me advocate for myself and that would help me while I was in the classroom or in my dorm.  Here are ten staff members that I highly recommend talking to before move-in or the first day of classes.  Please note that some colleges might have more than one person in these positions.

Disability Services Coordinator

Before I even applied to my university, I interviewed the Disability Services office multiple times about how they handled students with low vision (read more about my questions here).  Luckily, the department is very proactive, allowing students to set up accommodations before any problems sink in, and I was assigned a coordinator that specifically worked with students who were blind or had low vision.  The first staff member I worked with was a wonderful resource and helped me write out an accommodation plan that ensured I would receive all of my services  I can’t say enough nice things about them.  Read more about my experiences setting up a file here.

Assistive Technology Specialist

Assistive technology will be your best friend in college, and it always alarms me when students don’t embrace it.  I was an unique case when I arrived at my university- as one of my colleagues puts it, “most college students don’t come in knowing what assistive technology is, let alone wanting to study it.”  The assistive technology department can help with assessments, scanning in textbooks, and providing access to labs.  Some assistive technology departments also organize testing centers for students with disabilities.

Testing Coordinator

The testing coordinator helps make sure that students are able to take tests, quizzes, exams, and more in an environment where they can receive their accommodations.  Students can be referred to this department either by the assistive technology specialist or through Disability Services.  Testing accommodations are typically written in to the Disability Services file, but some testing centers develop their own student files.  It helps to talk to this person before the first day of classes because some majors may require a placement test for math, foreign language, or English classes.  Read more about my experiences with the testing center here.

Special Populations Housing Coordinator

This person is likely part of the committee that handles the special housing requests, and ultimately assigns students with special housing needs to their spaces.  When I had issues with not being approved for special housing as well as my first housing assignment, this person helped ensure that I received the accommodations I requested, and assisted me in finding an accessible room.  This was incredibly helpful with my housing this year, as I am able to stay in the same dorm room that I did last year.  Read more about my housing accommodations here.

Resident Director

This is the staff member that oversees the dorm building and actually lives there as well.  My resident director has been awesome about relaying important information and is a great person to talk to if there is a problem.  They also have helped me with navigating outside and preparing for inclement weather.

Academic Advisor

Each major has an advisor that assists students with picking out class schedules, and can also assist if there is an issue with the professor.  They also tend to be very honest about which professors embrace having students with disabilities in the classroom, and which professors are more hesitant.  Some departments may have advisors also be professors, while others have one or two people that are full-time advisors.

Student Support Specialist

For students who are apprehensive about a situation or potential situation, talking to a member of the Student Support staff can be a great help.  When I was worried about a situation with another student, the staff listened to all of my concerns and helped me develop a plan to ensure that I wouldn’t have to worry about the situation anymore.  This department usually has a confidentiality agreement in place, meaning that they do not have to report what is said in the meetings unless the student requests that they do so.

Security/Police

I made a note with university police that I use a blindness cane and have low vision, so that they would be able to assist me easier if I called.  I also made a note of what room I lived in on campus so if there was a fire alarm and I couldn’t escape, they would know where to find me.  One of my friends who has a severe medical condition gave police an abbreviated medical history, so they could assist emergency medical staff in administering care.

Student Health

While I didn’t work with them until I had my first visit, having a copy of your medical history and health insurance with the Student Health office can be invaluable, especially if you have a chronic illness.  I have a note in my file that I have Chiari Malformation, chronic pain, chronic migraines, and low vision.  Read more about my experiences with Student Health here.

Mail Services Coordinator

This may seem random, but talking to the Mail Services coordinator is very important.  With my low vision, I cannot use combination locks, so I contacted this person to ensure that the mailbox assigned to me would be one that uses a key.  Another one of my friends contacted them to ensure their mailbox would be accessible to someone using mobility aids that couldn’t bend over.  In the event that it’s impossible to go get mail, you can contact the coordinator to authorize someone else to pick up mail as well- I authorized my resident advisor to get my mail after I was in a car accident, and other friends have authorized me to pick up their mail while they were in the hospital.

While not everyone may need to talk to each type of person on the list, I have been grateful for the resources that each of these people have provided me with.  They all have helped, in one way or another, to ensure that I am thriving in the college environment.

How To Prepare for Extreme Weather on Campus


On President’s Day weekend in 2016, a large amount of snow came to visit my college campus right outside of Washington, DC. I wasn’t prepared in the slightest for the incoming snow- sure, I had a small amount of food in my dorm room, but since I ate at the dining hall all the time, it was mostly snack foods. I wound up trapped inside of my dorm room for two days, eating peanut butter and jelly crackers and daydreaming about what I could be eating, if only I could walk out of my dorm building. Believe me, once the snow melted, I was beyond thrilled to be eating normal food again. Here are some other tips I’ve learned to help students who are on campus during extreme weather.

Get food in advance

Now that I use Amazon Fresh, I have a small stockpile of frozen dinners and other healthy foods in my fridge at all times, in addition to non perishable foods I can have in case the power goes out. However, I still enjoy utilizing my meal plan to stock up on food prior to a weather event. I bring containers in my backpack to the dining hall and fill them with things such as salads (dressing in a separate container), wraps, peanut butter and jelly, grain salads, soups, pasta (sauce in separate container), fruit, pizza, and whatever else I can. I just put everything in my fridge when I get back to my room and reheat it as needed. My school does have a rule against taking food outside of the dining hall, but they tend to be more relaxed about this rule before and during extreme weather.

Call your professors before leaving for class

During Superstorm Jonas last year, I attempted to walk to my class halfway across campus. I wound up making it about halfway before falling down on the ice and having to call a police escort to take me back to my dorm. My professor later asked me why I attempted to walk to class, and said I could have just called him and said I couldn’t make it, and I would have been exempt. So, before leaving for class in extreme weather, call your professors and see if conditions are stable enough to walk to class. Another benefit is that the call can serve as a timer to see how long it takes to get to class.

Contact Environmental Health Office for guidance

While they can’t tell you to skip class, the Environmental Health Office can tell you which areas of campus may still be covered in ice or that may be difficult to navigate. They also can provide alternative routes to buildings, if needed.

If you must go outside, use a human guide

To avoid injury, walk with someone if you must go outside. This reduces the risk of injury. If no friends are able to walk with you, ask for an escort from campus security. As someone once told me, it is much easier to help a person than it is to have to find a person when they are reported missing.

Protect important items in sealed plastic bins

While this wasn’t related to weather, my friend had to deal with a pipe bursting in their dorm room and water getting everywhere. Luckily, they thought to put all important items in plastic bins so they wouldn’t be ruined if the dorm room turned into a swimming pool. For larger technology such as a desktop computer, I balance an umbrella over it in case of damage.

Have someone verify that all windows are closed

It helps to have an extra pair of eyes make sure that everything is secure. I often can’t tell when something is closed all the way, so having someone confirm that for me is reassuring. The last thing I want is a winter wonderland in my room!

Block windows, if necessary

Lighting is nature’s strobe lights for me, and strobe lights trigger migraines, so in the event of a severe storm, I prop things against the window to make sure I can’t see any lightning. I normally use an inflated air mattress or cardboard.

If the power goes out

Because of my vision impairment, I am used to navigating areas that I can’t see very well. In order to make things easier, have a flashlight or other handheld source of light that is not on a phone (the flashlight drains battery). Contact the resident advisor and/or resident director to notify them that you are in the building and may need assistance in case of evacuation. My school often utilizes their emergency alert system if the power goes out in more than two buildings, so watch for text messages, phone calls, or emails for further instructions.

Go to an off campus location

If extreme weather is likely to last more than a few days, I have my mom come pick me up and drive me home. My home is about three hours from my college, and I am very grateful that my mom is able to help me. For students who may not be so close to home, find a friend who lives locally and go stay with them. A couple of my friends have even stayed in a hotel near campus when there was no heat in their dorm room.

While extreme weather can be very stressful to students living on campus, hopefully these tips will help you be prepared for the next hurricane or blizzard to come your way!