Check In: My Last First Day of School

This past Tuesday was one of the most confusing days of my life. Why? Because it was my last first day of school. Like…ever. That’s right, I have now officially begun the last semester of my collegiate career, and I am, to put it lightly, completely freaking out.

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How was I supposed to feel? Happy? Sad? Nervous? Confused? Excited? Stressed? Relieved? A combination of all the above? Because those are all the emotions I experienced at some point on Tuesday.

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Believe me, beginning the last lap of college is a very bizarre feeling. At this point in my life, I have more on my plate than ever before. I’m taking all 400-level courses that actually challenge me — in a good way, I can see the finish line (and therefore the beginning of the rest of my life), and yet, I want to try to enjoy my last few months of being a 22-year-old, freeloading college student. Somebody, please send help.

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As I walked around campus Tuesday, saying hi to new and old friends, and reading the syllabi of the last college courses I’ll ever take, I noticed a few things.

First, I am more sure of myself and what I’m doing than ever before. That includes last semester. It seemed that some miracle occurred on Tuesday where the stars lined up and for the first time ever, nothing phased me on my first day of classes. I knew exactly how to handle everything that was thrown my way, and I felt confident about myself.

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Second, I noticed that I began thinking about my experiences during my very first week of college in August 2010. The first day of classes that semester coincided with my 18th birthday, so that day brought strange feelings of growing up in several ways at once. This past Tuesday, I remembered exactly how I felt the first time I saw my college campus — the dorms, the student union, the quad, and so on — and I wondered if any students passing by me were experiencing the same emotions. I tried to start thinking of my current experiences on campus as being my last. That way, when I look back on my time in college — whether it be in one year or fifty — I will have snapshots in my mind of more than parties and late-night study sessions; I will have memories of the seemingly mundane experiences, like walking around on campus and grabbing lunch in the student union.

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Finally, I realized that there will never be another time quite as perfect as this. I feel great about my major, I have plenty of friends and connections on campus and in the community, I know exactly what I want to do with my life and how to get there, and yet, I still get four months to live a quintessential college lifestyle. I’m not yet a part of the real world, so my responsibilities seem relatively miniscule, but I have no doubt that I will succeed in the not-so-distant future.

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Everything is perfect at this point in time, so I want to ensure I make the most of it. My goal for this semester is to not make excuses for anything, but instead, to try everything. You’re only in college once, so now is my time to experience what I haven’t before. Everyone says that your last semester goes by the quickest; let’s hope that I can have a little fun along the way. It certainly doesn’t hurt that I’ve already booked my flights for spring break!

How were your first few days of the spring semester? Tell on Twitter and I might retweet you!
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Home Sweet Apartment

Last week, I was contacted by the community manager at Compass, an innovative real estate platform that matches people with the NYC neighborhoods that best suit their personalities. They asked me to write a post for their current project, “Starter Stories,” sharing images and thoughts about how I made my first apartment into a little home. I was not paid to do this post for Compass, but I did take a look around the company’s website. For those looking for houses or apartments in New York City, I highly recommend checking out Compass!

If you asked my parents about my interior design habits, they would tell you that I’ve always had a knack for decorating and making a space my own. Previously, I’ve shared how exciting it’s been making the move into a big girl apartment. One of my favorite parts, as I’m sure you can guess, has been working with the given space to create a comfortable, yet functional living environment that suits my personality. For anyone who has ever lived with a roommate, you know that this task can be especially difficult in common areas, such as the kitchen and living room. Fortunately, I get along famously with my current roomie, making our apartment all the more welcoming!

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This is what you see when you first step foot into the apartment. As you can see, our living room, where many-a-movie marathons and wine nights are held, has a view of Reno’s downtown. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed moving into my first apartment is its location. Even though I am still a college student, I was ready to shift away from classic college housing, such as dormitories and Greek row. Although I no longer have the luxury of walking to class, living in a downtown high-rise has been a wonderful experience. I’m no longer surrounded by the inescapable noise of fraternity row, nor do I have to worry about someone destroying my yard every weekend. The landlords actually respond to my maintenance requests (and in a timely manner, might I add) and I always feel safe in the building. Plus, you simply cannot beat the downtown nightlife.

You’ll notice that the apartment itself is truly not that big, which is a fact that most twenty-somethings have to deal with in their first apartments. Honestly, this has never been an issue for my roomie and me. Given that we don’t have a lot of money to spend anyway, an apartment any bigger might look bare with a lack of decorations. (Or I would max out my credit card buying decorations to fill the apartment with. Either or.) I love love love our apartment’s hardwood floors, but I’m so happy my roommate bought the rug you see to tie this area together.

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My roomie bought the couch you see, and the pillows are a mix of hers and my own. I got lucky finding these candles at Target that perfectly matched the teal pillows. Mirrors are a great way to make a small room seem bigger, so I’m happy that I found this steal at Home Goods! You’ll notice the flowers on the coffee table, which I buy fresh each week to give the apartment a nice homey touch.

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 Color scheme is important in making a space feel unified, which why you see a lot of turquoise and teal in the common areas of our apartment. If you couldn’t already tell, our other unifying theme is wine! I am obsessed with this wine rack my roomie bought for us to store our Pinots, Cabs, and glasses in. And of course, you can never have too many wine decorations, which is while you’ll find no shortage of signs about wine in our apartment. The flower arrangement in this shot, albeit fake, I think still adds a nice finish. The room divider you see was leftover from my last house, and is now used to conceal our cleaning equipment.

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The media stand in our living room is actually a repurposed kitchen cart, which we thought looked cute with the wine theme. As you’ll see once you scroll down, the kitchen is not that big, which is why we store a lot of our food elsewhere, such as under the television. And of course, no sorority alumna’s home is complete without her collection of handcrafted glassware!

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Turning around, you’ll find our kitchen. Again, you’ll notice how the rug helps pull the space together. Shelves are also important in making wise use of limited space, as you can use shelving for extra storage if necessary. As you saw in the living room, and again here, I use shelves to hold decorations.

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To me, a home isn’t a home until you’ve baked something in it. And what is baking without the use of a Kitchenaid? I also can’t get enough of my Ninja blender, which I use to make smoothies, soups, pasta sauces, and the occasional margarita.

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If you haven’t yet hopped aboard the Keurig train, honestly, what are you waiting for? Keurigs are amazing for quick, single-serve cups of coffee, tea, hot cocoa, cider, and more. They also make instant meals, like oatmeal, ramen, and Easy Mac, even easier! This Keurig K-Cup carousel from Target was definitely worth the $25 investment — it saves me the time of digging around a Costco-sized box of K-Cups, helps me to know when I’m running low, and it’s so cute! And let’s not forget the all-important “First Lady” mug I bought in Washington, D.C. #goals

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As I’ve said, because of the limited amount of storage space in our apartment, my roommate and I had to get creative. Hence, the snack bins-turned pantry in the living room, the room divider-turned cleaning supplies closet, and what you see above. I took some leftover fabric and ribbon from a craft project, thumb tacks, and a good, old-fashioned thread and needle, and created this makeshift curtain for the space above our washer and dryer. Not only does the curtain conceal our unsightly bottles of laundry detergent, it once again ties in with our apartment’s color scheme!

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I used the same concept in my bathroom (PS: thank goodness for having my own bathroom again!) where I hung a window drape up with a tension rod to create a coat closet.

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This is honestly one of my favorite spaces in the entire apartment. I love how much counter space I was afforded in my bathroom because it allows me to spread out all of my beauty products. I placed the prettiest items on the counter and used beauty organizers to keep everything in place. Then, I added a few finishing touches, like the faux flowers and candles you see. Not only do they brighten up the room, they keep it smelling lovely. All of my other products I was able to store in the plethora of cabinets below.

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Last, but certainly not least, is my bedroom! As I’ve said, I believe that color scheme is very important to consider when decorating any space. Because I’m not allowed to paint the walls in my apartment, I had to work with their off-white color. If you couldn’t already tell, my favorite color is pink, which is why I decided to go with a light pink and gold color scheme for my bedroom. Behind my bed, I hung small Christmas lights behind sheer curtains on a curtain rod, then swept them to the sides with holdbacks. This serves a few purposes: it decorates the otherwise-bare walls, creates a dreamy ambience for nighttime, and puts a central focus on the main part of the bedroom — the bed!

I’m lucky to have such great lighting in my apartment, which is a factor that can generally make or break a living space. The big windows let lots of light in during the day, and at night, I’m able to close the blinds to thwart creepers in neighboring hotels from looking inside.

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I use bookshelves as nightstands in my room, which saves me a lot of space. I’m a very visual person, so seeing pictures of Washington, D.C. on a daily basis helps me envision my move back there. I found the pictures of Washington, D.C. online, turned them black and white, and had them blown up. I found these big picture frames at Target, and thought that, hanging above my bookshelves, they would help make the wall behind my bed look symmetrical and polished. If you hadn’t figured it out by now, I have a soft spot for flowers and candles. I think they add such a bright touch to any home. Candles help add warmth to any space and give off wonderful aromas, plus they are colorful even when they aren’t lit! I love these storage bins from Bed, Bath, & Beyond, in which I store my DVDs and all ten season of Friends (a staple in any twenty-something’s apartment).

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On this bookshelf, I keep my books — both textbooks and books for pleasure — and recharge my phone, iPad, and Kindle. I love the picture frames that I picked out for my bookshelves because I think they beautifully illustrate the meshing of old and new décor in my room. On this bookshelf, for example, I placed a new lamp that I bought as well as an antique clock from my parents’ house.

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Finally having a TV in my room was a big deal for me! Instead of mounting it on the wall, I put my new plasma screen on top of my dresser so I can watch TV in bed. Don’t forget the Apple TV, which allows me to watch all the Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, and more that my little heart desires.

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This desk actually used to be my vanity in my previous house. To repurpose it as a desk, I simply detached the mirror from the back and added the decorations you see top. I found this chair at Pier One, and although it’s supposed to be a dining room chair, I think it works nicely with the color scheme in my room, and it’s very comfortable as a desk chair!

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Finally, we have the crown jewel of any girl’s apartment — the closet! I must admit that this closet cannot even begin to compare to the spacious walk-in closet with ample room, shelving, hooks, and even a built-in shoe rack that I had in my last house, but this closet holds my clothes nicely. I bought the extra shelving for my shoes from Target, and I keep more shoes in bins below. I use the hatbox to store, hats, sunglasses, and other accessories. I keep my purses in the bin you see in the upper-right hand corner, and keep my hamper in the closet as well. Overall, this closet works quite well, and has sliding mirror doors, which let’s me see my entire outfit, and once again makes the room seems bigger.

If I had to give just a few tips for decorating an apartment, and for using limited space wisely, it would be these: First, remember that mirrors can help a small space appear bigger, and that rugs can pull an area together. Get creative with the walls, especially if you aren’t allowed to paint. Use shelves, bins, hooks, curtains, and screens to make the most out of the space you are given, and create mini closets. Don’t be afraid to repurpose old furniture and make the space truly yours! When it comes to decorations, try to maintain a nice balance — remember that too many decorations can make the space seem cluttered, and that too few can make the space seem bare. Keep the color scheme as consistent as possible — it will help make everything seem like it’s supposed to be there, rather than being a part of a random assortment of junk. It’s nice to add a unique mix of old and new décor, and of course, lots of flowers and candles! Finally, make sure that everything is symmetrical (or at least balanced), level (if it’s hanging on the wall), and clean at all times! Best of luck, decorators!

How do you make your dorm, apartment, or college house feel homey? Tell me on Twitter and I might retweet you!

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