The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The first two weeks: Your Santa Barbara City College survival guide

Lucy Marx
illustration by Lucy Marx

Starting college in a new place is never easy. Moving away from your family, friends and memories can be traumatizing for many students. 

It’s especially intimidating when your new home is one of the most expensive cities in California and is known for its rowdy college life. 

I moved to Santa Barbara when I was 17. Well, one day before I turned 18. I was fresh out of high school, still dependent on my parents and had no idea how to begin my adult life.

The first few weeks were confusing and sometimes terrifying. 

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One night, I found myself wheeling my concussed roommate around Isla Vista in an office chair I found in someone’s driveway. 

As funny as that story is now, The Channels has compiled a guide to make sure your first few weeks are a bit easier than mine.

Part of college is the trial and error of early adulthood, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. 

So for new, out-of-town students, here is your survival guide to life in Santa Barbara, both during the day and after dark. 

~ Day Life ~

Due to Santa Barbara’s exorbitant cost of living, finding affordable food is a necessary skill. 

City College does have two cafeterias, but the price of a meal is too high for it to be all you eat.

For everyday groceries, I turn to Trader Joe’s for its healthy, reasonably-priced food. Another great option is Grocery Outlet, which has even lower prices and an ever-changing variety of food. 

When money is tight, City College also has a food pantry that offers free produce, shelf-stable and frozen food.

If you want to go out for food, there are many delicious and affordable local options. If you’re in the mood for Mexican food you can check out one of Santa Barbara’s many Taquerias, and there are a handful of affordable restaurants within walking distance of City College at the Mesa Shopping Center.

My first couple of months at City College were also peppered with doctor’s visits, as I got strep throat three times. My absolute saving grace was the free checkups offered at the Health and Wellness Center.

The only expense I paid after numerous visits were the cost of the test and the antibiotics, which stayed below $50. 

I have also taken advantage of City College’s free counseling program, and I urge students to do the same. The center offers 6 free personal counseling sessions each semester. 

For out-of-town, out-of-state and even out-of-country students, the first semester away from home can be very hard. This resource can help you feel a little less alone. 

As City College doesn’t have dorms, it can be difficult to make friends at first. Talk to people in your classes, join clubs and network. Go tell that person you like their outfit. I promise they won’t think it’s weird. 

Having a strong support group is invaluable during your college years. 

Lastly, make sure to focus on what you (presumably) came to Santa Barbara for: Academics. 

Establishing strong study habits early is incredibly valuable. Your professors are here to help, and visiting their office hours is a good way to learn the material and show them you care about the class. 

Don’t overload your schedule. Taking more than 15 units may spread you pretty thin, and it’s always best to pass the first time. 

When you feel overwhelmed, there are many places on campus to relax. The West Campus Lawn is peaceful and offers a beautiful view of the ocean, and The Well in East Campus Center Room 21 has snacks and plenty of comfortable places to lay down and have a quick power nap.

The Well also offers workshops and services such as yoga, meditation and empowerment groups, and helps students get in touch with counselors. 

Take advantage of what City College has to offer. 

Join a club, take in the ocean view and enjoy your time here. 

Branch out and explore your interests. Who knows, you may gravitate towards a career in journalism. 

~ Night Life ~

As a student in Santa Barbara, it’s almost a rite of passage to become involved in Isla Vista’s bubbling party scene.

There’s something about those late-night adventures—pre-gaming before going to a backyard party, playing drinking games and making friends out of complete strangers—that will stay with us long after we leave college.

As somebody who has always been introverted, it was these nights out that helped me break out of my shell and become more confident with myself around new people.

During my first year at City College, I was going out most nights, cruising around with friends and bouncing from one spot to the next, ingesting almost any substance that was passed my way.

This lifestyle soon became difficult to maintain, and my grades were slipping until I started skipping classes altogether.

It took me years of trial and error (lots of error) to fully understand the importance and art of keeping a balance between an active social life and a full-time school schedule. 

There are a few things I wish I could have learned without going through them myself.

It’s naive to believe that young adults, many away from parental supervision for the first time, will stay in and study every night. Its college and students will most likely drink, smoke and hookup at some point in these four years.

One of the best parts of going out is meeting new people—making new friends, vibing and finding common interests with somebody you never would have approached otherwise.

If you meet somebody you like and you decide to go home with them, protect yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, but it’s better to play it safe than suffer the consequences later. Be cautious with people you’ve just met, and don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with.

Should something happen, there are many resources to turn to for help. If you need a check-up or counseling, the Health and Wellness Center offers many services to ensure your physical and mental well-being.

The morning after a party can be brutal, but there are a few things you can do to prevent waking up with a dreaded hangover that can kill any plans for a productive day at school. 

Know your limit. Don’t try to keep up with anybody, and stay away from attempts to rage harder than the next. Drink water throughout the night and have a good meal before bed to soak up the alcohol in your system.

Gatorade and anything with lots of electrolytes is also a good hangover cure.

If you do any type of drugs, keep in mind that there will be a comedown. You may feel anxious or depressed. It’s important to know that these emotions will pass and you’ll eventually feel like yourself again.

A cold shower, lots of fluids and a good breakfast can bring you back to life for work or school. If you have the energy, a good workout can get your body back to normal and will have you sweating out any remaining toxins in your system.

Be careful of what you put into your body, and take care of who you surround yourself with. The best nights are with good friends who you can trust, those who will look out for you if you are unable to look after yourself.

Try not to wander off away from your group of friends, and under absolutely no circumstances get behind the wheel or in the car of somebody who has been drinking.

An Uber ride costs $10-$20, which is nothing compared to the potential consequences of drinking and driving. Don’t risk your life or the life of others.

When you go out, have fun, but be safe and be smart.

But do yourself a favor, and take care to keep the damages to a minimum. There’s nothing fun about hangovers, day-after regrets or developing a habit that becomes too hard to break. 

Take it from somebody who learned the hard way that if you play with fire you will get burnt.

Keeping that in mind, go into the night, make some great memories and get home safely. 

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