By Mark Isaiah David
The new schoolyear is here, and with it, a pristine batch of fresh meat about to enter the grinder that is College. The first year in the university is fraught with changes and challenges – not just with academics, but with life in general.
While some would have the luxury of a familiar support system by staying at home, others would find it impractical to do the same, given the horrendous state of traffic in the city. For this group of students, they may not have chosen the dorm life, but the dorm life certainly chose them.
For the freshies about to move in their dorms, here are the tech essentials you need with you:
1. Reasonable Laptop
First off – even if you have a killer rig at home, leave it behind. Trust me – there’s simply no space for a desktop computer in your dorm. You’ll need a laptop – one light enough that you can lug around in your backpack while you hike from one class to the next.
While it might be tempting to get your parents to buy you the shiniest, most expensive MacBook available or the latest monster brought to life by the mad scientists of Razer, unless you’re swimming in a pile of gold, better give it a second thought. Do you really need a powerhouse laptop for you to type your reaction papers or click the slides for your presentations? You’re (almost) an adult – you need to make reasonable decisions. Also, remember that you’ll be carrying that laptop around in your backpack wherever you go. What if someone swipes it while you’re busy devouring your chickenjoy?
2. Phones, of course
It sounds stupid to mention that you’ll need a smartphone in college, given that even kids nowadays have their own phones. However, the benefits of a modern, multi-function phone for a college student cannot be overstated. Rushing to take notes and your teacher is about to erase whatever he wrote on the whiteboard? Snap a photo. Struggling to remember a particular tidbit your professor mentioned in one of her lectures? Never miss important information again by sound recording her classes, backing up every day, and using informative filenames and meta tags for greater efficiency when you need to review as exam season comes in. Forgot to submit your assignment? Retrieve the file from your cloud service and shoot an email to your instructor in a breeze. Your smartphone doesn’t need to be top-of-the-line (I personally believe spending half a month’s salary for a phone is unwise), it just needs to do what you need it to.
If your parents can spring for a little extra, get a satellite phone. Again, it doesn’t need to be an insanely expensive model – it just needs to do what you need it to, which is to make you contactable when disaster strikes and your usual network service is flooded or completely down. If – no, When – ‘The Big One’ comes, it’s guaranteed to obliterate the infrastructure of the local telcos. A satellite phone may be the only way for you to get in touch with your loved ones when that happens.
3. Security Camera
While you could meet people who would turn out to be your lifelong friends in a dorm, chances are, you would also encounter people you’d rather never know – such as generic creeps or those with sticky fingers. If you can convince the people you’d share a room with that it’s for the good of all, having a cheap, always-on, easily-installed, wireless security camera in your room can save a lot of headaches. For less than P2000, you’ll have an effective deterrent for perverts and thieves. It’s a device that virtually pays for itself – just imagine the savings you’ll have when nobody steals your instant noodles.
In your dorm, your mom/yaya/younger sibling would no longer be there to mind your things and clean up after you. If you don’t want the everyday frustration of missing something important just when you need it, do yourself a favor: buy an organizer and use it. Maybe what you’ll need is a file organizer that will help make order of the chaos that is your desk; maybe a simple cable/cord organizer is the thing that will help you the most. Whatever it is, the days of being able to leave your stuff anywhere is done – in the cramped space of your dorm, being disorganized will not only plague you, but also every one else living with you.
To make sure you don’t forget your daily to-do’s, Google’s got your back. Google Keep, a note-taking app, lets you capture whatever is on your mind. You can add notes, lists, and even audio and photos that will sync on all your relevant devices (computer, phone, tablet) seamlessly. And because it’s from Google, Keep comes with extra oomph. Set up location-based or time-based reminders. Collaborating with classmates for a big class project? Share a task list among the group and watch as items get checked off in realtime. Customize your notes with color and images for quicker retrieval. For a simple app, Google Keep is surprisingly useful.
5. Backup Tools
Even before the first day of school starts, get yourself a reliable external hard drive. Back-up your files, your anime shows, your games. Back-up everything that you might possibly need. Remember that you could also be carrying this in your bag so choose one that’s not too heavy and doesn’t need a separate power source to boot up. After all, there won’t always be a power outlet available on your college tambayan.
Aside from an external hard drive, sign up for a cloud hosting service. There are a lot of free services available and you can take advantage of those. When it comes to schoolwork, you wouldn’t want to scream in frustration when your idiot roommate accidentally deletes the term paper you’ve been slaving over when he borrowed your laptop to watch his shows while you catch a quick nap. Redundancy is key. Plus, it’s easier to work together with your groupmates when you can work on the same file saved on your Dropbox account.
College can be hard enough as it is. Living in a dormitory can make it even harder: the cramped space, the idiosyncrasies of strangers you’re forced to live with, and the lack of luxuries that you used to take for granted can be a jarring experience. While the list we made is far from exhaustive, you can make your life easier by utilizing the right technology and tools so you can focus on the important stuff: learning and honing your skills.