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The Dos and Don’ts to Ensure a Successful (and Non-Traumatic) Freshman Year

David L. Garcia and Shelby Black

Staff Writers


Lose your ID I cannot emphasize this enough. This ID is your first and most important companion here at USF. It holds your food money (a.k.a “flexi”), bus pass, and access to campus buildings and your dorm room. It. Is. Everything. If you do happen to lose it, you can purchase a new one on Lone Mountain (a.k.a Lomo), but that beautiful bus pass that gets you around the city is gone for good until next semester. Be sure to purchase an ID holder at the bookstore.

Leave your laundry in the machines It’s a hassle already having to do your laundry, but it’s an even bigger problem when there are no available washers or dryers due to finished loads that haven’t been taken out. Do you and your peers a favor, and don’t leave your laundry in the machines. Set a timer to let you know when you’re laundry is done to avoid angry residents and stolen clothes!

Be afraid to speak up Seriously, everyone is just as scared as you. Everyone is just as confused as you. Everyone assumes they aren’t going to make friends. You are going to make friends; you just need to say “hello.”

Call it San Fran Or Frisco In a few months, when you finally go home for Thanksgiving, some silly relative will call your new home by one of those nicknames. Just ignore them. This is your city now; know what to call it. Most of us call it SF. Simple, easy, and hard to misunderstand. The City is also common. The City by the Bay is good, but only if you need to be poetic for some reason.

Skip the welcome week activities Yes, it’s cheesy, and awkward, and no, you probably won’t make any long lasting friendships playing a silly icebreaker. Doesn’t matter. The silly games give you confidence, which is the key to having a successful freshman year.

Worry about keeping in touch with friends from high school You won’t lose everybody. It’s OK. Everyone’s busy with his or her own life. If you find yourself sitting in your dorm, wondering why an old friend hasn’t responded to your text, don’t sweat it. They’re probably out making some friends, which is what you could be doing!

Ignore your Dons email Any official school news is sent through email, and it’s the main form of communication between you and your professors. Be sure to check it daily, first thing in the morning. There’s nothing better than getting an email at 7:30 a.m.  saying that your eight o’clock class has been canceled. Good thing you checked your email.


Get a lay of the land As a freshman a lot of new things are being thrown in your face at once, so it would be a good idea to get accustomed to your surroundings. For example, consider trying to find your classrooms and check out the buildings before school starts; no one wants to be that kid who walks in twenty minutes late to class, especially on the first day.

Download a transit app If you’re new to San Francisco, figuring out the bus system will definitely be tricky at first. Luckily there are a handful of convenient (and free!) apps available to download that will help you get around the city. Three popular apps are Routsey, Transit and Muni Watch.

Do something with your roommate, especially if you’ve never met before Watch TV, study, eat dinner in the Café, hell, go to Lucky’s together because you both forgot to bring nail clippers. Whatever. Spend some time getting to know the stranger you’ve got to live with for the next nine months.

Call your parents, at least once a week, if not more They worry, and honestly, you miss them. C’mon. Admit it. Just a little. You do.

Join an on campus organization There’s dozens to choose from. Join anything that strikes your fancy. Most clubs LOVE having freshmen join (someone needs to be groomed for leading the group in a few years). It’s a great way to meet upperclassmen. And if you end up hating the club, just drop it. You’re not married to your decision.

Use your MUNI pass It wasn’t free; don’t waste any of that valuable, valuable tuition. Learn the bus routes, pick a place in the city you’ve never been, and go, even if just to say you’ve been there. The city’s a great place; MUNI will help you explore it. And be sure not to lose your ID, unless you want to have to sneak onto buses and run the risk of a giant fine.

Make the most of your freshman year Yes, cliche I know; but, freshman year is going to be the best year of your life, and the only time you can get away with mostly anything. It’s going to go by fast y’all, so make a ton of friends and some amazing (albeit slightly ridiculous) memories and capture everything on camera. 

Use all of your Flexi At the end of the year, your meal plan money will disappear, forever. Unless you want to buy a lifetime’s supply of Fritos and toilet paper, eat up! Or, your Flexi can be your ticket to making friends with upper classmen by treating them to meals.

“Nebraska”: A Successful Black and White Midwestern Film of 2013

Watching “Nebraska,” the new film from director Alexander Payne, is a bit like flying home to visit your family at Christmas. You’ll laugh, you’ll get weepy, you’ll love till it hurts, and you’ll probably — more than once — feel an intense desire to punch someone in the face. “Nebraska,” in short, takes every emotion and experience of a family get-together and paints them liberally, with both Midwestern grit and artistic nuance, into a breezy 110-minute film. It’s deliriously good.

The film stars acting legend Bruce Dern (you may recognize him from a brutal cameo in “Django Unchained”) as Woody Grant, a crotchety, increasingly senile old man on a mission: to get from Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska in order to claim $1 million from one of those bogus sweepstake ads. Along the way, he visits his rapidly disappearing hometown in addition to his equally antiquated extended family. Dern carries the film with equal parts hardheaded swagger and fragile vulnerability: a role that truly shows his talents as an actor. Dern won a well-deserved Palm d’Or, the highest prized award, at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance. I’ll be shocked if he isn’t considered an Oscar frontrunner.

Despite his lofty win, Dern spoke humbly about his achievement as a reflection of the entire film, praising writer Bob Nelson’s script: “The French — they got it, which surprised me because they’re reading subtitles…You just do the story; the story’s on the page.”

The film is shot in black and white, which, although probably not essential, does give the viewer the sense of the stark, disappearing Midwest.

The film also stars Will Forte as David Grant, Woody’s youngest son, who agrees to drive him to Nebraska. Forte, best known for his wacky characters and impersonations on “Saturday Night Live,” proves that he is perfectly capable of providing some seriousness. His performance is completely genuine, and I look forward to seeing more of him in similar roles.

Fortunately, despite getting teased from Dern (“He’s out in Cloudy with Meatballs Part Two — I mean, how dramatic do you want him to be?”), Forte seemed enthusiastic about this change of pace for his career. “I’m really so proud to be in this movie. I would love to have more opportunities like this,” said Forte.

The supporting cast is top notch as well. June Squibb plays Kate Grant — Woody’s wife and David’s mother — a foul-mouthed, miserably married woman dealing with Woody’s dementia and pig-headedness. Squibb is a true, live wire.

Stacy Keach also makes a memorable appearance as the scheming Ed Peagram, Woody’s old business partner. Despite acting pleasant and pleased for Woody, Peagram quickly takes advantage of him, trying to weasel out a cut of the money. When asked if either of them had experienced a similar kind of pressure, Forte and Dern had differing responses. Forte complimented his friends and explained his growing ability to choose the right people with whom to spend time: “I have a wonderful group of friends. You just kind of evolve as a friend-chooser.” Dern, however, has gotten plenty of requests. “Can you get me an interview with him? Can I meet Jack [Nicholson]? They press their advantage.” Dern also admitted, with a wry smile, of being “just as much a whore as anybody.” He once crossed off Harry Dean Stanton’s name from a casting director’s register and put his own name down, taking Stanton’s prime 3 o’clock slot.

Overall, “Nebraska” is excellent at creating comedy out of everyday family experiences. Nothing feels forced and most of the jokes are simple — the kind of thing that would naturally happen and cause a quick giggle to ripple across a dinner table. (You couldn’t keep a straight face if you heard a karaoke version of “In the Ghetto” at a cheap steakhouse, could you?) The obvious contrast between Woody’s sons and his Nebraskan relatives also provides some of the funniest moments in the film, as does Woody’s increasingly poor ability to pay attention.

The film is shot in black and white, which, although probably not essential, does give the viewer the sense of the stark, disappearing Midwest. It also contributes to the difficult relationship between Woody and his son. Alexander Payne’s film is very nuanced, with nearly every shot set up to provide artistic or emotional depth. It is a graceful film, full of warmth and heart, and one that anyone could and should enjoy.

Rating: ★★★★★

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Saigon Sandwich Satiates

The sandwich shop that the New York Times rates as having the best banh mi in America

     A trip to Saigon Sandwich does require a bit of determination, especially if you got off muni too early, and have to walk three blocks down Larkin toward City Hall. The shop is really more of a cluttered counter. There’s a large display

S. Sandwich
A Vietnamese sandwich costs about $3-$4, making it a very inexpensive and delicious meal.
(Photo: David Garcia)

of Asian candies and cookies, a selection of nuts and colorful, sticky-looking things in plastic containers, and a pile of small, leaf-wrapped pyramids, held together with rubber bands and labeled with a sticker reading “Coconut.” On one side is a cooler full of Vietnamese coffee and tea drinks. At a table, two seats are occupied by elderly Vietnamese women. There’s a woman behind the counter, working like crazy, restocking the pickled carrots, pulling bread out of the toaster, giving change, and answering the phone—God help you if you’re still making up your mind when she asks for your order. Have your order and money ready.

I tend to prefer a cold banh mi, so I got the pâté, a spreadable paste of ground beef and fat. It comes smeared on the bread, instead of sliced like a cold cut. The lady behind the counter put together my sandwich in 30 seconds flat. She spread a thick layer of gray pâté over a warm, crispy baguette, shoved in a fistful of those sharply sweet pickled carrots, a spring of cilantro, and finished with a light sprinkle of thinly sliced raw jalapenos.

The sandwich, which is easily eight inches long and four inches thick, is best paired with a can of soda from the cooler, which, for some gloriously perverse reason, has only RC and Diet RC Cola.  The pâté was luxuriously rich, and the acidic bite of the carrots and spicy jalapenos cut through the creaminess perfectly, with the cilantro providing an aromatic contrast. The flavors are so harmonious that this giant sandwich can still feel like a light lunch.

And the RC? Beyond belief. When’s the last time anyone bought a can of Diet RC cola? Take my word for it, it’s way better than you might imagine.

So go to Saigon Sandwich. Brave the filthy streets and the cluster of homeless people across the street. Unwrap your banh mi, pop open the soda, and enjoy the wonderful, breathtaking combination of French colonialism and off-brand cola.

Saigon Sandwich

560 Larkin St (between Turk St and Eddy St)

San Francisco, CA 94102

Cash Only/Takeout