Deciphering Dining at Ohio State

Now that you’ve had a few weeks under your belt as a first-year student at Ohio State, hopefully, you’ve used your meal plan at least once or twice.

Have you finally cracked the code to the seemingly overwhelming mess of dining dollars, BuckID cash, swipes, and visit exchanges? Have you discovered the perfect way to use your swipes and dollars each week?

No? Still confused? Don’t worry, I like to consider myself pretty savvy when it comes to budgeting and dietary needs, but even I had trouble understanding at first. Luckily for you, I’m here to show you what I wish I had known dining at Ohio State throughout my first year.

First, the Basics: Dining Dollars, BuckID Cash, and Swipes

  • Dining Dollars can be used at any student dining services locations. They are intended to give you added flexibility in what you eat and where. By using dining dollars you get a 35% discount on your purchase. Even better, they roll over every semester you are enrolled.
  • BuckID Cash can be used at any merchant that accepts BuckID both on and off-campus. This is not just restricted to food purchases. Use your ‘Ohio State’ app to look at all the available merchants.
  • Swipes (all-you-care-to-eat visits) give you access to any of the three Traditions Dining locations (Scott, Morrill, and Kennedy).
  • Visit exchanges involve exchanging a swipe for a monetary amount. At most dining locations, it is $8 to one swipe, but at C-Stores it is $5 to one swipe. For example, if I were to spend $7.50 at Union Market, instead of using Dining Dollars or BuckID cash, I could use one swipe to pay.

Now that you know what each component of a plan is, how do you choose which plan is best for you? Gray 10, Scarlet 14, or Unlimited? 

  • Gray 10, at $2,025, will give you 10 swipes each week, $200 Dining Dollars, and $150 BuckID cash.
  • Scarlet 14, at $2,412, will give you 14 swipes each week, $200 Dining Dollars, and $150 BuckID cash.
  • Unlimited, at $1,976, will give you unlimited swipes to any Traditions locations, and $100 Dining Dollars.

When I was first deciding my meal plan, I scoffed at Gray 10, thinking that it could never feed me, so I chose Scarlet 14. A few weeks into the semester, I found myself routinely having at least seven swipes left at the end of each week. So, in my second semester, I decided to switch to Gray 10, which was much more suitable for my daily intake. The meal plan that will work best for you is just that – the meal plan that will work best for you. If you choose a meal plan you’re unsatisfied with, there is a grace period each semester where you can change it – you can’t drop down to a less expensive meal plan after the second Friday of the term, but you can always bump up to a bigger plan at any time.

Alright, you’ve learned about and chosen your meal plan, and now you’re absolutely dying to know what my top 3 dining locations are, right? 

  1. The MarketPlace on Neil. In my opinion, it has the best and most versatile menu. Anything from breakfast sandwiches and coffee to sushi to oven-fired pizza.
  2. Sloopy’s Diner. If you’re craving some late-night classic diner food, Sloopy’s has got you covered.
  3. Courtside Cafe. Located in the RPAC, if you’re looking for some versatile, healthier options after a workout (or anytime), this is your best bet!

Okay, but what about dietary restrictions?

Many students at Ohio State must navigate the dining services with dietary restrictions! Although common allergies and dietary preferences are posted on menus and in Traditions, in my opinion, the best way to view ingredients is to use NetNutrition. This web tool allows you to view updated menus, nutritional facts, and filter by allergies and dietary preferences.

Struggling to find balance or what works best for you nutritionally? 

As important as it is to simply understand dining plans, it’s also important to take care of yourself. If you feel like you need some additional guidance as far as meals and eating on-campus, the best advice I could possibly give is to check out the Student Wellness Center in the RPAC. They offer free, personalized nutritional education and coaching.

Hopefully, you’ve now mastered dining at Ohio State, and if not, trust that you will soon! It’s confusing, it takes time, and it takes practice. Luckily, you get to practice multiple times a day.

Eat healthy, drink plenty of water, and as always, Go Bucks!

Life Hacks: Ohio State Version

By this time of the school year we’ve figured out the basics of surviving college–but what about all those tips and tricks that make your life just a little easier? Peer Leaders provide their insights on the hacks they’ve discovered during their time at Ohio State. Feel free to comment with your own personal Ohio State hacks!

Academics

  • Canvas has an app that makes it significantly easier to access your grades and class information from your phone? The app is just called “Canvas” and can be downloaded for free from the App Store.
  • On a Canvas grade page, you can click on the check+ and see where your grade compares to the average, high and low scores for your class.
  • Lots of times you can get cheaper textbooks by buying them directly from older students–ask around or check social media pages to buy used textbooks from older students.
  • Tired of not finding a seat at Thompson? Check out another hidden gem on campus such as the Fine Arts Library or the Geology Library! Check out this link for the full list of library hours and locations.
  • You can reserve a study room at the library–check out this link!

Entertainment

  • Follow OUAB on Twitter or other social media to find out about events before all of the tickets are gone!
  • Take advantage of D-Tix! (Did you know you can get Gateway Movie d-Tix at the Union for $3?)!
  • Take advantage of FREE group fitness classes at the university recreation facilities (check out the full schedule here).
    • Be sure to get there a few minutes early to make sure you get a spot!
  • Venmo makes life easier for paying back friends/splitting costs.

 Transportation

  • When it comes to bikes: “cheap bike, expensive lock”
  • Don’t bike on the Oval.
  • Lots of off campus parking meters are free on the weekends—check the meters if you have friends or family coming into town!
  • Don’t jaywalk (especially on Woodruff) by Scott.
  • The COTA bus now provides real time updates of when they’re coming on Google Maps and the COTA transit app.
    • Sometimes it is quicker to ride the COTA around campus than a CABS bus (and it’s free with your BuckID)
  • Always carry an umbrella…at Ohio State you should be prepared for all 4 seasons in one day!

 Dining/Food

  • Get creative with the food in the dining halls to change things up. For example, you can build your own buffalo chicken wrap at Traditions at Scott (chicken from the breakfast station, buffalo sauce and lettuce from the grill station, and a tortilla from the Mexican station).
  • Having a Brita pitcher for water in your residence hall room will save you lots of walks to the water fountain on your floor!
  • Food apps (such as Hooked, Tapingo, PostMates, and UberEats) make getting food super easy and convenient!
    • You can even use your meal plan with Tapingo!

Fall Break in Columbus

Fall break will be here in less than a week, and we can unwind and relax from the hectic semester this has been so far–it is much needed! While many students are going home for the first time to reconnect with family and friends, some of you might be staying on campus for break. This is a perfect time to explore the amazing city that surrounds us. Whether you are from out-of-state or outside of the U.S., here are some fun things to do during fall break in Columbus.

Explore the city

From the time you first visited Ohio State (or maybe at orientation), you have heard incredible things about the city of Columbus. Get out the campus bubble and dive into the fun activities, amazing restaurants, and sights that are conveniently right down the street from us. With just a short ride on the COTA bus, you can discover some cool parts of Columbus. Not only will you have fun, but you’ll feel even more connected to the city, making Ohio State feel more like home.

As a first-year student, I was pretty intimidated to take a bus downtown, but I can assure you that it is a really simple process and well worth your time. The easiest way for me to explore downtown Columbus and the Short North is to take COTA route #2, which runs up and down High Street–I promise you won’t get lost. A convenient place to hop on the bus is the stop outside of the Ohio Union. All you need is your BuckID and you are on your way! The COTA website includes routes frequently used by Ohio State students.

For the outdoor lover…

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Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden. Special fall exhibit, “Scary Plants“, where you can explore creepy pumpkin carvings and strange plants like you’ve never seen before!

  • Oct. 5- Nov. 15 | 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Cost is only $10 with a student ID.

Goodale Park. A beautiful park located in the Short North district, decorated with fountains, park benches, and paths.

Olentangy Trails. Head outside to take a walk with a friend, a fitness run, or even a bike ride on this 13.75 mile stretch of paved trails.

For the shopaholic…

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Explore the shops of the Short North District: Take the COTA bus #2 right down High Street until you get to the arches that say “Short North”. Here you will find many shops that specialize in clothing, stationery, Columbus gear, antiques, and even chocolate!

For the foodie…

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North Market. A classic favorite! If you love food (who doesn’t?) then you will love North Market. Explore different vendors and flavors from around the world such as Asian, Indian, and Polish cuisine. They also have this awesome vendor where you can get fresh homemade donuts…seriously the best donut I have ever had.

  • Open Sun-Mon, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tue-Sat 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Explore their fall Farmer’s market in the parking lot of the venue. Stock up on some fresh vegetables and fruits and you could cook a meal or create a fresh salad in your residence hall kitchen.

One Line Coffee. Are you a coffee fanatic? Cozy up to a cup of your favorite coffee and dessert on a cool fall day, located in the Short North district. Check out their website for more information!

Jeni’s Ice Cream. We all scream for ice cream! Jeni’s ice cream made its founding roots in Columbus, and is now a huge sensation! A quick bus ride down High Street and you can try a delicious treat such as the crowd-favorite, Salty Caramel.

Final thoughts…

Just have fun! The more time you put into getting to know Columbus, the more you will get out of it. If you have further questions or need more suggestions, contact a Peer Leader and we would love to share some of our favorite places. In addition you can check out Experience Columbus for an extensive list of places to go. I hope you have a wonderful fall break–be sure to take the time to refresh in order to finish the second part of the semester strong.

Happy exploring!

5 Ways to Meet New People on Campus

Welcome Week was fun and busy with hundreds of events all over campus, making it easy to meet new people through opportunities that were already planned for you–all you had to do was show up! Still, some new students do not make great connections during Welcome Week, and if you’re one of those students, you’re not alone…and you don’t have to worry. Here are five great ways to meet new people (now that Welcome Week is over):

Leave your door open in your residence hall (when you’re inside your room)

If you are living in a residence hall, you’ve learned by now that you are surrounded by many other students living on your floor, many of whom are new just like you. If you are just hanging out in your room, leave your door open. As people walk by, invite them to join you. Who knows, your new best friend could be living down the hall!

Introduce yourself to someone in class

If you get to class a few minutes early, introduce yourself to the person next to you. Maybe you will make a new friend, or–at the very least–a new study buddy. The First Year Success Series is also a great place to introduce yourself. Everyone in attendance at your session will be a first-year student, too, and since you all selected the same session, you already have something in common! Ask a student why they choose the particular session–it could be a great conversation starter!

Ask someone new to get lunch

Everybody has to eat, so next time you are heading out for a meal, ask someone new to join you. Maybe this is someone in your residence hall, or someone in class. Maybe you choose to venture out and try a new dining location.

Attend a fitness class at the RPAC

Group fitness classes at the RPAC are a fun way to get exercise. There are a bunch of different types of classes, and you can find one you are interested in through the Recreational Sports website. Just like class, get there a couple minutes early to introduce yourself to someone new.

Check out a student organization

There over 1,200 student organizations on campus. Find one you are interested in and plan to attend a meeting. Many student organization accept new members any time throughout the year. This is a great way to find people with similar interest as you.

Still not feeling connected? Reach out to me or to any Peer Leader in First Year Experience–we want to help you find your fit at Ohio State!

5 ways Ohio State is changing this fall

Ohio State will look and feel a bit different when you return to campus in August.

Classes start on Tuesday

For years, the first day of autumn classes has always been Wednesday, but the autumn 2015 semester will begin on Tuesday, August 25 in order to accommodate a new calendar that now includes an autumn break (see below). Many Welcome Week events–like the Student Involvement Fair and the President’s Convocation–will still occur in the days before classes begin, but you will likely see other Welcome Week events moved to different days to accommodate the earlier start date. Check the Welcome Week website later this summer for an up-to-date listing of 2015 events and opportunities.

Autumn break

Students and faculty will have two days off from classes–October 15-16–giving many the opportunity for a long weekend in the middle of the semester. In addition to starting classes one day earlier, the term will also extend one day later in order to accommodate this mid-semester break. Classes will end on Wednesday, December 7 and final exams will begin on Friday, December 9. The university’s academic calendar includes future autumn break dates through autumn 2019.

North residential district transformation

Four new residence halls on North Campus–Scott House, Torres House, Bowen House, and Raney House–are expected to open this fall, accommodating nearly 1,800 additional students living on campus. Two new dining facilities will serve students on North Campus: Traditions at Scott and Curl Market. Additional facilities are expected to open by autumn 2016 in order to accommodate both first- and second-year students with the university’s new 2-year on-campus living requirement. Follow the progress and get updates at the what’s growing on? website.

Dining plans

Beginning this summer, new plans offered through University Dining Services allow students to choose the option that best fits their lifestyle, eating habits and personal needs. Most plans include a combination of weekly traditional visits, $5 exchange (which allows students to exchange a traditional visit for a $5 purchase at any non-traditional dining location, or for a “Market Meal Exchange” at Ohio Union Market, Marketplace and Curl Market), Dining Dollars (similar to BuckID cash, but used only in dining facilities at a 10% discount; rolls over until graduation), and Buck ID cash.

Bike sharing

Ohio State is partnering with Zagster to bring a bike-sharing system to the Columbus campus, enabling students to navigate campus and surrounding neighborhoods via a one hour checkout on weekdays and three hours on weekends. This initiative fulfills a request by Undergraduate Student Government to have a bike-sharing program in place by fall. Zagster currently operates programs at Yale University, Princeton University, Santa Clara University and California State University, East Bay.

We are excited about these great changes taking place, and we hope you are, too–it’s a great time to be a Buckeye!

Dining in the Short North

Hey first year students!

Missing your mom’s cooking? Tired of always eating at Traditions? Try going to the Short North! COTA buses can take you there in minutes and it’s a fun, easy, and appetizing weekend activity.

There are also awesome affordable options. Some cheap and casual choices include Mikey’s Late Night Slice and Melt Bar and Grilled. If you are a huge fan of grilled cheese, like me, Melt is the place to go. Late Night Slice — which is somewhat of a dive — offers cheap, delicious, and quick pizza.

If you’re willing to spend a little extra money for delicious dinning Northstar Cafe and North Market are fantastic prospects. North Star, a spunky organic restaurant, has great brunch and offers vegetarian options. North Market, my favorite, is like a food festival! Individual cafes, butchers, grocers, ice-creameries, and bakers are set up in a retro warehouse. Although it can be a bit pricy, there are so many yummy options. Some include crepes, Thai food, Indian, German styled sandwiches, etc. If you go to North Market, be sure to factor in money to park if you don’t take the bus.

If you’re craving authentic food, a few selections include Marcella’s, Haiku Poetic Food and Art and La Fogata Grill. La Fogata delivers mouthwatering Mexican food — the restaurant offers fajitas, tacos, enchiladas, and other authentic cuisine. Marcella’s, an Italian restaurant, has great high-end pizza and pasta. Haiku Poetic Food and Art offers Asian Pacific style food, like appetizing sushi, noodles, salads, and more. Poets, musicians, and artists come in to perform as part of a fine dining experience — the atmosphere is amazing!

If you’re looking for desert options or if you love coffee, there are a number of selections in the Short North. Some include famous, locally owned Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Le Chocoholique, Tasi Café, and ZenCha Tea Salon. If you have not already tasted some of Jeni’s ice cream, it’s a fantastic place to bring your family if they are visiting. Le Chocoholique has fondues, coffees and gelato. They also have delicious crème brûlée. Tasi Café has enjoyable coffee in addition to freshly baked breads, and they also offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Finally ZenCha Tea Salon is a fun place to drink lots of tea or experience the ambient atmosphere.

If you’re looking for something fun, want to experience delicious foods, or want to adventure through Columbus, check out the Short North!!