What's good for a welcome to grad school/California gift bag?
August 27, 2007 9:35 AM   Subscribe

What should go in a welcome to grad school/welcome to California gift bag?

I am a "big buddy"/mentor to an incoming grad student. I want to put together a welcome pack for her. I've already gotten a gift card from a local coffee shop, but what other stuff can I include that would make her feel welcome? Must be cheap (I already nixed the idea of a $25 Trader Joe's gift card). She just graduated from undergrad and is moving to Santa Barbara, California from Chicago. We're in a quantitative communication program.
posted by k8t to Education (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A map of the area and/or a map of California so she can get around more easily.
posted by la petite marie at 9:37 AM on August 27, 2007

I moved to California to go to grad school myself. Here are some things I think might be useful:

- A list of websites such as craigslist.org and the local equivalents of sfgate.com (news/events), 511.org (public transportation), etc.
- Books such as "World Food: California," something from the "Off the Beaten Path" series, etc. (If you have a Half-Price Books near you, they often have similar books in new condition for a low price.)
- A writeup of "insider tips" such as places to eat on and near campus, places that deliver late, where to get cheap copying done, where to escape and chill out when needed, etc.
- Some kind of day planner or pocket calendar.
- Chocolate or tea, if she can have those.
- One of the PhD comic strip collections.

The map idea is a good one, too.
posted by wintersweet at 10:13 AM on August 27, 2007

Totally seriously, this doesn't cost anything, but if your department is large enough to have factions, an index card diagramming which professors do and don't work together well. I got the info from a grad student on one of my first days and it saved my ass once.

On another note, a big mug. If the coffee shop has a refillable-for-cheaper mug, or your school cafes do, get that one, unless it's uglier than sin.
posted by cobaltnine at 10:15 AM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Print version of DMV's California Driver Handbook. Available free at any DMV office.
posted by jamaro at 10:19 AM on August 27, 2007

Print or buy a campus map and annotate it with important buildings, etc.
posted by radioamy at 10:36 AM on August 27, 2007

A writeup of "insider tips" such as places to eat on and near campus, places that deliver late, where to get cheap copying done, where to escape and chill out when needed, etc.

Also, basic directions to the nearest places to get life's little necessities. I'll never forget a friend's story of attending UC Davis and having to go all the way to Sacramento to find a place that sold underwear.
posted by kittyprecious at 10:41 AM on August 27, 2007

A gift certificate to In-N-Out Burger. It's the spirit of California, in burger form.
posted by Ms. Saint at 10:44 AM on August 27, 2007

Welcome to California: A bottle of Napa wine and two glasses. Sunscreen. A jar of almonds. Flip-flops. A Thomas guide (or similar) of the local area, and a fold-out map of the state. Any book by John Muir.

Welcome to Grad School: A unique, thermal mug (everyone on campus will have UCSB mugs... hers should be different.) A corkscrew/knife/bottle opener. A subscription to a national newspaper.

Really welcome to Grad School: A couple condoms, a pack of Zig Zags, and a card with the phone number of whomever on campus is supposed to help students make bail if they get arrested -- tape two quarters to the back of it.
posted by toxic at 11:12 AM on August 27, 2007

-Used copies of Slouching Towards Bethlehem and White Album by Joan Didion.
-Instructions on what to do in an earthquake
-Instructions on how to not waste water
- Map with locations of good, cheap food: late night taco trucks, etc.
- Pair of flip flops
posted by gingerbeer at 11:51 AM on August 27, 2007

Thing that I wished I had when I first started was advice from actual grad students on what to expect. There are so many unknowns when you first start.

I would email your closest student/colleages and ask them for the top 5 pieces of advice or things they knew before starting grad school. It can be humorous and helpful at the same time.

Compile the results and you will probably end up with something fun and interesting for a new student.

It could be anything from "the 3rd toilet on the right in the ladies room doesn't flush properly" to "being a teaching assistant for 'X' course is hard for the first year workload"
posted by 20something at 2:07 PM on August 27, 2007

Public transit maps/schedules, even if this person has a car because you just never know...
posted by goml at 2:09 PM on August 27, 2007

Backpacking on toxic's idea, Cost Plus World Market carries tiny little mini-packs of California almonds, cheese, etc., plus little single-serving bottles of wine.

Along with 20something's train of thought, too, there's an excellent book called _Getting What You Came For_ by Robert Peters, which I really wish I'd read before grad school (although in that case, I might not have gone).
posted by wintersweet at 2:26 PM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well if you are in SB, must get a gift certificate for a burrito at Free Birds. Pick up a brownie from Lazy Acres (best brownies EVER). And I'd go for some Reef flip flops too, but those are just my personal favorites.
posted by whoaali at 6:49 PM on August 27, 2007

Santa Barbara? A gift certificate for McConnell's ice cream.
posted by brujita at 9:29 PM on August 27, 2007

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