I know. You are getting ready to send your kid out the door and off to college in a week or two, and it has just dawned on you that they know absolutely nothing about living on their own.
Your years of caring for them, and your parenting efforts, have been minimised into the space of about 30 minutes (or less) and you are becoming increasingly aware of all the stuff that little Johnny or Mary are not able to do for themselves. No point in blaming yourself (or your spouse) for all your grievous errors. Best to just pack them off to college—throw them in at the deep end—let them sink or swim, like.
They’ll be grand.
Or maybe they will not!
Here’s the thing. I have just completed a four year undergraduate degree at NUIG. Granted, as a mature student, I had my wits about me, for the most part. One of the things I kept close tabs on whilst on campus, was how the younger students behaved. I figured I would be able to tweak my own parenting skills by watching the, sometimes scary, state of incoming first years.
You know the kids I am talking about. The girls all fake-tanned and Ugged up, worrying more about how they look, than on which classes they should take and the lads that are positively excited about not having to take a shower more than once a week (on Sunday nights because Mammy says he has too). These same kids, standing in long lines at the canteen waiting to pay (with your heard earned money) for a plate of greasy chips, will be up in the sick bay by mid-October looking for the fastest flu-shot or antibiotic going because they (who never missed a day of school in their life) are dying. Really dying. They have never been so sick.
Now, they might be just hungover, especially if they are like most normal students breaking away from the clutches of home for the first time, but the harsher reality is that they are probably at the start of a nutritional deficiency that is only going to get worse unless you give them a few last minute culinary tips. That plate of chips (for lunch or supper) will not sustain or nourish them for four years—but they are cheap and tasty, so the kids will keep eating them.
It is not too late to give them a quick lesson in the kitchen.
Why not start with the basics. Lets look at one of my favourite cupboard items—a bag of jumbo oats, costing around €2.75 per kg at the local grocery store. I reckon a savvy student can get at least 8 portions out of this bag and adding in a few other raw ingredients they will be loaded and ready to take on their day classes and evening study sessions.
I know… they won’t eat porridge, right? Well, if you explain that learning how to use Oats (a hugely versatile and affordable product) will give them more drinking money, then I am sure that will get their attention. And don’t hate me for reminding you that students are spending your hard earned money on beer and booze. It is what most of them do. It is our job to make sure they have a somewhat healthful diet… so all that alcohol does not wreck their stomachs.
Toasty Oaty Breakfast
- 80g jumbo oats (toast in a non-stick pan for a few minutes until they turn light brown in colour)
- 240ml water
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- ½ tsp butter
- 1 tbsp fruit preserve
- 1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)
- 50g almonds/hazelnuts (optional)
- 60ml milk (full fat)
How to make it
Bring water to a boil. Add in a pinch of salt (this will sweeten the breakfast oats). Stir in the oats when the water comes to a rolling boil and reduce heat to medium. Keep stirring for 7 minutes or until the water has evaporated. Place oats in a bowl then add sugar, fruit preserve, butter and vanilla. Mix with a spoon. Add nuts and a splash of milk if desired.
Now that they know how to make a well balanced, hot, nutritious and delicious meal to start and keep their engines running, they will be more likely to drag their butts out of bed and get to class.
Nag encourage them constantly about the importance of class attendance and participation.
For their first year, there is room to skip one or two classes. By second year they need to bring their A game and show up for every lecture. Third year is a confusing year for those that go abroad on Erasmus because they have no rules, in class or from the home front, so just bury your head a hope for the best.
FINAL YEAR is the most important. Up until last year (2012/2013) students were allowed to pull their final degree grades from second and final year results, enabling many to have a higher mark than expected, if they worked hard throughout their college careers.
This is no longer possible. Now, all final results for their overall degree comes solely from their final year exam results. If your student has worked hard, attended and participated in classes, and handed in their assignments on time, then their lecturers might have some say in helping them squeeze an extra mark or two in their favour—if their results are not so favourable.
So what can you do to help?
Their first essay (1500 words) will be due in or around halloween. This will be the week that they experience a massive amount of stress.
Tell them to break it down into a game of numbers just like this :
- Essay title
- Introduction—200 words (Make the statement of what you are going to discuss making sure you have answered the question)
- Paragraph 1—350 words
- Paragraph 2—350 words
- Paragraph 3—350 words
- Conclusion—200 words (Wrap it up re-affirming that you have answered the question)
Total—1450 words—they give a 10% leeway on the word count.
This may seem trivial now, but they will thank you for this advice when the time comes.
Whatever happens, tell them not to panic and just to get it in on time. Once you go down the road of asking for extensions on assignments (especially in first year)… it never ends well.
Now, back to the cooking lesson.
Part of an essential piece of kitchen kit is a non-stick pan and rubber spatula. If they hand wash the pan and only use the silicone spatula or a wooden spoon, the teflon will stay in great shape for their four years of college.
Still using the jumbo oats, why not teach them how to make a savoury (vegetarian) dish that they can soup up with a bit of meat or fish when the craving hits and the budget allows.
(Veggie) Toasty Oats
- 80g jumbo oats
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 100g frozen peas
- 100g fresh tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cube (chicken) veggie stock
- 240ml boiling water
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 50g parmesan cheese (optional)
How to make it
- Dissolve the (chicken) stock cube in the 240ml water and set aside.
- Sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil and butter for 7 minutes on medium heat.
- Add black pepper then stir in the uncooked oat into the onions and garlic.
- Turn the heat up and continue to cook until the oats turn brown.
- Pour the veggie or (chicken) stock liquid into the pan and allow to simmer (medium heat) for 5 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated.
- Remove from heat and pour into a bowl.
- Add frozen peas and stir well into the oats.
- Add chopped tomatoes and grate a little parmesan cheese on top to finish.
Teaching the younger generation about eating a balanced diet is sadly coupled with teaching them about budgeting their money for their meals and entertainment. These young students have massive amounts of stress to wade through during their first year and sadly, nutrition is rarely at the forefront of their daily chat at Starbucks. The canteen offerings are quite costly and, for the most part, serve massive amounts of overly processed foods. Thankfully, most on-campus medical clinics are still free for students but I think it is always better to take preventative measures when it comes to staying healthy and fired up for all the learning they have to do. There will be a few more back to school recipes in The Sunday Times this week (August 25th).
Make a batch of these cranberry oatmeal squares (below) for your teenager to snack on while they are studying. They will thank you later in life by constantly asking you to bake a batch for them.
If your student is coming to Galway to study, then you might be looking for a place to stay when you come to visit them. You might even wonder where to have a bite or two when you are here.
This is my cheat sheet for y’all
- A nice place to stay: Corrib Townhouse
- A nice place to eat: Kai Cafe
- Another nice place to eat: The Malt House or The Kings Head pub
- Irish music fix: The Crane Bar
College is hard. Really bloody hard. Keep open lines of communication with your teen even if you are exhausted from raising them. Every year students take their own lives because they cannot handle the pressure—that college is. From the minute they enter into the world of academia, they are faced with the reality of failing. It is a fear that is laid on thick and follows you to the finish line. For many it can be frightfully debilitating. Be there for your child. All they way.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today.
PS—thanks for ALL the emails and FB messages about the Blog Awards Ireland 2013. As you know, I won three categories and overall best blogger last year (2012) but have decided not to participate this year, in order to give others a chance to share in the limelight. Although I am sad to not be part of the mix this year, I will be judging… so starting tightening up your P’s and Q’s. I will be watching and reading years worth of blog posts over the next few months. If you are interested in becoming a judge, and you should if you like to read blogs, or are indeed a blogger yourself, then please sign up on the Blog Awards 2013 website.