Illustration by Theresa Berens

Out of pure hunger madness after a 6-mile walk on the Katy Trail today, my roommate and I decided to eat at Rollins Dining Hall. Every time we decide to make the trek to a campus dining location, we regret it. Without a dining plan, it costs more than eating at home, the locations are further away than our apartment downtown and in all reality, the food is not great. But at some point each year, nostalgia takes over and we fork over the cash to eat buffet-style with tables of what turns out to be mostly freshmen.

A lot had changed since the time I had a dining plan. They’ve gone trayless, new locations have opened and old ones have been remodeled. The food, however, was the same. My roommate and I both ate a plate of wilted lettuce and undercooked pizza with a glass of too-sweet calorie-free green tea. Food quality-wise, it wasn’t worth the money.

But what was worth it was the people watching. As I start my first semester of graduate school, I had the chance to think about the three short years ago when I starting my freshman year. My roommate and I watched groups of new students crowd around tables eating salads with way too much ranch dressing gossiping about new classes, new friends and their new start. The experience of eating in Rollins was just as I remembered it.

That’s when I realized dining halls aren’t about the food. It’s about the experience. Without them, I wouldn’t have met many of the people I am still close with to this day. They provide the chance to meet others and bond over a shared hatred of too-soft frozen yogurt, overripe fruit, or what I noticed, the salad bar’s lack of hummus.

So to the new class of freshman who have boosted the population of Columbia even further this past week, I say enjoy it while you can. Your days with a dining plan and time to meet your new classmates will be gone before you know it, and you’ll be nostalgic for the days of all-you-can eat salad.
-Theresa Berens, Art Director, Vox Magazine

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