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May 2, 2023

Ava Balbuena

As a semi-professional busybody, I am deeply invested in the contents of other’s bags. If you take out a trending product, I’ll be the first to ask whether it’s worth waiting for the re-stock. Reading a book? I’m wondering whether it’s for class, or if you’ve read the author’s other work. As spring warms into summer, backpacks are being traded for totes and beach bags. When you switch out your bag for its warm-weather variation, consider adding some of the items that students on College Hill are calling essential.

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Elizabeth Lokoyi ‘25 (Computer Science and English)

Elizabeth packed light. She insisted upon this as she turned her bag inside out on the table. She was reluctant to share her essentials with me, having forgotten her film camera in her dorm, but after more pleading than I thought would be necessary, she let me take a look at what she’d put in her New Yorker tote for the day. After “misplacing” an infamous AirPods case, she became a wired earbud user (when she’s not using over-ear headphones). On a day where she intentionally carries as little as possible, bell hooks’ all about love makes the cut. An (unpictured) red Paper Mate Flair pen sat at the bottom of her bag. 

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Meleah Neely ‘25 (Classics and Political Science)

The first thing Meleah pulled from her bag was a Dior Lip Oil, which showed me that any recommendations of hers were to be trusted. Within a week, temperatures jumped from the mid-fifties to the low nineties (Fahrenheit). Thus, Meleah’s hand fan is a brilliant and entirely necessary item. The sequins and gold detailing make the practical piece an extension of her accessorizing. 

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Mason Mead ‘25 (Environmental Studies and Public Health)

Mason is bulking. And has a dependency on Barebells protein bars. Caramel Cashew is his favorite flavor, but Cookies & Cream is a close second. He’s waiting on a sponsorship. His Kodak digital camera is another essential, one that he likes to use to document his “friends acting silly” so that he can “post on Instagram stories with a funny song”. A recent addition? A pre-formal selfie with Flex by Playboi Carti. A non-functional charging block comes along for the ride, even though it doesn’t do much besides overheat. Mason’s final essential is a Tiffany ring, size 8. It alternates between his pointer finger and a pocket in the front of his backpack, but it stays close.

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Mateen Markzar ‘26 (Neuroscience and History)

You can tell Mateen is pre-med from the Genius Lab Gear Pocket Chemist Organic Chemistry stencil. He’s suffering through Orgo and the stencil helps him to draw uniform benzene and alkenes. His Ray-Bans are necessary for all the time he spends on the green, especially after his recent purchase of a hammock. As the weather has gotten nicer, the sunglasses have become a staple. Aquaphor is Aquaphor. We all know and (hopefully) love it.

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Ava Balbuena ‘25 (Comparative Literature)

I couldn’t dissect the contents of everyone else’s bags without letting them see into mine. But once I got to it, I realized that just three essentials? IMPOSSIBLE to narrow down. It’s why I’m a serial over-packer. My backpack weighs about 15 pounds and 10 of those are lip products. My current favorite combo of which I picked up at Glossier LA on my trip home. There’s been a lot of controversy about the vegan reformulation of the cult-favorite Balm Dot Com, but I hate to admit that I love it. I think the new packaging is super convenient, if a little messy, and even without the occlusive I still think the lip balm is hydrating. The Generation G lipstick in Like immediately became a favorite of mine and before we’d made it back to the car, I’d influenced my sister to buy it. So I highly recommend it to anyone in the market for a blotted pink lipstick. Advil (in a Little Twin Stars container from DAISO) is the biggest lifesaver. On the rare days where my ponytail doesn’t give me a headache, someone else has one. I’ve exhausted the Ratty’s selection of teas and have become such a snob that I carry around my own tea. A massive Aquaphor stick is great for chapped lips and makes me feel like I’m putting glue all over my mouth. I love it. 


Looking at the objects people love so much that they can’t go without them tells you a lot about a person. Like their major or their favorite type of tea. But it also helps you meet new people who probably have better stuff to do than empty their bags in the library, but still take pity and get a handful of things out for me to awkwardly photograph while they write down their name, year, and major. So, while you pack up your bags to sit on the green, consider bringing along Aquaphor and earbuds as other students have chosen to!

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