It’s a college past-time to whine and bitch about dining hall food, but with a little imagination, dorm food doesn’t have to turn your stomach.
Campus CafeteriaSome people hate the idea of eating in a cafeteria. They envision women in hair nets doling out globs of institutional mystery meat, of entree options that involve limited innovation and few fresh ingredients, and of weekly cycles that bring the same tired dishes back to the steam table again and again.

I like to think of cafeterias as creative playgrounds, a well-stocked kitchen where I don’t have to rinse my own lettuce or scrub pots and pans.

It takes a little training and an open mind to escape the tyranny of the cafeteria menu, but it’s well worth it. You may have to eat off a tray, but there comes a point when every employee at the local Domino’s recognizes your voice, when your sodium level soars at the thought of any more Ramen noodles. So let your dining hall table be your kitchen counter and let your mind be your cookbook.

Bacchanal in a bottle: A wine tasting party could boost your street credibility.

A wine tasting partyAt most wine-tasting parties there’s a distinct buzz in the air. Glasses clink and candles flicker as moist, berry-stained lips part, allowing delighted laughter to escape into the room.

And there you stand, soaking in the sexy, fun and (gasp!) educational experience like a hunk of French bread in a saucer of au jus. With just five bottles of wine, some palate-pleasing finger foods and about 10 of your closest friends, you can add life to your social circle’s humdrum party circuit.

Wine experimentation in a festive setting can be fun, unpretentious and simple, says Kelly Gilboy, owner of the Wine Boutique in Middleton, WI. “I think if someone is ready to try wine and is dining out, but doesn’t know how to order it, a wine-tasting party can be great, because you learn among friends,” she says. “It takes the edge off in an informal setting. There is so much out there to enjoy, and you’re in an environment where people might not be so intimidated.”

Eden Langerman, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, enrolled in a wine-tasting course last spring. “I wanted to be more knowledgeable about wines,” Langerman says. “I think that it’s really impressive and learning about wines is so much fun. You might get trashed from beer, but drinking wine is like an art form.”

Look Like a Pro

There are a few details about graduation parties anyone thinking of throwing one should know.

Graduation PartyEverything seems to be going fine for the best graduation party this side of the river, whichever river you’re talking about and whichever side you’re on. You are actually graduating, you are actually having a party. But despite popular opinion, graduation parties are not just like other parties.

A major difference between a graduation party and just any other kind of party are the guests. The guests really make any party, and many grad party guests (graduating students) are likely to be in delicate emotional states due to major life changes. These are people who have been attending school full-time since at least age six, but many of whom are going to attempt to adapt school-free lives. They’re also probably being separated from their major support system — their best friends. And on top of all this, many grad party guests are sleep-deprived from studying for finals (or hard partying), scared to death because they don’t have a job offer yet (or, in some cases, scared to death because they do), cranky from spending too much time with relatives during graduation festivities and already feeling the first waves of oversentimental nostalgia for their college years.

With a group of guests in such a potentially volatile state, the “just add beer, chips and music” philosophy can lead to an overemotional drunken outburst. At the very least, a good grad party host or hostess should be ready to deal with the likely delicate emotional states of her/his beer-drinking, chip-eating guests.

Which is the most critical graduation party element?

So you finally made it. Whether “made it” means graduation, the end of final exams or another, non-academic definition, now is a great month for college students. It’s time to celebrate.

Party time with Stewie GriffinDifferent cultures celebrate momentous occasions in different ways. Some fire guns into the air. Others sacrifice a fatted calf. For contemporary American college students, drinking is often the celebratory ritual of choice.

Unfortunately, for many college students, drinking means little more than chugging down cheap, warm beer at a frat party or in a dorm room. That’s a damn shame. Drinking is so much more than a just means of getting drunk. It’s about community, tradition, bonding and reminiscing. It’s also a means of getting laid. There’s a world of drinking fun out there that most college students have foolishly failed to explore. But don’t lose heart.

There’s no time like the present to make up for past shortcomings. Simply drink everything on the following list — at the appropriate occasion, not all at once — and you’ll have a hell of a drunken month. You can even feel free to consider yourself a drinking pro.