I’m going to be honest – old, ‘experienced’ freshman to incoming new freshmen – theme meals can be overwhelming. However, they can also be a total blast! You just have to learn the best way to approach them.
Scout the Menu Before You Go. Download the Navigator app. This app has a bunch of helpful information, like the layout of certain buildings, where to find printers and the menus for both dining halls every day. On top of this way of accessing the menu, you’ll see cards in the dining hall on tables during the weeks leading up to themed meals. These will also include the menu for the meal, so you have plenty of time to decide what you like best. Knowing what is available will make it easier for you to get through the crowds without as much trouble. It will save you huge amounts of time, especially if you happen to attend during the dinner rush.
Go Early. Arriving five minutes before the dining hall opens will grant you the serenity of a quiet dining room (for about five to 10 minutes) and the ability to make a round and compare your choices. You’ll be first in line, and get the seating you want (you want the booths, trust me). By the time the crowd arrives, you’ll be halfway through your three plates of varied food.
Or, Go REALLY Late. This is the other option that involves maintaining your sanity. Go 30 minutes before the dining hall closes, and the rush will be gone. You can get pretty good seating, and your wait won’t be too extensive. Don’t worry about whether or not the food choices you want will be gone by then – they won’t.
Get a Little Bit of Everything. Theme meals are not your average meal. There has to be something special about them considering the crowds they draw. Generally, I take a plate and fill it with the finger-foods I want. I’ll get my fruit, cheese, snacks and desserts all in one go. Small portions are key. Then, after comparing my options, I’ll go to each food station and ask for a little of my favorite dish (or dishes) that they’re serving there. Eating a little bit of everything makes you feel like you’re getting the most out of the themed meal. So no, don’t feel bad when you realize you’re eating cotton candy, candied apples, churros and corn dogs all at once.
May the themed-meal odds be ever in your f(l)avor!