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Staff Picks: Essential Fall Semester Purchases Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

After what felt like the longest summer on record, the beginning of the new semester is finally approaching and Penn State’s students are set to return to campus.

However, unlike previous semesters where pong balls and Solo cups were all the rage, items that improve your comfort and safety are now a dorm-shopping necessity.

Chances are, you already purchased a gallon of hand sanitizer and more masks than you can count. But some of the most useful items are likely the ones you’d never think of.

To help make sure you’re prepared, our staffers discussed their top pandemic-era dorm essentials that will help make your fall semester as safe and comfortable as possible.

Grace Cunningham: The Comfy

With most of my classes taking place online, I’m going to be spending a lot of time in my apartment. So the mood for this semester is comfort, and what’s more comfortable than The Comfy itself?

Picture this: It’s your first day of Econ 102. All of your classmates dress in the same boring Happy Valley hoodies, except for that one try-hard sporting a polo. Then, you pop onto Zoom in your giant leopard print hooded fluff suit. Now that’s how you make a first impression.

The Comfy, in all its cozy glory, can be purchased here for $39.99.

Matt DiSanto: Touchless Door Opener

This fall, the last thing I want to be doing is touching doorknobs and handles with my bare hands like some kind of animal. Instead, I’ll use this nifty touchless door opener that lets you pull open handles with ease without using your hands.

Plus, each gadget comes with a stylus tip that’ll be great for using public touch screens like the ones you see in Sheetz (or Wawa!). The door opener fits nicely on a keychain, making it great for whipping it out on a whim when needed as you traverse campus or downtown State College.

The door opener I found came in a pack of three on Amazon for $20, but there are many different models out there.

Lauren Wysseier: Noise Canceling Headphones

An absolute essential for the upcoming fall semester is noise-canceling headphones. Most Penn State students will be living in cramped apartments or dorms with roommates who have completely different schedules than us. The usual solution to this problem would be to find a quiet place on campus, but of course the circumstances are a bit different this year.

When you’re living in about 800 square feet or less with multiple roommates, things are bound to get noisy. Invest in a pair of noise-blocking headphones to save your sanity (and grades) this semester. You can thank me later!

Colleen Nersten: A Fancy Gaming Chair

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never felt a personal connection to chairs until Onward State personally attended a symposium on the world’s finest seats. Chair design is critical!

I lived in Pollock Halls as a freshman and was provided a less-than-ideal desk chair. I can’t help but worry about the poor freshman asses that will be stuck sitting in them for eight-hour Zoom school days.

Bypass the butt trouble and invest in a fancy PewDiePie-esque gaming chair. Teenage boys sit in them comfortably for hours while they play Fortnite, so it will surely be just as effective during your online classes. I’m in no place to tell you what a “good” one looks like, but I’ll be purchasing this pink gaming chair with a footrest from Amazon for a cool $179.99.

Ava Brendgord: High-Quality Face Mask

Since face masks are required on campus this year, investing in a high-quality mask (if you haven’t already) will definitely make the fall semester easier. Disposable masks can be uncomfortable and wear down easily, so it’s important to invest in a mask that provides comfort, contour, filtration, and protection against the virus.

Heck, you could even show off your Penn State Pride with an officially licensed Penn State face mask, or perhaps opt for a mask that benefits Hershey Medical Center.

Lindsay Tagliere: Air Purifier

A good air filter is essential if you’re living in a cramped dorm or small apartment. Each purifier helps to handle allergens and dust, take care of pet hair and pollen, and even fight back against airborne germs. Plus, they’re usually quiet enough to keep them on at night while you rest.

The Penn State plague is no joke, so even if the coronavirus weren’t around, this is still a good investment for anyone coming to campus in a few weeks. Purifiers can also handle strong odors, another aspect of dorm life you’ll likely run into. Just make sure you replace the filters to keep it working properly.

Dana Nunemacher: Netflix, Hulu, & Amazon Prime Video

Gone are the nights of beer pong and Saturday afteernoon tailgates. Instead, your free time this fall will likely be occupied by late-night studying…or just binge-watching your favorite shows.

Realistically, Netflix alone won’t cover all of our television and movie needs. Purchasing each provider can be a bit pricey, but it doesn’t hurt to coordinate with your roommates to each pitch in to create the ultimate streaming paradise. Plus, most streaming services offer a handy student discount you could use to get the best prices.

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