For many students, getting off campus to buy birthday gifts for a friend, roommate, or partner can be challenging. You may simply not have the time, resources, or money to spend an afternoon shopping for the perfect present and the perfect decorations. So just where can you go on campus to find great gifts and decor that can still make a college birthday feel celebratory?
The Student Activities Center, Student Engagement Center, Student Leadership Center, or Office of Student Involvement. Every campus has some kind of office that offers resources for student clubs, organizations, and leaders. And most often you don't have to be a club president to use the resources they have available. Stop in and see if you can blow up a few balloons, paint a poster, get some streamers, or borrow some sidewalk chalk. Let your creative juices flow and make something that you can put up on your friend's room door, in their hall, or even in the quad. Because who doesn't like seeing that their friends remembered -- and celebrated -- their birthday with something creative?
The dining hall or other campus food options. This obviously isn't the first birthday that's been celebrated on campus. If you have time, see if you can order a cake or a few cupcakes in advance of your friend's birthday. If you're out of time, find some kind of tasty baked treat and ask a food service worker if they can help you out. They might be able to throw some fancy frosting on a chocolate muffin, for example, or pipe a quick "Happy Birthday!" message on a doughnut. Additionally, they also might have extra, decorative paper plates or napkins so that your standard-fare dining hall item doesn't appear so, um, standard.
The bookstore. Alright, the bookstore may have outrageous prices that you avoid like the plague. But if you're in a jam, they might also be your only option. It only takes a few minutes to browse through and see if they have gifts ranging from the tiniest (and cheapest) for those on a tight budget to larger items for those able to spend a little more. Remember, too, that it's the thought that counts, so buying your roommate -- who always loses her keys -- a big keychain that's hard to misplace might be more personal than, say, a super expensive sweatshirt. Ask the bookstore staff if they carry other birthday-themed items, too, like mylar balloons, ribbons, or gag gifts. You never know what they have stock that you wouldn't be able to find anywhere else. (Bottle opener that sings the school's fight song, anyone?!)
Mother Nature. Sometimes, the most obvious solution is right before our eyes. While some campuses have rules about picking flowers from, for example, their famous rose garden, there are a lot of ways to use Mother Nature when it comes to finding gifts and celebrating a college birthday. Look around for pretty branches or scented plants that you can gather and place in a cup of water. Take a picture of something particularly beautiful on campus (like a flower, tree, sunset, cloud formation, weather event, or architectural feature), print it out, and write a birthday message on it. If you're trying to make a gift for a romantic partner, consider taking a picture of somewhere on campus that's meaningful for the both of you. Try to imagine seeing the campus for the first time and you just might surprise yourself with what you can throw together.
Your own room. Don't underestimate the power of your own room. You can use printer paper to make a card by hand (or print one out using some online templates). If you're celebrating your roommate's birthday, you can clean up the room and hang a few streamers (or paper chains) in the room to make it look celebratory. You can write or print out a cheerful "Happy Birthday!" sign and put it on the door. Each of these ideas only takes a minute or two, yet they can easily make your roommate's or friend's birthday one to remember.