Back to School, Back to School

IMG_4491 (500x333)

Thanks, guys, for the wonderful comments on yesterday’s guest post from Kailey. I was especially interested in the discussion between Elizabeth, Danielle, Karen, and Kate—check out that train if you have a second.

Right now, I’m blogging from the main student lounge in Alfred Lerner Hall, the student center on Columbia University’s campus. I’m wrapped in a sweater and curled up around my laptop, and I’m sipping a big cup of tea. I look exactly the way I looked during any given free hour six years ago, when I was an undergrad here at Columbia (disregarding a grey hair or two).

It’s never been hard for me to hurl myself into any new project—new job, new school, new friendship—with abandon. This is generally a strength; it allows me to immerse myself in new endeavors without looking back at what I was doing before. It would probably be an overstatement to say that I’m skilled at self-reinvention, but it’s not unfair to say that I’m generally quite focused on the present task at hand, and not preoccupied with my past. For this reason, I’m sometimes prone to forget how much past experiences—be they personal, professional, or academic—actually meant to me.

Prone to forgetting, that is, but also quick to remember. When I walked onto the Columbia campus yesterday morning—and keep in mind that I hadn’t set foot on campus in years, even though it’s a mere forty blocks from me—I was flooded with a mix of nostalgia, excitement, and adoration.

IMG_4495 (500x333)

In fact, I’m pretty sure that my face erupted into a giant, goofy smile, and that I half-skipped across campus. My undergrad years were as bumpy as anyone’s, but I loved Columbia with all of my heart, and I love it still.

With scenery like this—tucked away in the chaos of NYC—how could I not love it?

IMG_4492 (500x333)

IMG_4493 (500x333)

IMG_4496 (500x333)

IMG_4497 (500x333)

IMG_4500 (333x500)

IMG_4494 (500x333)

IMG_4498 (500x333)

That, by the way, is my freshman year dorm. Good times.

I was pretty jittery as the day began, but I calmed down right away when orientation began. The whole thing was organized down to the last detail, and the post-bacc students who led the orientation were ridiculously friendly. It’s a very diverse group of students I’ll be studying with. Among the careers my peers have had before pursuing medicine are video game programmer, guitarist, eating disorder hospital volunteer, carpenter, baseball player (that’s not a joke), literary agent, banker, consultant, paralegal, and assistant to a Hollywood studio exec. And that’s only a handful of what I heard. It’s pretty cool to be embarking on this journey with students who have had some legitimate life experience, just as I have. My advisor is not only head of the post-bacc program, but also an English lit PhD and a member of the Columbia English department faculty, so she and I share a lot of interests. In short, so far, so good.

I’m definitely one of the older students in the post-bacc, and I can already tell that this is something I’ll struggle to accept—especially since my coursework won’t begin in earnest until next fall, and the road after that will be very, very long (depending on how I structure things, I may not begin med school until the fall of 2014). I’ve always been relatively young for the things I was doing professionally, and in some ways that’s given me a smugness about my own precocity. But I’m not seventeen anymore, and it’s time for me to stop attaching my sense of self worth to my youth. If I’m going to pursue a career in medicine, I’ll need to accept right now that I’m doing it a little later than most people who do it, and I won’t be less of a doctor for that reason (all of you who’ve written to me with stories of family or friends who went back to school later in life, feel free to reiterate those stories to me).

The day was full of seminars on time management (not exactly a revelation, but welcome nonetheless), stress management (always welcome), and financial aid planning (grim, but useful). In between, we were served breakfast and lunch. I’m sorry to say that neither meal was vegan friendly! The breakfast buffet was a spread of pastries and muffins, and lunch did have a vegetarian option, but it was roast veggies on a wrap that I wasn’t sure was actually vegan, along with chips and a brownie. Perhaps this is all evidence of why the medical world needs a lady like me? 😉 Anyway, for this reason, I was glad that I’d eaten breakfast at home, and packed some Gena-friendly fare for lunch (a giant salad and dressing).

Today, knowing I’d be back on campus for placement tests and advising, I decided I’d once again to pack something fresh, raw, and healthy for lunch. I was craving a raw burger, but worried about not having the time to dehydrate anything. It then occurred to me that, if I’m going to be a student again, I’ll need to get used to packing lunch quickly, and I decided to try my hand at a dehydrator free raw burger. This quick, tasty concoction was the result!

Quick n’ Easy Dehydrator Free Raw Burgers (yields 3-4)

1 1/2 cup walnuts
1 Portobello mushroom, loosely chopped (sub cremini or white if you need to)
1 large carrot, chopped
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1 tbsp tamari (I used low sodium)
2 pitted dates
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Begin by putting all the walnuts in a food processor and grinding finely.

2) Next, add the mushroom, carrots, mustard, garlic, tamari, salt and pepper, and dates in the processor, and pulse.

IMG_4502 (500x333)

You want a texture that’s uniform but still a little chunky.

IMG_4503 (500x333)

3) Shape the mixture into 3 or 4 burgers. If it’s very sticky, just relax: it’ll toughen up a bit in the fridge.

IMG_4504 (500x333)

I cut up a burger and stuffed it into a chard leaf. This is an idea that struck me last week in D.C., when—inspired by my raw banana breakfast sushi—I used a chard leaf to wrap up one of Dreena’s leftover mushroom pecan burgers for lunch, like so:

IMG_4398 (500x333)

IMG_4397 (500x333)

Turns out chard leaves are very versatile! My new burgers, while softer than Dreena’s, also worked nicely in a cocoon of chard:

IMG_4505 (500x333)

When it came time for me to enjoy my lunch, I had a tasty raw burger wrap at the ready, along with a fresh salad and some of my zucchini dressing.

IMG_4509 (500x333)

IMG_4507 (500x333)

IMG_4506 (500x333)

If all of my student lunches turn out this nicely, I’ll be impressed with myself.

With that, a long two days of orientation come to a close. Even if school begins full time for me in the autumn, it was wonderful to get a sense of what my academic experience as a post-bacc student will be. In the meantime, I’m excited to tell you all about the clinical jobs I’m exploring to keep me busy in the semester ahead.

How was the start of your weeks? And student readers, spill it: what are your favorite, easy-to-pack lunches?


This post may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Visit my privacy policy to learn more.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Hey Gena! I just found your blog and am so excited to see that you are pursuing medicine! I’m a 3rd year medical student planning to become a gastroenterologist. You’ll begin to see quickly how crappy the food is that the medical field fuels themselves with. I am vegan as well (the only one that I know of) and even though it takes effort to always pack tons of snacks and meals, it is so worth it to not eat the free crap served at the hospitals! I look forward to reading about your journey and getting more food ideas!

  2. Wow . . . maybe the cosmos are trying to tell me something. I just found your blog, quite accidentally, by following a link from the “Chocolate and Zucchini” blog . . . which I also happened upon sort of randomly. ANYWAY, I thought I’d comment because I am currently a “non-trad” 2nd year med student and just wanted to say: CONGRATS on starting this journey (!!!) and you have ZERO need to feel anxiety over your age. I’m about to turn 30 in a couple of weeks, and I can honestly say that I’ve never been happier about what I’m doing with my life or about how much I’m learning. Yes, I’ve been in school forever and yes med school is HARD, but I really love what we’re learning right now, and it doesn’t feel like the burden that it does (I’ve gathered) for the majority of my younger/traditional colleagues. There is a great group of non-trads in my med school class with fantastic, diverse backgrounds, and it’s interesting because the majority of us have become the de facto leaders working to improve our curriculum and our institution. I would certainly argue that it’s a tremendous asset to have been out in the working world before entering med school: to be comfortable talking to/explaining things to people and to not be timid when it comes to getting what YOU want out of your education (rather than passively following the bare minimum of what you’re told to do) . . . and a million other reasons!

    And yes, medicine does need more people like you (like us, I’m tempted to say :)) Case in point: I’m on a newly created “wellness committee” at my med school, ad what did they choose to serve for lunch during our 1st meeting? Pizza. *facepalm* (There are about 3-4 free lunch lectures/activities per week at my school, and I’d say 80% are pizza and MAYBE one every other week is semi-healthy, e.g., sandwiches w/veggie options available.) It’s fairly appalling.

    But I digress! I think I’ll try to follow your blog (probably in spurts when I have time . . . which means 1x/mo or so!) But if I don’t have a chance to comment again in a while, I have a bit of advice for you that may or may not already know about: check out the “non-trad” forum over at ( for the non-trad forum specifically). The traditional “pre-allo” forum on there is a frightening melting pot of neurotic gunner pre-meds, but the non-trad forum was far more helpful and friendly. It was a lifesaver for me, and I met some very cool people on there who made me feel like less of an outsider for going back to school when I did (some of whom I’ve actually become friends with in real life!). I’ve heard a ton of great things about the Columbia post-bacc program from that site, actually, so kudos to you for going that route. I did a hodge-podge self-directed post-bacc of my own creation, and if I could do it all over again, I would have entered a formal program – the counseling, mentoring, letter-writing, etc. that you get from a program like that is immensely helpful.

    OK, time for me to catch some elusive sleep! Best of luck to you in this endeavor, and definitely keep posting some tasty pack-able lunch recipes! I’m inspired by this one! 🙂

  3. Very weird. I just found your blog and I feel like I have found a doppleganger. I have been working in publishing for 5 years and a few years ago decided to go to UC Berkeley post-pacc for premed. I have been working full time while doing this, still in publishing, so it has taken me quite a while. And I’m approaching 30 and just applying to med schools. I figure I achieved a lot in my first 30 years, there’s no need to believe I can’t achieve even more in the next 30, even if I will be in school for almost half that time. Good luck to you!

  4. Hi Gena,

    Second-semester Columbia senior here! I hope I can run into you on campus some day, and if I do, I’ll definitely try to stop and say a quick hello!

    I really hope the rest of your orientation goes well, and that this next phase of your life is off to a wonderful start!


  5. i just all giggly and giddy looking at these pictures and imagining how cool it would be to go back to school. eventually, yes. but i can imagine JUST how it feels being back at your alma mater. being back at ucla (im not sure if you knew thats where i am nursing or not) is like everything old and everything new merging in my life. i dont know how to explain it. its pretty cool. i bet you are feeling the same way. eeek. so fun!

    ps you are probably going to be mistaken as a teenager throughout your program anyways because you look not a day over 17. i mean that as a compliment, naturally. that fresh raw vegan youthful skin has such a young glow!

    • Ha! Thank you, my love. after 3 days of placement tests and registration, I’m sure I look a little dull. but I’m trying 🙂

  6. yay…this is great news. The world needs more people who’s name begins with Dr. that can at least help educate their patients on better food choices instead of just pharmaceuticals. Good for you, Gena. God speed.

  7. I remember visiting Columbia’s campus back when I was applying to colleges, and I was so impressed with the beautiful campus. Lucky you that you get to attend classes there!
    I think you probably already know my go-to packed lunch–homemade hummus with veggies & pita!

  8. Im so excited to read about your journey, back to school! You are so inspiring, please be my gastro one!

  9. You are such an inspiration, Gena! I’d love to hear about how you balance your time between your boyfriend, counseling, leisure reading, blog reading, and school work! I could always use some tips.

  10. Gena, I admire your enthusiasm! Congrats!
    Through work (I’m a biostatistician), I met this lady who was just finishing her residency in psychiatry and was in the process of establishing her own practice. She seemed so enthusiastic about her field and future career! I was very impressed because she was totally atypical– she had a career in business and administration for 15 years, raised 2 kids, and went to med school at the age 40+ and got into a really good residency program. I was very inspired by her because very few people would dare to do such a thing, and would just convince themselves that it’s too late to switch careers. She did say, though, that her family was extremely supportive of her choice and that helped a lot.

    Good luck!

  11. We are so excited for you!! The campus is beautiful…and you are not too old, young at heart is all that matters 🙂 You have so much to live for and accomplish. We look forwarding in sharing this journey with you.

    Burgers look great!! We have made raw burger out of sprouted lentils, next we will try these! Love anything with chard.

    For quick meals – avocado puddings or socca 🙂

  12. god, sounds so exciting. i’m on leave from school right now but this makes me itch to go back. also, to visit manhattan again… sigh. i say this to everybody but i think new york city is in fact underrated.

  13. My dad spent 30-ish years working in power generation and just went back to school to finish a BS degree last semester. He’s 55. Just know you won’t be the oldest student out there 😉

  14. How exciting! I will be traveling to New York next month to visit the boyfriend’s brother who does research there and hopefully make my way up to Lake Placid as well. Campus looks beautiful and I can’t wait to go! Good luck with everything.

  15. Hi Gena,

    Congrats on going back to school! I went back to the University to study medicine too when I was in my late twenties and I never regretted my decision. It was hard, harder even then I had imagined, but it was/is totally worth it. Now 6 1/2 later I am preparing for my final exams in April and May – so one of the hardest parts is still in front of me. 🙂
    Like you I was one of the older students, the majority being 7/8 years younger then me. I was afraid that it would be a problem but it wasn´t and I made some really great friends along the way.
    I never commented on any blog before but I just wanted send you my little piece of encouragement all the way from Germany.
    You are starting on a long, hard journey but it is really worth it!

  16. Open a can of chick peas, drain, put into tupperware, and pour on some mustard-based salad dressing to marinate until lunch. You can cut up some fresh beans, or just eat as is. Very French, very fast, very good.
    Good luck dear Gena! Your campus pictures are gorgeous.
    ps. I have a vision of you writing a book during med school to offset the cost.

  17. Ahhh…to be a student again! 28 years old is a mere child in my view. And, in any event, your few additional years of experience will prove to be a huge asset. You are wiser; you are more focused; you are supremely clear about your intentions. I don’t see any downside. You should wear your age proudly!

    Gena: I’ve expressed my over-the-moon excitement about your big-leap decision before, and it may seem it may seem odd that I feel that sort of happy for you given that we’ve never actually met, but yet, I consider your bold move to be such an inspiration!

  18. Welcome back, Gena! I’m a GS student at Columbia and since I started in 2009 I’ve noticed an expansion of vegan items. Sabra hummus packs are everywhere, and the cafe in the Avery basement has some delectable (and nutrient dense!) vegan foods prepared daily.

    I completely relate to what you’re saying about usually being the youngest and then having that change. I went straight from undergrad to grad school at 22 and was the youngest graduate in my class. Now, I’m pursuing another bachelor’s at 35. There’s a very specific and unique kind of awesomeness about going into any field as an experienced adult that, in my opinion, completely eclipses the ahead-of-the-age-curve feeling.

    If you’d like to chat about vegan deliciousness and college re-entry at the cafe at Avery, I’m totally down!

  19. Gena, I’m back to school this fall, too, after four years in the working world. Your lunch looks fantastic, and I can’t wait for more, particularly those that work on a budget (nothing better than cheap greens). It’s law school for me, so finanal planning is similarly grim!

    And we need doctors like you. My physician dismissed my question of whether soy worsens menstrual cramps, and instead perscribed obscene amounts of ibuprofen. We’ll welcome a balanced approach!

    • Try fresh cherries to get rid of cramps. I got this idea from a vegetarian friend who uses a sour cherry concentrate as an antiinflammatory.

      • Thanks. I was a soy heavy vegan, and I feel like cutting soy helped, although that’s completely conjecture!

  20. What kind of nut could be subbed for walnuts? I’m allergic and those look amazing!

  21. Hi Gena,
    Congrats on your new adventure! Here’s a little something that may make your wonderfully healthy lunch packing a bit easier: My simple EasyLunchbox System is a bento-style, three-compartment container with one lid which fits perfectly into our roomy cooler bag. Less pieces to wash and keep track of, which is a real plus. Lots of extra room in the cooler bag for additional snacks, ice block & a water bottle. EasyLunchboxes was named a ‘Dorm Room Top Product 2010’ by Student Advisor Magazine. Safe for freezer & microwave. FDA approved – No BPA, phthalates, lead, vinyl, or PVC. Sized right for both adults and kids. BTW – I have 3 kids (my oldest is in college) and I started my company only a year ago. The best time to start something completely new and wonderful is now! Enjoy 🙂

  22. So one of my very best friends began the road to med school several years ago. She’s now 38 and in her first year of school! It has been such an amazing journey for her. She is doing this as a single mom too!

    It’s amazing how much we learn about ourselves and egos when pushed into new situations.

    I’m pretty similar about not looking back when I move onto new projects..

    I KNOW you will do an amazing job and I am so glad that we get to come along for the ride.

  23. Hi Gena! I have been reading for a few months but decided it was time to de-lurk. I’m a CU grad and still live just a few blocks away, which means I often can’t help still hanging out on campus all the time — glad you’re so excited to be back in the neighborhood!

    I am commenting particularly because I have a logistical question…I try to pack healthy, veggie-filled lunches for myself, but since I don’t have an office at work and am out and about most of the day, I find that I often have to consider things that I feel are a little silly and shouldn’t be such a big factor in my food choices, i.e. “Is this salad taking up too much space in my bag, which is also crammed with books/laptop/gym clothes/etc.? Is it going to drip dressing all over? Should I just bring a peanut butter sandwich instead?” etc. etc. I know you’ve posted in the past about office lunches, but maybe once you’re into the swing of the student thing again you can post about how to manage a meal that is really on-the-go?

    Thanks! Love the blog 🙂

    • I know your question is for Gena, but I thought I’d chime in. 🙂 When I was in grad school I got an insulated lunch bag, and the handle had a clip on one side which allowed me to attatch it to a strap on my bookbag (one less thing to carry/leave behind). For dressing and other “liquidy” items (like salsa), I’d put it in a small tupperware and then stick it in a ziplock baggie to catch any drips.

  24. I so love campus life. I visited my alma mater a few weeks before Christmas and my chest was seriously about to burst with excitement.

    It is NEVER too late to choose a different path. When I went off to college my mother (at age 48) went back to get her PHD with 2 other kids at home. And you know what? There was a woman in her 60’s in her program. Despite her previous success as a reading teacher she is now thriving (at age 60) as a full time professor in a very different field and is revered by her academic colleagues. She never dreamed that her life’s best work would come at an age when most are thinking about retirement.

    If you had started med school at 22 there is no way you’d be bringing the nutritional background you have to the table and in the end THAT would make you a very different kind of physician. We need the Dr. Gena who sees the importance of prevention and nourishment and who has the maturity and life experience to stand up to the status quo. In my opinion the respect that your future professors, attendings and peer physicians will have for you will only INCREASE because of the additional life experience you can bring to the table.

    Excited to hear about this semester’s pursuits! xo

  25. I worked for a medical school post bac program, and saw people of all ages come into the program and go to medical school. Medical schools actually prefer older students because they have more life experience and are usually more dedicated. Also my mom and dad both went back to graduate school in their fifties, so you’re way ahead of the game on that one! 🙂

  26. Longtime reader, first-time poster. From one (former) pre-med to another, congratulations on your decision to go to medical school! As a medical student, I can tell you that I have plenty of classmates who held non-medical positions for multiple years before returning to school. Also, during medical school, many students take time to do research and/or to earn additional degrees, including multi-year PhDs, so it seems to me that by the time one reaches residency, the range of ages is even wider. Best of luck as you begin this unique journey!

  27. “I’ve always been relatively young for the things I was doing professionally, and in some ways that’s given me a smugness about my own precocity. But I’m not seventeen anymore, and it’s time for me to stop attaching my sense of self worth to my youth.”

    I could have written that. It’s something I struggle with more than I’d like to admit, and something I’ve never had the guts to say out loud. Consciously, I know that being young and relatively successful professionally is a silly badge of pride to wear. I won’t be 24 forever, and my future successes will be just as legitimate! Thanks for the reminder.

  28. The first day of starting anything is overwhelming, but sounds like you are off to a good start in school! That lunch look amazing. I am a huge fan of salads or soups in thermoses for quick lunches!!


  29. Usually a hummus or avocado sammich if I need to make something quick and easy. I prefer open-faced any given day, so it’s not really something I enjoy eating when I have to use two pieces, but it doesn’t take a lot of clean up, doesn’t make a lot of noise, and doesn’t give off any offensive odor (read: peanut butter scents). I’ll toss a sliced apple or segmented orange along with it and then use that to tide me over until I can get to lunch on campus or get back to my dorm to make something. I really hate eating on the go and not focusing on what I’m eating, and I know it’s a bad habit, but I’d rather go a bit hungry until I can pay attention to my food rather than wolf down a bunch of stuff before a lab so that I’m not stuck with a headache or dizzy. I’ll find balance eventually… 😛

  30. Haven’t stopped by in a while but very impressed with what you’re doing. I can’t wait to read more about your journey and how all of your interests will come together.

  31. I know it’s not completely “raw,” but when I am in a rush going to my work-study job and can’t get anything from the dining hall (usually because it’s not open yet), I like to bring an Ezekiel tortilla, guacamole, black beans, lettuce/spinach, and salsa along with me and assemble a fun Mexican-inspired wrap. 🙂

  32. Congrats on going back to school! I am currently in grad school and I’d say the easiest lunch for me to pack would definitely be a huge salad! Just make sure you do some prepping (chopping etc.) the night before.

  33. so exciting Gena!! I know your struggle well. I went back to school this fall and I’m 31. Not the oldest in my class but there is a wide gap between me and most of the kids. When feelings of inadequacy (at least that’s what it feels like to me) creep in, I just remind myself that I’ve done a lot of work to make sure this path will make me happy and that seems to do the trick. And I happen to think that a vegan lifestyle makes you look more vibrant and youthful, you should see the look on some of these kids faces when I reveal my age. I’m sure you will surprise a few students with your youthful glow as well 😉 What I really love is how young I feel being in school and interacting with people so much younger than me. It really brings me in touch with my inner teenager!

  34. Well, I’m not a student anymore, but because of my lifestyle/easting choices, I still have to pack a lunch sometimes! And today is one of those days. I’ve got a board meeting at 12:30 and lunch is served, and most people would consider the lunch to be healthy. But I choose to take the time and pack my own lunch. Nothing fancy–just a huge green salad with toppings that I love–a little seeds or nuts, a little dried fruit, cucumbers, carrots–whatever’s in the fridge. And today I’ll use your cheesy red pepper hemp dip as the dressing cause I made it last night. Score!

    Gena, about the age thing . . . remember that everything happens for a reason. There is a reason why you had your other career and life experiences before embarking on this one. It’s so clear to me why. We need doctors who can write who care deeply about how nutrition effects human health and well being. Nuf said.

  35. I just got a dehydrator for Christmas and look forward to trying this burger recipe. Interesting way to wrap it up in collard greens.

  36. I know you’re not a huge fan of fruit compared with veggies, but it’s really the perfect to-go food! It’s pre-wrapped in its own peel so no need for a container, and it gives you super quick energy when your brain needs it most. I usually bring an apple, an orange, a banana, plus crudites for snacking throughout the day. I love the idea of a layered bowl with sweet potato and beans that was mentioned above! Lentils and rice is another solid classic that travels well. Basically anything that will be just as good without re-heating in a microwave (cause in my experience, you can’t always find one when you need it most).

    I felt like I was starting college old at 22, and now that I’m finally in a better place after a rough divorce, I’m thinking about returning to my studies at 26. Knowing that you had the guts to go through with it has given me great motivation to actually do it 🙂 so here’s proof that you’ve inspired at one person!! And you’re not alone! *high fives*

  37. Thanks for sharing your day with us! And the pics…they are gorgeous, and it looks freezing there! Brrrr!! I went to undergrad in MN and so freezing my butt off and going to class is something I recall. But not fondly 🙂

    Gena, you are doing a fabulous thing: you are pursuing the life you WANT. The life that at 22 or 18 or 24 you didnt know you wanted and didnt plan for…but that doesnt matter.

    What matters is that you’ve decided NOW that you wanted to change your life and you’ve taken the steps to do so.

    And who cares if you’re older than they are…it actually will make you very well respected; not only b/c of your age and maturity but also b/c you are choosing this path (not an easy one!) after living real life for a few yrs and said ya know, I think I’m going to go back to school. Which inherent in that comes big time respect, I’d surmise. From me at least 🙂

    And the burger/nut pate/wrap action..NICE 🙂

  38. For packed lunches: hummus (raw or cooked) and raw veggies or raw crackers are my favorite go-to. I make a double batch of the hummus so I can have it for a couple of days. I also always have raw snack bars (homemade or store bought) in my purse in case I unexpectedly crash during the day, and I bring a small glass jar with protein powder (e.g., Sunwarrior) so if I need it, I can just fill it up with water, shake it, and drink it! If I don’t need it, since the powder is not wet yet, it can just stay in my bag till the next day. It is also obviously lighter to lug around without the water added in.

  39. I had my first day of holistic nutrition school yesterday, after leaving my job to pursue a new career. I also haven’t been to school in six years and am trying to figure out what to pack for lunch! I want to do raw lunches this year and your burger wraps look delicious.

  40. ooh Gena, I am vicariously excited and anxious! “First day of school” is always fun. I’m surprised you are thrown by (or maybe I should say thinking about) school lunches- how are they different than work lunches? No fridge?
    I get the age thing. I felt rather precocious until I entered grad school after taking 2 years off. My age is very average in my program, but I certainly don’t feel young or precocious any more. But it’s not like you didn’t get it together until now; this is at least your second or third career! That makes you versatile and brave. Besides, it’s boring to take the most predictable paths in life.

  41. Columbia looks amazing!! I wish my uni had been that stunning!

    I’m sure uni life wasn’t too far different though :).

    Glad it went well lovely lady!

  42. oh yeah, i am an ‘older’ student, too. like you, i was used to being the young precocious one. but now, it’s kind of fun having a bit of ‘life experience’ or ‘perspective’ or whatever :).

  43. Gena, serious kudos to you for going after this with such gusto. Because of that drive I have no doubt you are going to rock as a doc. And don’t worry about the age thing – my 55-year-old father got laid off from his lucrative (yet stressful) Manhattan business consulting job several years ago and decided to enroll for his masters – in international conflict and security! Now he’s a PhD student embarking on his dissertation and has plans to write a book and start his own research organization – at 55! His profs are decades younger than him! And his classmates are in their mid- to late-20s. Fear not. Age ain’t nothin’ but a number.

  44. So proud of you! And I’m on a mission to make those burgers for lunch…with flax and sunflower seeds instead of walnuts 🙂 I was eyeing a dehydrator on craigslist this week. Let’s see if I really need one!

    • Meh. I’ve used mine ten times or so in over a year, so you know my opinion! Ovens with open doors and low temps work just as well.

  45. Usually I pack my lunches in my nifty laptop lunchbox ( which is not only BPA-free but prevents nasty spillage and flavor mixing and messenger bag disasters.

    Typical lunches include:
    Collard wraps
    Salads (with the dressing on the side in the tiniest container)
    Organic miso paste with various fixings in the containers so I can make a rockin miso soup for lunch
    Raw vegetables and hummus and a lara bar.

    The problem is these containers are small so I can’t make the monster salad of my dreams.

  46. Also, if you find yourself spending late nights on campus and in need of a study break, you might consider braving drunk freshmen eating cheesy fries and wings to check out the student-run organic food co-op in JJ’s place…but I wouldn’t blame you if you’d rather run the other way.

    • Ha! Hey Charlotte. I lived in Jay my freshman year, so I know JJ’s well. I think I want to go back simply to say hey to the awesome guys who worked there. I will pass on the cheese fries 🙂

  47. Oh gosh, I am a Columbia alum and I too have not been back to campus in a couple of years, in fact not since graduating. Seeing your pictures and reading your sentiments on returning back to campus gave me an unexpected jolt of nostalgia! Perhaps a visit to the ol’ alma mater (literally…ha) is in order.

    Glad to hear orientation is treating you well. Best of luck and looking forward to hearing about more of your schooling!

    P.S. I lived in John Jay too – 8th floor holla!

  48. I pack my lunches. Recently, I’ve been loving sweet potatoes as a based. I bake a bunch at the beginning of the week and then top them with black beans, hot sauce (the sweet and spicy combination is YUM!) and pack a side of raw vegetables. I heat the beans and sweet potato up in the microwave at work (not ideal, but it works) and then combine them with the vegetables. It’s filling and delicious, while being easy to pack.

  49. I’m so excited for you Gena!! You’re going to be so great and I admire you for going full speed ahead. I totally know what you mean about being the young one. That has always been me! Your on-the-go eats look great. Good luck!!! <3 Oh, and you've gotten me HOOKED on wrapping things in chard.

  50. Glad you got through your orientation! Isn’t it super icky how schools have very little nutritious and veggie- friendly meals? I hate it indeed and maybe you’ll inspire them…..
    My go- to school lunches are whole made hummus, veggies and pita; hummus wraps + veggies; dried fruit, nuts and veggies; bean salads; soups and salad and the list goes on! I definitely need more ideas for quick and healthy meals on the go 🙂

  51. I was just thinking of lunch boxes after I saw so many over at City Life eats. I like a good salad with some raw bread or crackers on the side. Wraps are good too. I bet your student union has SOMETHING, chris often finds things at school that are vegan, there was a salad bar and vegan burritos. but packing is better, i did it most of undergrad too. no meal plan for me!

    I thought of something that made me a little jealous of some of the people who had entered teaching later in their life: people gave them more respect and assumed they had more experience just because they were older.

  52. I think the burger recipe sounds delicious and ingenious! I will be working that into my life soon! When I was studying and was Raw Vegan, I had an amazing portable salad bowl that I often filled with spiralized zucchini and carrots, greens, some other veggies and goodness, and I would usually make a cashew alfredo, or pesto dressing to add at time of eating!

    Also, a hefty pate or dip and endive leaves to scoop.

    Nowadays, as a more stressed out student, I find myself packing an awful lot of Globars, and nut butter sandwiches since I don’t have any lunch breaks during my schedule, and when I finish classes, I come home and make something proper.

  53. So fun to read about your orientation! I get butterflies thinking about that excitement…and seeing the Subway stop. I miss and love NYC! Congrats again on being a new student – such an exciting time. I’m going to live vicariously through you.

  54. great topic… i’m a grad student so quick, cheap meals are the ideal 😉

    my favorite easy to pack lunches (not entirely vegan):

    – pb & banana (& cream cheese) on toast
    – yogurt, pumpkin (& whatever fruits i have on hand, haha), granola, pb all in a tupperware bowl
    – salad with all sorts of randomness (i take mine in a sweetgreen bowl (DCer right here!) which has room for dressing).
    – canned soup, with frozen mixed veggies and/or spices to mix in (e.g. trader joe’s split pea, any of amy’s fabulous meals)
    – tastybite entrees in the plastic containers
    – a couple times i took erin baker’s breakfast cookie with a small 4 oz greek yogurt as lunch. not the healthiest, but it did the trick in a pinch
    – leftovers.

    occasionally, on the side, sliced up veggies (bell peppers, carrots) with a little tupperware of hummus.

    i also take an apple/banana/clementine/dates. and an energy-bar-du-jour’ (larabar, etc) for when 4pm rolls around and i start wanting cake for no reason.

You might also like