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The Gilmore Girls Guide to Starting University

A lesson in new beginnings from an iconic mother-daughter duo.

Last year, I lived vicariously. When nothing could offer me the comfort and excitement that I sought, locked down in my bedroom, I turned to a tried and tested ally – Gilmore Girls.

The show is a time machine. It’s bottled nostalgia. It’s the pre-pandemic, pre-GFC, pre-low-rise-jeans-are-wrong era. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a religion.

For those who haven’t been indoctrinated into the world of the Gilmore Girls, here is a summary: Lorelai Gilmore is not like a regular mum – she’s a cool mum. Her daughter, Rory, is her best friend; they drink a lot of coffee, and they talk very fast. It’s the early 2000s, and they live in a storybook town called Stars Hollow.

The cultural significance of the show cannot be understated. It introduced us to Melissa McCarthy, long before Bridesmaids came out. Harry Styles wore an ode to Lorelai’s outfit on Rory’s first day of Chilton in a recent short film for Gucci. Her impact! It occurred to me that amongst its fashion influence, its idealism, its early actualisation of the cottagecore fantasy, Gilmore Girls is also an excellent guide for those who are beginning their foray into university life.

Rory begins her journey at Yale at the start of season four. It’s 2003. She packs, lovingly says goodbye to Stars Hollow, moves into her dorm, and starts university life. There are campus tours, mild existentialism, friendships (old and new), identity crises, classes, parties. There’s a lot that we can learn from Rory’s early days at Yale.

Live in the moment. When Lorelai and Rory walk into her dorm for the first time, Rory’s head is filled with finding emergency exits, her torn map, and where she can find a phone charger. Lorelai, in her infinite wisdom, walks her back out, and tells her she needs a do-over. “You’re gonna be in the moment!” She proclaims. “You’re gonna be in the moment.” While you may not be walking into any dorms, you will be experiencing many firsts as you start uni. You will enjoy your first lunch on the lawn in front of the quad, your first class where you fall in love with the subject, your first time being heckled by campaigners during election week. Rather than letting your head fill with the anxieties of change and new beginnings, take time to appreciate the excitement of what’s in store for you. And, if you need to walk out and try it again, that’s always an option.

Food brings us together. Rory and Lorelai order food from every nearby takeaway place so they can rank them and decide what their favourites are. They order too much, so they invite everyone around them to share the feast, and it becomes a great bonding exercise. This may not be realistic on the same scale, especially in the Covid world, but the sentiment remains. Getting food with people at uni can turn classmates into friends. I made lifelong friendships with the people I went for coffees with in the first weeks of my first year. 

Try Everything. Or, try as much as you want to. Rory signed up for over 50 classes in Yale’s “shopping week.” This might be overkill, but it’s a great idea to try out as many experiences as you can at the beginning of this semester. This can be clubs, classes, events – there are so many opportunities for you to immerse yourself in university life.

Ultimately, your uni life is what you make it. Any imitation of the Gilmore Girls is a welcome experiment, and if nothing else, perhaps this is your excuse to dive back into the nostalgia of watching the iconic show for the third time.