I'm of an age when microwaves and mini-fridge were NOT even thought of for dorm living. We used a "hot pot" and "stinger" to boil water and heat up stuff. The hot pot was discouraged from using and the stinger (metal coil with plug on end of cord) was down right BANNED, though everybody had one!?! Dorm had a full kitchen in basement, but stove and fridge were beyond DISGUSTING!
Niece is heading to AZ for college in just a few days. Although I fully expect "take-out" to be the order of the day... what kitchen tools would you recommend she either glom from extras at home or look for in local thrift stores?
Do you know that your neice will have cooking facilities? or will it be a make-do arrangement? Cookware would be different in each scenario.
The three universities in AZ are in Tucson, Tempe and Flagstaff. They're very different areas, with very different vibes.
Does your niece currently cook? Both our daughters did when they started college and most of their friends didn't. If she doesn't then I wouldn't get her cookware.
Depending on how much or involved cooking they want to do and off the top of my head:
microwave oven & some Pyrex cookware
portable induction hot plate & induction capable cookware
Single serve coffee/beverage maker
pot holders or mitt
blender for smoothies and frozen cocktails
When I was in college, hot plates were banned -- no one has one. We can use the dorm microwave and dorm stoves. I mostly eat at the cafeteria, but if I ever have to cook. I might have cooked instant noodle or canned food once or twice in the dorm. As such, I would say a small saucepan is the most important of all cookware. (if you can only have one cookware).
Microwaveable "cookware" can be fun and nice.
Chance is, I don't think she will have a lot of time or energy to really cook in a dorm.
small(ish) electric tea kettle: can be used for instant ramen and cups of comforting tea, as well as pour-over coffee and instant hot chocolate.
as a matter of fact, i gave an electric kettle, cup, and multiple types of tea to my niece when she went to the dorms - she really liked it. we decided to keep it smaller size, not only because it would be quicker to heat up, but also less interesting for potential roommates who might help themselves too much. it was a pretty cheap investment and she really appreciated it.
I got by for 5 years at university with a simple 9" supermarket brand nonstick skillet and SS saucepan. Cheap, so no worries about damaging them or having them stolen or misused by flatmates, easily replaceable, not afraid of 2-day long soaks.