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Freshmen first impressions: Give UF more than seven seconds

I’ve heard that you have seven seconds to make a first impression. The average person reads around 35 words in seven seconds. Your first impression of this column has been created in 3, 2, 1 — now.

First impressions are everywhere. You are forming an impression of this column, freshmen are creating first impressions of campus, and returning Gators are being reimpressed or perhaps unimpressed.

The newbie freshman class’ first impression of this school is now taking shape.

In the midst of deciphering cryptic bus schedules, learning lanyards are unacceptable and questioning whether there is a blood donation bus within ten feet of them at all times (there is, trust me), freshmen are all pulling together bits and pieces of this campus that make a first impression.

By the second semester, remembered moments will morph into one overall impression. Hopefully, the ubiquity of Gator pride at UF hasn’t sent you into a psychedelic spin of orange and blue.

I also hope that the hordes of people assaulting you to join student organizations on Turlington Plaza did not leave you in a state of panic. 

You also hopefully realized that, contrary to popular belief, there is extra credit in college. 

Maybe you’ve also discovered that teaching assistants are not all that inept and that you can follow HUM2305’s path to enlightenment to find out “What is the Good Life?”

A freshman’s first impression of UF probably looks different than my continually developing impression. 

A freshman may think, “Wendy’s in the Reitz Union? Cool!” or “Norman Tunnel is so convenient for walking to class.”

In contrast, I want to know what happened to Burger King and its fabulous dollar menu ice cream and why the bike lane in Norman Tunnel, which I long used as a shortcut to class, no longer exists.

The blue trees in Turlington look like they have not been repainted since the senior Bush’s administration, and finding a place to lock my bike at the Reitz is still miraculously like securing a DVD at Redbox the day it’s released — nearly impossible.

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There’s a lot of good change, too. The new dorms and the expansion of the Warrington College of Business Administration will beautify two corners of campus, and The Swamp pulled out all the stops for the first game day, even if it was more of a rain day.

Some things don’t change at all. Gainesville is still oppressively hot, I still get lost, and I can still smell Chick-fil-A from a mile away.

To freshmen and transfers: Get out there, and get familiar with this school. 

Let it make a first impression on you, and make a few first impressions on other people.

Introduce yourself to your professors, and make small talk with your classmates. 

You will thank me when you need a letter of recommendation from a professor or when you take a mental health day and need that day’s lecture notes.

Whether you are impressed with or underwhelmed by your first week of experiences, don’t let your first impression become permanent just yet.

First impressions aren’t everything. My first impression of UF was wrong. 

I used to be intimidated by the size of the campus and the number of students, but now those are just parts of my everyday life.

A good first impression and a bad first impression can almost always be reversed.

Take in the orange and blue, embrace the never-ending search for a parking spot, and be pleasantly surprised by how quickly Chick-fil-A employees can prepare your No. 1 with fruit punch and no pickle.

Be impressed or reimpressed by this campus, and if you can, give it more than just seven seconds.   

Lindsay Alexander is a UF journalism sophomore. Her columns appear on Wednesdays.

[A version of this story ran on page 7 on 9/3/2014 under the headline "Freshmen first impressions: Give UF more than seven seconds"]

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