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Friday, January 28, 2022

College isn’t only for education. It’s where we build a community.

We sign up for seven classes, then complain that our professors overwork us when we know how much work a credit hour is worth, about three hours of work. We actively procrastinate with our work, which leads us toward a stressful path when doing the work up front would have meant a weekend free of any worry. We take our time for small details so often that working on the big picture seems absolutely impossible.

I love going to class. It is a weird thing to hear from a student when everyone is used to the constant drone of complaints concerning classes. I myself did not like going to class back in middle school, but now I have worked on changing that mindset. I am not taking these classes to knock off the credits required to get a degree and get to my destination as soon as possible. I walk into class knowing that I am taking a step further to find others who share my passion.
 
My professors were students just like me, and they cared about a subject enough that they came back to it to make sure others could share that same passion. Yes, lecture classes always feel like filler classes and those critical tracking courses seem like the barrier between die-hard devotees of a major and the tentative followers testing the waters. But if you find the time to get to know a professor for 10 minutes and talk to them about what they have seen and done, it is a step toward a possible career path.

Graduating should give us a competitive advantage. This is a common saying that entices students to go to college. We now know that a lot of what we learn can be found in different ways but for a lower up-front cost. Coding, business planning, creative writing and even DIY construction and building are all courses that can be taken online. However, what we do get out of an in-person class is a community. It is difficult to find groups of people passionate about areas of study and to be able to grow with them outside of a university. Academia allows us to find a community that loves what we love. Learning is secondary in school and in life. I think the real value of school and life is in community building.
 
School clubs let us find a hobby or pastime that connects us to others. These connections go far beyond a shared interest in knitting or soccer; they create a thread that binds people together to create families. Transgender feminist writer Janet Mock spoke with the artist Devonté Hynes, also known as Blood Orange, about his album. One of the most heart-touching moments is on the interlude “Family” where she talks about what she thinks family is and defines it as “community ... the spaces where we don’t have to shrink ourselves, ... we choose our families. We are not limited by biology.”
 
We all chose to apply and to commit to UF. We choose every semester what we want to participate in like the classes we take and club meetings we go to. Every day we get to come into the hallways, the classrooms, the libraries and onto the plazas and become part of the Gator family. That includes students, professors, directors of programs, deans of colleges, the staff who work tirelessly to keep our campus safe and clean, the alumni who continue to show the support and love for their community and every prospective student who waits for decisions to come out and then commit. We are all part of a great family, so instead of grimacing as we walk into class, let’s walk in smiling for another opportunity to grow with the Gator Nation.
 
Daniel Gamboa is a UF journalism sophomore. His column normally appears on Fridays.
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