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Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Letter to the Editor: Are Santa Fe students disconnected from Gainesville's culture?

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Gainesville is a great town to live in. It has just about everything you need. There are countless restaurants, a thriving art scene and state parks that take your breath away. Gainesville’s gem is UF, one of the state’s most vibrant institutions of higher learning. The heartbeat of Gainesville is connected to the university, and so much activity is centered around it. The town’s culture is the Gators, which is why I feel like it is often forgotten that another college exists within the city limits.

I was a student at Santa Fe College until last semester. Santa Fe is located in northwest Gainesville, right near I-75. Despite being of slightly smaller stature than the university next door, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Santa Fe. The school has incredible teachers, supportive staff and friendly students. Santa Fe is a place that provides an excellent education.

After obtaining my associate degree from the college, I transferred to UF. I immediately felt as though something changed. When I became a student at UF, I felt so much more connected to Gainesville’s culture as a whole, despite living in this city for a year prior. I wanted to know if other students, past and present, felt the same way I did. I wanted to know if other Santa Fe students felt disconnected from Gainesville as I had.

The first thing I did was talk to my roommate, Aidan. He is from St. Petersburg, Florida, and he went to Santa Fe for a few semesters before transferring to UF. I asked him about what he liked about Gainesville, and he went on about Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park as well as the nightlife in town. Then I asked him if he liked these things when he attended Santa Fe. He described his experience saying, “I don’t think I had been to Paynes Prairie at that point. I didn’t really know anything about the nightlife. I know there were a lot of events I didn’t know much about that happened downtown and were probably UF related.” I was surprised.

Then I asked him what changed, and he replied, “I think it would just have to be the students at UF. Just being at UF, you get more info about what’s going on. You get emails about what is happening, about basketball games that everyone goes to, that the whole city goes to. I think you just know more about what’s going on when you’re at UF.”

One other person’s experience is a coincidence, not a trend, so I decided to talk with a current Santa Fe student. My friend Marlon is from Ocala, Florida, and he is a current student at Santa Fe. I asked him what he liked about Gainesville. He described his love for the different neighborhoods in Gainesville and his love for the community atmosphere. I also asked him how connected he felt to Gainesville. His reply highlighted the relationship between the colleges. “I think that the students of UF get more credit. Santa Fe gets a role, but it’s sort of a downplayed role in comparison to the space that UF gets.”

According to my and my peers’ experiences, Santa Fe is disconnected from the rest of the town it is a part of. As Gainesville continues to grow, I hope Santa Fe students and faculty and community members put thought into the practical inclusion of Santa Fe students. I appreciate the culture Gainesville has, and I want to see this culture become easier to access for everyone. I want everyone to be able to enjoy what Gainesville has to offer.

Christian Wertz is a junior transfer student from UF.

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