Moving on from high school can be one of the first big changes someone experiences in life. No matter how many times you have pictured yourself away from home or visited your future college, nothing beats actually being there and seeing it firsthand. Either way, a few tricks and tips can’t hurt. Here are a few things I wish I knew when I was first making my way to Gainesville.
First of all, pack your rain boots, baby Gators! You are headed straight to the swamp, and it’s muggy out here. They don’t call it Rainesville for no reason. If you are starting school this summer, expect to arrive damp to class, whether it be from the daily afternoon showers or unavoidable dripping sweat. Steer clear of sleeves if you’re not into the pit stain look. Bring an umbrella with you everywhere because it can go from sunny to rainy in a matter of minutes.
Now that you are officially a part of the Gator Nation, you have permission to join one of the most elite college Facebook meme groups. Swampy UF memes for top ten public teens is one of my favorite ways to get news (and procrastinate). The memes on the page are specific to UF students, and they make you feel like you are a part of a community here. The memes help students bond over common campus experiences and, also, bring up controversies in a comical way. The entire page is a great forum for discourse among UF students, and I highly recommend everyone joins it.
Speaking of controversy, brace yourself for a lot of opinions to be thrown at you whenever you walk through campus. Turlington Hall's plaza area, one of UF's free speech areas, is filled with students promoting, publicizing and preaching on any given day. Most days are pretty calm, and dodging campaigners is as simple as walking quickly and avoiding eye contact. However, other days can get a little wilder. This year, I watched more than 100 students boycott Wendy’s, I saw men with fake blood stains on their crotches yelling about circumcision and I tried not to look at gruesome posters of fetuses put up by pro-life advocates. Regardless of whether you agree with whatever is being promoted, having free speech areas is one of the best parts of being on a university campus. UF is a space that you can use to make a change on a larger scale.
You should also never be afraid to ask questions. Freshmen are really only bullied in the movies. Everyone remembers what it was like when they first arrived and weren’t able to figure out where anything was. No need to struggle with Google Maps when someone could point you in the right direction. The best way to get involved is to ask someone with your similar interests about their involvement. Making friends and forming connections becomes a top priority.
Gainesville is an underrated place, and the most beautiful days come when you least expect them. The sunsets here paint the sky bright pink and orange. School gets stressful, and living in a college town can be vastly different than where you lived before. It is important to take in the breezy days with the clear skies when you can and to make a conscious effort to appreciate the Spanish moss that canopies above the campus. You made a great choice by deciding to join us over here in North Central Florida.
You can attempt to prepare yourself with advice from older students and can get all of the perfect dorm accessories from Bed Bath and Beyond, but this transition is one that has to be taken one day at a time. In no time, you will have your routine figured out, and you will know campus like the back of your hand. See you soon, UF Class of ‘23!
Molly Chepenik is a UF journalism sophomore. Her column appears on Wednesdays.