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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

You belong in college. And there’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t feel that way. I’ve been in a similar place too, like I’d somehow duped the admissions committee into letting me past the gate. It can be so easy to fall into that spiral of self-doubt, that feeling of being out-of-place among “better qualified” classmates. I get where that comes from, and if you feel that way, I can’t emphasize enough how wrong you are.

There’s no one model of a college student that everyone should aspire to. With so many varied backgrounds and life experiences that make anyone up, it’s impossible for one path to be universally ideal. Instead, I suggest using your time and energy to find a right fit for you by tapping into organizations and opportunities that are entirely unique to yourself. UF has some great resources to find your place on campus, like Gator Connect or the Involvement Team, which are dedicated to helping you find personally relevant opportunities. 

Now, an important note here is that any route you take will take time to grow accustomed to. I used all these resources, and it still took me about two years to really feel “settled” anywhere. That may be an extreme case, but I just want it to show that it’s totally normal. There’s never a point where it’ll be too late to find your groove, so take your time with it! College should be a home and you have time to grow into it. 

It’s OK if you don’t love college right now. It absolutely can seem dizzying, being as free form and large as it is. Classes might end up being difficult and that’s OK. Do the best that you can, and that’s all anyone can expect from you. Don’t feel afraid to talk to your professors about what worries you or to ask extra questions after class. In fact, I’d encourage you to do so. I can’t overstate how useful it has been for me to have a teacher to lean on for advice and support. For you, that individual might even be another student because we’ve all been through it. 

If you brace yourself and spend time de-stressing, you’ll pull through. In the end, you’re doing this for yourself and your future, so focus on you. Don’t let things bring you down, take care of yourself like you take care of someone you love. If you don’t feel like you have a strong support system, find one in an organization, through counseling, in friends or anywhere else. Get excited to find your place. Learn wherever you can and love what you do. 

To end, congratulations on making it through the first week of the semester. That might not seem like a whole lot but you’ve already leaped past one of the biggest barriers you’ll face. That adjustment or re-adjustment period can be frightening, and rightfully so. So, be there for yourself and if you’re able, be there for someone else in your life. We’re all on the same journey.  

You belong because college is exactly the place to be learning about yourself. Your path might take you away from university or let you stay in it for a while more (I’m looking at you, fellow pre-law students). Just take it day by day and you’ll do great. 

Matthew Diaz is the Vice President of the Volunteers for International Student Affairs

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