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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Navigating freshmen fall: UF’s mental, emotional resources for students

Students can reach out to RAs, student organizations and the CWC for support

For some freshmen, the transition to UF can be tough. Students are on their own and responsible for both academics and personal responsibilities, such as laundry and grocery shopping, for the first time.

Luke Ortega, a UF architecture senior and resident assistant, works with freshman students and helps smooth out the adjustment period. Thanks to additional support from family members, he said freshmen are doing well. 

“I feel like they’ve been transitioning pretty well into it,” Ortega said. “And I think a lot of that is because a lot of their parents came up to help them with moving. So because of that, it felt like a final send-off to them.”

Some students felt homesick, Ortega said, but the Fall semester’s multiple holiday and hurricane breaks helped students visit their hometowns more often.

“The good news is these past couple of weeks with the hurricane and Labor Day a lot of them did end up going back home during those days off,” Ortega said. “So the homesickness this year has not been as severe as previous years just because of how the days off have been working.”

Housing and Residence Life also hosts events where residents can meet others in their complex and enjoy free food and activities.

“This past couple of weeks we’ve been hosting events just to help students get to know each other and to acclimate more with the new environment and meeting people their age,” Ortega said. 

To welcome students to campus, the Inter-Residence Hall Association held a weeklong event called “Fall Welcome 2023 Passport to Wonder” at the beginning of the semester. The association hosted Midnight Munchies at Gator Corner, Journey to the Center of Campus at Turlington, and more across campus.

For online students, an opposite challenge exists.

Ella Monck, an 18-year-old family, youth and community sciences freshman, is a Pathway to Campus Enrollment student who lives with her parents in Gainesville.

PaCE is a program requiring students to complete 60 credit hours online before beginning on-campus classes. 

Students in PaCE often miss out on the social aspects of freshman year, Monck said. 

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“I definitely think I have a different college experience regarding socialization,” Monck said. “Because living with my family, they’re like, ‘Where are you going?’ every time I go somewhere. It’s definitely a lot harder than just going out with your friends.”

Monck participates in the Optional Fee Package offered by UF for online and PACE students. The package allows students to participate in on-campus activities, health services, athletics and transportation services. 

Without it, Monck said she’d feel isolated from the student body.

“If you don’t have that, you don’t get any access to any of the on-campus amenities,” Monck said. “If you’re living in Gainesville you don’t want to be completely disconnected from the campus because then it doesn’t really feel like you're a real UF student.”

To help students adjust, the Counseling and Wellness Center also offers services to help students during the transition to college. 

Rosa West, the associate director of outreach and consultation at the CWC and clinical associate professor, said freshmen often feel overwhelmed and homesick during the first semester. 

“It’s a common experience especially if it’s your first year, you’re coming into a new environment and you’re sort of having to learn a lot of things,” West said. 

The CWC offers a service called Gator-2-Gator, which allows students to receive support from their peers. Students can apply online to be connected with an AWARE ambassador for a consultation on resources and workshops within the CWC and UF. 

The platform lets peers be emotionally and mentally there for students, she said.

“It does provide that sense of community that some students may be struggling with as they’re feeling more isolated or alone on campus,” West said. 

The CWC also offers group programs where students can learn and support each other through shared experiences. West recommends the “Understanding Self and Others” group for freshmen because it gives students an opportunity to create a community while receiving support. 

“They’re also hearing from other students and kind of seeing different perspectives and alternative ways of engaging,” West said.

The CWC has three in-person locations located at Peabody Hall, Radio Road and Cypress Hall.

Students can receive crisis support at Peabody Hall every weekday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Radio Road office offers workshops, group therapy and individual and couples counseling every weekday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Cyprus Hall housing embedded counselor is available by appointment every weekday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

West advises students to reach out to their peers and share experiences with each other. 

“I just sort of underscore that–not being hesitant to ask questions–and to have conversations with your peers where you just kind of bring up, ‘Hey, anybody else struggling with time management right now?’ because 10 times out of 10 you’re gonna get a ‘Yes me too,’” West said.

Contact Megan Howard at mhoward@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @meganmhxward.


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Megan Howard

Megan Howard is a second-year journalism major and the K-12 Education reporter for The Alligator. When she's not writing, you can find her rewatching the Eras Tour movie or reading The Hunger Games series.


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