The basement of Weimer Hall is a bit of a maze. Walk around the underground labyrinth long enough, and you’ll forget where you walked in.
I was a sophomore journalism major during Fall 2017, and I still didn’t really know my way across campus. So finding The Alligator’s open house in the basement was daunting.
Luckily, the smell of free pizza and the loud chatter of about 15 people overstuffing a tiny office guided me toward my destination.
I was hoping to meet a couple new people with shared interests at the open house. I did. But more importantly, I found my people.
Finding your people is an important part of navigating college. An integral part of the college experience is figuring out what you want to do with your life. To do this, you need to know who you want to surround yourself with.
A lot of students find their people through fraternities, sororities, clubs, intramural teams, work, etc. I found mine at The Alligator, and I am lucky enough to consider The Alligator as my Gainesville family.
Being from Tampa, it was difficult to find where I fit in as a freshman on UF’s expansive campus. It took me a year of putting myself out there before I finally got to The Alligator. It may take less or more time for you incoming freshmen, but once you find those people, you’ll have a reassuring feeling that the path you’re on is the right one.
My mentors gave me that sense of security. In that little office in the Weimer basement, I met former alligatorSports editors Jordan McPherson, Ian Cohen, Ethan Bauer, Matt Brannon and Dylan Dixon.
These guys helped me because they fostered a feeling of family in the sports section. They gave me daily rides to the office, went with me to cover my first game (thanks Jordan!) and sat down with me to reflect on work. They made me a better journalist through our friendship, and I cannot be more grateful for that.
All of those guys graduated before the end of my first two years with The Alligator, but alligatorSports still remained a family in their absence. Myself and many of my peers (Jake Dreilinger, Morgan McMullen, Alanis Thames, Justin Alhum, Skyler Lebron, Mari Faiello, River Wells, Sam Campisano, Dylan Rudolph, Tyler Nettuno and Chris O’Brien, just to name a few) remain in close correspondence with each other and our former bosses, and I hope that never changes.
In my time at the paper, the sports and news sections merged together to form a big, happy Alligator family (office potlucks and late nights of editing will really bring an office together).
Now as I exit as editor-in-chief, my deepest hope is that The Alligator remains a tight-knit family forever.
To my hard-working Summer staff, I appreciate every one of you, and I can’t wait to see what is next for you all.
To my amazing managing editors, Hannah Beatty and Lindsey Breneman, I love you both and could not have survived the semester without you.
And to all you incoming freshmen, find your people. If you’re ever discouraged, just know they are out there somewhere. Hopefully, some of y’all will find them at The Alligator.
Mark Stine was the editor-in-chief of The Independent Florida Alligator. Follow him on Twitter @mstinejr or contact him at [email protected].