Things I Wish I Knew as a UF Freshman
by Shannon Smith
First of all, to the incoming UF class of 2021, congratulations! When they tell you you’re in for the best four (or 5 or 6) years of your life, they’re not kidding. It’s so great to be a Florida Gator.
Now, even the most wonderful of experiences take some getting used to. You will learn how to get around campus in a couple of weeks tops, but most people probably need a year before they know all the ins and outs of life at UF. And that’s OK! But you don’t have to do it alone!
We here at NS4L love our Baby Gators, and having a team made up of quite a few UF alumni and students, we want to help you as much as we can! So without further ado, here are some things that I wish someone told me when I was a freshman at UF.
Looking at a map & asking for directions is OK!
I realize there are plenty of these blogs floating around with advice for freshmen, but be careful what you read. Not all blog posts are created equal. One thing I see in a lot of these is “You’ll totally look like a freshman if you’re looking at a map. Put it away so nobody judges you.”
First of all, you are a freshman. There’s absolutely no shame in that. There’s also no shame in being on a new campus for the first time and trying to find your way around. What do they expect you to do? Magically know how to get from Turlington to McCarty A, B, or C without ever having been there? (See what I did there? Look at a map.)
Granted, it’s 2017, so you can low-key look at a map on your phone. But sometimes you still need someone to point you in the right direction. And I promise you, nobody will judge you. We’re Gators! Aside from being generous, kind, peaceful creatures, we also love each other. We’ll be more than happy to give you directions, and will spare you the embarrassment.
Disclaimer: There probably are some people on campus who snicker at people with maps. We call those sophomores, and they’re just glad they’re not freshmen anymore. Disregard them; they won’t be rude to your face.
Library West is not the only place to study
Library West, or “Club West” as it is so affectionately called, and Marston are the two most popular study destinations on campus. They both have a fun, collaborative atmosphere, great for studying with friends or working on group projects. They’re both in central locations (Marston is next to the HUB, and Lib West is at the Plaza of the Americas). They both conveniently have a Starbucks on their ground floors.
They’re also both usually pretty packed, unless you’re there at 7 a.m. to claim your spot. And loud. They’re usually pretty loud.
The good news? You have options! The Fine Arts library has these neat little study carrels that you climb a ladder to get to, like a bunk bed! (Pro Tip: Though not actually a bed, it’s a great place for a nap.) The Education Library is tiny but usually empty, and is away from all of the hustle and bustle of the rest of campus, so it can be a lovely escape. Plus, there are plenty of non-library study spots. My favorite is Pugh Hall, with tables and couches throughout the building, and even a little convenience store for snacks. (Full disclosure: I’d be lying if I said I never took a nap there either.)
Krishna Lunch can often be one of those things that we fear just because we don’t understand it. They offer karma-free, i.e., vegetarian, meals every weekday in the Plaza of the Americas. Vegan options are also available. I am personally a meat-eater, but I absolutely love Krishna Lunch. Give it a try; you won’t be disappointed. It’s also the most affordable lunch on campus, at $5 a plate with unlimited refills. You can also purchase a package of meal tickets in advance for a discounted price.
Public transportation is great. Until it’s not.
As far as city bus systems go, Gainesville has a great one. RTS is free for UF students, so getting around town is theoretically a breeze. That’s right. Theoretically.
Most off-campus apartment communities are in the same area, meaning you’re taking the bus with hundreds of students from a dozen other properties, all trying to make it on time to their 8:30 class at the same time. Fat chance. You’ll either end up watching three full busses zoom past you before you can get on one, or you’ll squeeze on and have to stand, packed in like a sardine. If you’re short like me, you’re almost always staring directly into the armpit of some dude that you do not want to get to know.
Buying a campus parking permit is almost as useless because you’re still restricted where you can park your car (most lots are still reserved for the more *special* people), and they sell more permits than they have spots. They call it a “license to hunt,” and it’s a lost cause.
So what do I wish someone had told me? Get a scooter. Yes, you still have to buy a parking permit for it, but you can squeeze as many scoots as you want into the scooter parking areas. Gainesville already has so many scooters that other drivers have learned to share the roads, and it makes getting around (and parking!) so much easier.
You’re going to change your major.
Looking back, asking a kid to decide their entire future when they’re 18 seems insane. It seems that half of everyone you meet either wants to go to law school or medical school, and the other half is going to be engineers or finance majors.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to pick your career your freshman year. Yes, there are people who have lifelong dreams to become a doctor, and they do it. But those people are few and far between. Chances are, you’re going to find something you love that you didn’t even know existed. Do yourself a favor, and take a variety of classes. There are hundreds of electives to choose from that will fulfill general education requirements. Find something new. Change your mind. Find something you’re passionate about and good at. UF is an amazing place for that.
I could go on and on giving you tips for your time at UF (go to all of the sporting events, don’t worry about your first bad grade, don’t buy your books at the bookstore, etc.) but figuring some of this stuff out on your own adds to the fun and excitement of the college experience. You got this.
But just in case you need a little extra advice, feel free to leave a comment below or tweet at us @NS4L if you have any questions about UF, Gainesville, or anything else! We love our town and we are here to help!