I just finished my first semester at the University of Central Florida. Being a queer college student, the stereotypical college experience gets a bit turned on its head, as an additional layer of identity changes how college works in unexpected ways. As I reflect on the first four months of living on my own in a new area, I’m realizing all of the good advice I was giving, or should have been given, at the start of the semester. Here are my ten best tips for queer people, and anyone, preparing to go off to college.
Put an umbrella in your car, and have one in your backpack.
You’ll never believe how many times this tip (credit to my mom for telling me this one) saved my homework, my laptop, and my hair.
School events are great ways to get free food, t-shirts, pens, and even more really cool stuff.
During the first week of the semester, I went to one big event every day with my friends that I met at orientation a few months prior, as a part of UCF’s fall semester kickoff party, Pegasus Palooza. By just walking around and taking to the groups at these events, I received several t-shirts, two umbrellas, pens, notebooks, lanyards, and even more cool stuff!
Keep a menstrual product in your backpack.
If you are someone who menstruates, or you know anyone who does, carrying one simple pad or tampon can be a lifesaver for you or someone else who may otherwise be in for a catastrophe.
Keep a snack in your backpack.
You never know when you’ll need something nutritious in a pinch. Whether you’ve forgotten to eat for longer than you should have, or one of your friends or coworkers ran late and skipped breakfast, you will be a hero to whoever enjoys the granola bar you packed.
Find your community.
The University of Central Florida has over 600 registered student organizations or clubs. While this specific number is for my school, I would imagine that there is something for everyone on campus. Even if there aren’t any clubs or registered groups that appeal to you, find your school’s LGBTQ center, if there is one, or find something in your city that you can call home.
Find a balance.
This tip also comes from my mother: sleep more than you study, and study more than you party. I like this because it reminds you that sleep is crucial for success, something that a lot of my peers often forget, and it acknowledges that “partying” is a part of the college experience. You need to find a balance of having fun, studying, and taking care of yourself, to succeed.
Don’t be afraid to change it up!
While I emphasized the importance of finding the balance between having fun, studying, and sleeping, it’s also important to experiment with that balance to find what works best for you. I tried out several different ways of organizing my schedule, to do lists, and assignments before finding one that works for me. It might take time to find what will work for you specifically, but finding it is crucial, so don’t be afraid to try new things!
Try new things!
In addition to experimenting with ways to organize your schedule, you should experiment with other things too! Food, for example, tends to be really diverse near college campuses, as every restaurant wants that university food traffic. Pick a new place to try, or just try a new item at your favorite restaurant, or try a whole new activity if you aren’t hungry! Trying new things is one of my favorite parts of being in college.
Take advantage of on campus resources.
Most college campuses have free (or close to free) counseling and advising services, health clinics, tutoring centers, and libraries. If you find yourself needing help with anything, find what your school has to help you and try there!
College is often portrayed as a fun party time full of experimentation and finding yourself. College is also often portrayed as a four year long study session full of lecture halls and pop quizzes. Neither of these portrayals are completely correct, but there’s an element of truth to each. Don’t let finals and classes overwhelm you, and don’t forget to balance the studying with some fun times!
I hope these tips help some of y’all who are worried about starting college. I’m sure it’ll be great! It’s easier than it looks.
About the Author:
Andrew Adams is a transgender college freshman at the University of Central Florida who is committed to LGBTQ advocacy at the local and national levels. Nationally, Andrew serves as a youth ambassador and advocacy volunteer for The Trevor Project, a youth social media ambassador for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and a Volunteer and Intern Coordinator for Point of Pride. On the legislative side, Andrew lobbies for the Equality Act by visiting with his Congressional representatives and their staff.
Additionally, Andrew has spent years fighting to change his school district’s bathroom policy to be trans-inclusive, and the fight is still ongoing. Andrew is an International Baccalaureate student and a volunteer at the Mayo Clinic, and he hopes to go to medical school and become an adolescent psychiatrist specializing in transgender health. For fun, he practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, creates sculpture art and plays the piano.