I have been looking forward to college since my sophomore year of high school. I was so sick of living in the same area for almost 10 years, so I was ready to move out, explore new places and meet all new people. I had big dreams of going out of state and never seeing anyone from my high school again, both of which did not come true. I came to the University of Florida with about 40 other kids in my grade. Now, as a freshman that has conquered her summer and fall semester, I can look back and say the transition into a big state university from my small town was different than I expected it to be, for better and for worse.
You become better friends with people you weren’t close to in high school
Going into my first summer B semester here, I was very anxious like any other freshman starting college. Before I got to UF, I was not excited to see any of my classmates from high school. But after the first couple days, I was relieved to see familiar faces. I even became close to people that were in completely different groups than I in high school. One pleasant surprise about coming to college is that no one cares about “popularity” or “status” that everyone seemed to obsess over when we were younger. You can be friends with anyone and not feel any of that pressure. Some of my good friends here now are people I didn’t talk to in high school.
Finding where you belong can be hard – but once you do, it makes life so much better
It’s hard being the small fish in a very big — about 52,000 people — pond. Coming to UF, this is a double-edged sword because, on one hand, there are so many opportunities for you to get involved and so many people to meet, but on the other hand it can be overwhelming to find where exactly to start looking.
There are so many people here, it is very easy for you to get lost in the crowd if you don’t find a community. At first, I struggled with finding my community. I wanted to meet people who liked the same things as me and that I could bond with and also get involved on campus. I decided to jump in head first and sign up for a bunch of clubs in the hope I would get picked to be a part of at least one. This lead me to meet some amazing people and has opened up many doors for some great opportunities I would not have found if I didn’t put myself out there.
My advice for other freshman is to just keep trying to find what you are passionate about, find some clubs that interest you and be involved. It makes the UF campus feel a lot smaller, which helped me a lot with my college transition
When it comes to greek life, keep an open mind
Coming into college, I knew one thing for sure: I did not want to rush. I felt that I did not fit the mold of a “typical sorority girl” and that there was no place for me in greek life. I had also heard horror stories of girls crying during the whole process, getting dropped from every house, and crying on bid day (and not from happiness). I wanted no part in any of that. But, my dad was in a frat when he was in college, and he pushed me to put myself out there and give it a try. He told me, “If you do not like it you can quit, but at least you gave it a try.” I stayed open-minded throughout rush and ended up sticking with it. I found a house that I loved and felt like I belonged, and they accepted me for who I was. I never thought I would be a sorority girl because I didn’t realize that not everyone fits the stereotypes we all hear about sorority girls. For others who are on the fence about rushing, I would encourage them to keep an open mind, because you may just find your community and best friends here. If not, at least you can say you gave it a try.
Remember to have fun, but to also get your work done
There is always a lot of fun parties or events going on in college. Freshman, who maybe have never been to a party or drank alcohol, can tend to go a little too crazy their first year in college because they are not used to all of the freedom they have now. It is vital to know when to go out and when to stay in to focus on your homework or other responsibilities. You don’t want to screw up your college GPA your freshman year, because then you are digging yourself a hole that is really hard to get out of. There will always be another frat party or get together, but you cannot erase a bad grade. But it is also important to keep a balance by having fun. These are supposed to be the best four years of your life, and you will never have this much freedom again. Take advantage, and if you get all your work done, do not be afraid to go out and have a good time.
There are so many other things to do besides taking classes
What surprised me most about my transition to college is how much free time I have. I was so used to going to school from 7am to 3pm, playing sports after school, coming home, eating dinner, doing homework then going to bed. That was my routine every night during the school year for four years. Once I got here, I went to two classes a day and had the rest of the time free to myself. My biggest advice to other freshman is to utilize your time wisely and do what you love. Sign up for an intramural sport, go to Lake Wauburg or Paines Prarie, go to the football games, or just ask someone to hang out and go on a random adventure. Make the most of your free time as a freshman especially, because you will just get busier as you get older.
Transitions are hard, make sure to take care of yourself
Everyone that has gone through this transition freshman year of college knows that there are ups and downs to this whole process. There are some nights I love being able to go out and have all the freedom of living on my own, but other nights I really miss my family and just want to sleep in my own bed. It is perfectly normal to have those feelings of being alone, scared or homesick, but it is important to try and minimize them and focus on taking care of your mental health. I have experienced all of these things already. There are a couple things that help me when I am having a bad day: calling my mom to catch up, going to the gym or running stadiums, or asking a friend to hang out or go get ice cream. You only get out what you put in when it comes to the college experience, so try not to dwell on these negative feelings. When you feel sad, reach out to someone to do something. It could lead to making some great memories.