Calling All Baby Gators: 10 Ways to Not Sink in the Swamp

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You’ve picked your classes, got your dorm all set up, and you have no idea where to start now that you’ve actually made it to the Swamp. For most Baby Gators, going to class on a campus with over 30,000 people might seem like the scariest thing you’ve ever done. But while your freshman year at UF can seem super overwhelming at first, don’t worry.

Here are some tips for UF freshmen to help you look forward to the next four years.

1. Find a gator gang

Hundreds of clubs and student organizations at UF need new leaders and fresh ideas. Apply for any and all that pique your interest. Seek out internships or programs that will allow you to gain experience and build your resume and take advantage of these opportunities to set yourself apart from your thousands of classmates. “You may not want to take the time to do it, but really think about what you want to achieve in your years at UF because it will fly by so fast,” said 2018 UF marketing grad Maddie Dolengowski. “Try many different things to find out what makes you tick and then seek out those resources to help you get to where you want to go.”

2. Grab your orange and blue highlighters and go ham on your syllabi

Always have a copy of your class syllabus. Always check where your classes are located before the first day. And always have an umbrella in your bag or car. It’s called Rainesville for a reason. Knowing you have exactly what you need can make the first-day-of-class jitters so much more manageable. Instead of worrying about whether or not you actually packed a pen and paper or if you have time to grab Starbucks in between your UF1000 and Chem2240 lectures, you’ll have time to focus on other things, like finding a study group or actually paying attention to the professor, which can help set you up for a semester of success.

3. Prepare for classes in the swamp that swamp you with work

Every student has heard the horror stories about the hardest classes at UF, from organic chemistry to reporting. But one thing freshman need to remember is that it’s ok to get a C. Relax and be focused on learning and improving rather than the letter grade. When you start on those med school applications or you have to start studying for the GRE, you’ll find that actually learning something made the grade worth it. “I learned that everything eventually works out. The really hard class I was worried about, I was able to push through. The opportunities I was rejected from opened up other possibilities. I would also say that I learned patience to allow these moments to flourish when they were necessary instead of panicking. My first semester, I was fixated on perfection and now, as a post grad, I’m really into the progress of my work,” said2018 health science grad Tiffany Rivera.

4. Get friendly at Preview

Most students couldn’t even tell you who they’ve been sitting next to or in front of after five months of sitting in the same seat every day. Don’t be that person. Your seatmate could end up being your new best friend, or at the very least a great candidate to take over your clicker questions when you can’t make it to lecture. If you feel lonely and homesick at the beginning of the year, class friends could help you feel less alone, and also provide the perfect study buddy for that all-nighter you’ll inevitably pull during finals week.

5. Find out which UF professors don’t make the grade

Freshmen obsess over which professors are the nicest, the easiest and who require the least amount of reading, because let’s face it- we don’t know what to expect. Truthfully, we encounter these dream profs few and far between at UF. Not that professors aren’t helpful and insightful, but they do want to work you. They want to see progress and make sure you actually earn that A or B. Don’t change your schedule each time you read a tough review. Stern professors are worth it, and you’ll be proud of yourself in the end. Trust us.

6. Check out the UF party scene

Everyone will tell you that Summer B gave them their fondest college memories. The frat parties. The easy classes. The new feeling of being at summer camp that will last four years. Oh yeah, and did I mention the parties? There are some parties at off-campus houses that will make you feel like you’re in Project X with giant water slides, people dancing on tables and squirt guns filled with liquor. Have fun, but be responsibly irresponsible. Only go out with groups of friends and stick together before, during and after a night of drinking.

7. Leave high school you as far from Gainesville as possible

More than 52,000 people attend UF, a school of diversity and clones alike. You’ll see lots of Greek letters and XL T-shirts running around campus and you’ll see plenty of Gator attire, too. You might feel pressure in college to be like everyone else, to see what is normal and who “fits in.” Instead, try to be authentic. “I really became myself in college. You go to learn about a subject, but I think you learn the most about yourself,” said 2018 advertising grad Samantha Silverstein. “Like every freshman, I came into college thinking I knew what I was doing, and I was so wrong but it didn’t matter. Every failure and every success taught me something about myself, and I grew more than I thought possible.”

8. Don’t spend all your money on Sunday Fundays

Take out student loans if you have to. Work at a restaurant or shop around town to save some money. Rent is expensive. Tuition is expensive. Drinking is expensive. You’ll learn how to live off of 99 cent cans of tuna and fast food in college. We excel at being cheap. Even with Bright Futures and Florida Prepaid, you’ll still need cash for three or four textbooks per class. It won’t hurt to have a couple extra hundred bucks a month if you get a part-time job, but you may have to sacrifice some tailgating and Sunday Fundays. You’ll thank yourself later when you can enjoy life without student loans.

9. Don’t bombard Broward on move-in day

Expect a long, stressful day when you move into your dorm or apartment. Do yourself a favor and organize your things to make moving quicker and easier. You’ll take less trips up and down the stairs, and you’ll know exactly where you put all of those important keepsakes from home. The sooner you have your space feeling like home, the sooner you can relax and adjust to living on your own.

10. Avoid Broward dining with a stock up from the ‘rents

The Swampy UF memes for top ten public teens Facebook page is facts. The plenty of memes about Broward Dining and the luxurious foods it presents to you and your parents during Preview only to never be seen again, replaced with sad looking excuses for hamburgers and a wilting salad station will definitely come as a shock IRL. Stock up on quick, easy meals to make in your dorm and on-the-go snacks to bring in your bag rather than spending money on lunch every day in the Reitz Union food court. Please, at all costs, just avoid the awkwardness that are the campus dining halls. Trust us.

Angela is a third-year journalism student. She is the general assignment and Santa Fe beat reporter at The Independent Florida Alligator and a staff writer at College Magazine. She enjoys re-watching Broad City, listening to her vinyl collection and driving around aimlessly in her car.

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