A huge historic school, the University of Georgia overwhelms visitors, guests and poor, unfortunate freshmen in their first few weeks on campus. Although most learn their way quickly, it takes a little longer for some. You can never really tell the age of a student between gap years, fifth- and sixth-years and those lucky few who came in with 20-some credits. But sometimes, you can point out a freshman from across the room. Pro tip: It’s usually the person walking around with a 30 lbs. backpack and a messy bunch of map in their hands.
Make it a little less obvious that you have no idea what you’re doing at UGA.
1. Do: Leave early for classes
You can do it, at least for the first week of classes. The campus maps will only take you to the general area that you’re looking for, so you might wander around a couple of old buildings for a while. Plus, the buses sometimes take a while, and you can’t trudge up all of the hills on campus in Georgia heat and humidity. If you really can’t bear getting up with a little time to spare, find your classes ahead of time so you won’t get lost on your first day.
2. Do: Find a routine
Look for somewhere that you like to go on campus other than just classes, your dorm and downtown. Leah Merritt, a freshman at UGA, explained that finding a place that was all her own helped her to feel more at home on campus. “I like to go to the Main Library, and I have my own little spot that I go to. It just makes the campus feel smaller,” she said. Whether you prefer curling up in the comfy lounge chairs on the fourth floor of Tate, laying under the trees on North Campus or grabbing a cup of coffee from one of the many coffee shops downtown, having your own favorite spot makes UGA feel a little more familiar.
3. Do: Go to events the first week
A lot of people get overwhelmed with everything that goes on during the first few weeks of the semester, so planning is key. Club sign-ups, meetings, theater auditions and campus events are pretty common for the first few weeks of the new semester. “Get your ‘stuff’ together if you’re interested in theater,” suggested Sheehan. Don’t stretch yourself too thin, but do try to go to some of the events, like the freshman meet-ups and dorm meetings. You might make some really great friends and find a club that you love, or at least get some free snacks.
4. Do: Get involved
“UGA has a ton of clubs, and you’ll regret not getting involved later,” said recent graduate Ashley Kicklighter. From flyers in MLC to a full website with pages and pages of clubs, you have to try to not hear about all of the clubs at UGA. Do a little research—from The Chapel Bell publication to the Classic City Jazz club, you’ll find at least one great fit. Make friends and plan fun outings instead of sitting in your dorm alone eating ramen noodles. Plus, you get to put some experience on your resume. No downsides.
5. Do: Take the time to explore
Walking from class to class will get your steps in for the day. If you get lost, you’ll find giant campus maps in the Main Library and Tate to help you out, but exploring will help you to learn your way around campus best. The daily walk to my car is my favorite part of my day. Instead of waiting for the bus every day, I found my own little path from MLC to East Deck (yeah I know, I walk pretty far) that takes me past the stadium and through a lot of pretty trees and gardens.
6. Don’t: Stop a crowded bus to ask for directions
Students hate riding on the bus from day one. Everyone tries to squish on all at once and the temperature can get up to 100 degrees. No one wants to wait longer while you ask the bus driver if Orbit goes to Joe Frank Harris. Instead, try to find a map of the different routes for each bus. When in doubt, ride around for a while. You’ll learn which buses go where, and which ones get you to your 8 a.m. physics class the fastest. In other words? More time to sleep in before class.
7. Don’t: Rely on the bus apps too much
The times are never right on the apps. You may end up running out of your dorm just as University Housing drives off, leaving you to wait for another bus. And yes, sometimes you just have to stand at the bus stop and wait. At least your phone can keep you busy. “And please don’t walk around focusing only on the app and not pay attention to where you’re going,” added senior Karaline Farmer. You don’t want to pull a Cady from Mean Girls and walk into a trash can, especially in front of your crush, or worse, that cool group of seniors you want to impress.
8. Don’t: Order a Frosty Joe
“If you sit in MLC with a Frosty Joe on your first day of classes, you instantly look younger,” explained senior Melanie Sheehan. Try a regular or iced coffee instead (fewer calories to fight off that Freshman 15). Or better yet, bring a water bottle. With water, you can save money and calories, and you can find fill-up stations in every building. When walking around in the heat, you’ll need water instead of that dairy-filled coffee. Everyone needs to get a Frosty Joe at least one in their time at UGA, but maybe not during the first week, and definitely not while still in the true Georgia summer.
9. Don’t: Talk on the bus
If you try to start conversations early in the morning (meaning any time before noon), you’ll look over eager. “Sorry, but I don’t want to deal with that while I’m riding the bus,” said Farmer. Students at UGA are typically friendly and they’ll usually reply if you do try to strike up a conversation while you’re riding to Spanish, but just remember that we’re often tired and focused more on our phones and getting off the bus as soon as possible than meeting new people. Instead, talk to people in your classes or in your building. It gives you more time to get to know each other, and anyway, some of the stops are close together.
10. Don’t: Walk under the arch
I mean, come on. If you plan on going to UGA, you should already know the myth that if you walk under the arch, you won’t graduate (and there are plenty of other myths going around about walking under the arch).