Recently, I completed my first week as a freshman at the University of Central Florida. Hooray! One week down, hundreds more to go. As a commuter student, my college experience tends to be quite different than most of my peers, especially those my age. I live a whopping 40 minutes away from the main campus- meaning sometimes, school feels more like a 9-5 job instead of a “new chapter.” My biggest fear starting college was catching a serious case of FOMO, and living almost an hour away didn’t help. However, after a week at UCF, I realized commuting doesn’t mean that I have to be alienated from the rest of campus. Here are the top ten things I’ve learned so far:
1. I ACTUALLY ENJOY MY COMMUTE
As I’ve said before, I drive 40 minutes back and forth from my house to campus. Luckily, I only need to be on campus three days a week, so I save some money on gas. I turn on my radio and blast some 2000s house music to hype myself up for the rest of the day. While driving home, I like to play some slow Lana Del Rey to decompress after all that studying. The commute may seem like a bit much, but it is an excellent way to prepare myself for a long day on campus.
2. The Recreation & Wellness Center (RWC) is massive
First things first, the campus gym is crowded! As an anxious girly, you will not catch me working out in front of that many people, no thank you! I’ll stick to the gym that’s closer to my home. What I really want to talk about though, is all the cool stuff the RWC has. There’s a rock-climbing wall and leisure pool that you can use at any time. There are also personal trainers and free workout classes. I can’t wait to take a cycling class for the first time! Just because I don’t live on campus doesn’t mean that I can’t use all these awesome facilities UCF has.
3. Parking on campus is dreadful
Honestly, there’s no other way to put it. Finding parking at UCF is awful, especially at Parking Garage B. The line of cars sometimes extends all the way to Alafaya. The trick is to get to school at least 1-2 hours before class starts, so you have enough time to find parking. If all else fails, you can always park in Lot E4 and use the Park & Ride shuttle to get to the main campus, which is a great backup the school provides. Let’s hope the parking situation gets a lot easier further into the semester!
4. Friends are closer than you think
One of my biggest worries about college was that I wouldn’t get the chance to make friends, as I don’t usually have much time to hang out after the school day is over. Boy, was I glad to be wrong! I made at least one friend in every single in-person class I had. Turns out, everyone else is looking for friends as well. All that you need to do is start a conversation, and people will talk to you!
5. Battling the Florida humidity
As an Orlando resident, I know the Florida heat can be hot! Hot doesn’t even begin to describe how utterly disgusting the humidity has been this past month. It’s worse when you have to walk all the way across campus for class. Luckily, I’ve taken some precautions, such as wearing ALL cotton clothes, carrying extra water, and walking through as much AC as possible. Good luck beating the heat!
6. Finding time for activities
The main reason I am a commuter student is so that I can help my mom, a single parent, and take care of my sister when she’s at work. Because of this, it’s harder to find the time after 5 p.m. to go to campus events. At a certain point in the day, I just don’t want to wait in the library and study, I want to go home and nap! Also, most student organization meetings happen around 5-8 p.m. That means if class ends at 2 p.m., I have to stay in the library or my car if I want to make it- on top of not being able to go home until after 9 p.m. Obviously, this isn’t the case for all commuter students, but unfortunately it is for me, and it’s something I’ll need to work around.
7. TEXTBOOKS ARe expensive
Yes, I know this is obvious. But I was in dual enrollment during high school, and I never used a single textbook in any of my classes- whether it was required or not. The teachers posted the material online anyway, so I never had to consider buying one. Honestly, I thought the same thing would happen in university, but the first thing my professors made me do was make sure that I opted in for all the course materials. Luckily, my financial aid covers my textbooks, so I don’t have to worry too much. However, if you don’t have that, make sure that you have the means to pay for materials before the semester starts since those prices can skyrocket quickly.
8. attend your teacher’s office hours
I know, I know, everyone tells you this. It’s probably common knowledge at this point. For me, I hated going to office hours during high school, mainly because I hated asking for help. This week, I couldn’t figure out my Astronomy homework for the life of me, so I decided to drop by my teacher’s office hours. Lo and behold, in 30 minutes I had my homework situation all figured out, received extra credit because of a mistake with the work, and established a good rapport with my teacher. There is no shame in asking for help!
9. the library is my new best friend
I love the John C. Hitt Library (seriously, it’s amazing)! Not only is this the nicest library I’ve ever been to, but the facilities they offer are endless. I love that the floors are all different noise levels, so you can study in any environment you want. There’s also a cafe where you can stop for a quick bite or coffee. The library is my sanctuary in between classes- I can have a quiet place to study (or take a nap) with no interruptions. The staff is also incredibly nice, and they help you with anything you need.
10. I Love college!
You heard that right. I love college! I came in with very low expectations and didn’t want to get my hopes up, and thankfully I’ve been tremendously proven wrong. UCF is a campus that cares about its students and that provides a plethora of opportunities. There’s always something to do, like Market Day, the Welcome Expo, concerts, etc. I’m so excited to begin my path to higher education, and I can tell that college is going to be an incredible learning experience. Go Knights, charge on!