15 Things I Wish I Knew My First Semester At UF

Ah, the Fall semester. I don’t think there's a more festive time on campus than these upcoming months. As an incoming UF collegiette, you have lots to be looking forward to, from making new friends to all of the events soon to come. If you’re feeling a little lost and overwhelmed, don’t panic because you're not the only one. You’ll get the hang of it in no time, and to get you started, here are some helpful hints that just might make your transition easier.

1. Take advantage of as many free giveaways and activities as you can.Your tuition is paying for it anyway! Soak up the freebies and take advantage of all the free movie showings, guest speakers, RTS bus rides and sports events you can. It’ll get you out and about and give you something cheap and fun to do.

2. Take time to introduce yourself to your instructors in person.Seriously. This is something I wish I hadn’t waited so long to do. Building rapport with your instructors is a great way to make references and earn networking opportunities. You never know when you might need that reference letter for a job or have a question you need answering. As a freshman at UF, you're most likely in a few classes with over 100 students in them, so be sure to make yourself stand out from the crowd.

3. Familiarize yourself with the campus as early as possible. Have time in between classes? Go for a walk! Explore the different buildings, libraries, art galleries and nature trails. UF is full of hidden treasures and there is typically always something interesting going on somewhere. This 2,000-acre campus may seem overwhelming at first, but walking around every day to get the lay of the land will make it seem so much more manageable. 

4. Step outside your comfort zone.Make it a goal to try things you otherwise would be too scared to do. College is a time to figure out who you are and soak up new experiences. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Who knows? You just might discover a new passion.

5. Don’t buy your textbooks from the Reitz Union bookstore.You will pay so much more for your books than you actually need to. Look into getting an Amazon Student account or trying out websites like Thrift Books because you can rent or buy your books for much cheaper online. However, if you’re adamant about buying your books locally and in person, take a look at the Florida Book Store on W. University Ave. Odds are you will get a better price for your required texts there.

6. Pay attention to the fliers posted around campus.It’s easy to walk right past them without giving them any thought, but you’d be surprised how useful they can be. From job postings to information on upcoming events, new courses and even research opportunities, you can find all the details you need on the nearest bulletin board.

7. You don’t have to get along with everyone you meet, but anyone has the possibility of being your new best friend.You don’t have to force yourself to be friends with people you don’t really like for the sake of not being lonely. That being said, make sure you’re giving people a fair chance. This is a diverse campus filled with people from all different backgrounds, and that person you’re too nervous to say hi to could turn out to be one of your friends for life.

8. There is a club for just about every interest, hobby or passion you have — join one!It can be easy to feel lost in such a huge campus whenever you’re first starting out. Have no fear — UF is home to countless organizations for every kind of interest imaginable. Do some research and you’re bound to find something perfect for you. Don’t be afraid to try out several in the beginning of your semester to test out where you feel you best fit in. (Hint: Club orientations usually feature free food!) Trust me when I say the college experience is a lot more fun when you have like-minded people to share it with.

9. Syllabi are your friends — refer to them often. Instructors give them to you for a reason, and yes, they will be annoyed if you ask them a question that can be answered by checking it. 

10. Don’t forget to call home. Even with all the fun you’re having with your newfound freedom, odds are you’re going to get very homesick. Make sure to tell your family and childhood friends that you love them every once in a while. They’ll appreciate hearing from you more than you realize.

11. UF Facebook groups are super helpful. Use social media to your advantage. Ask questions and for advice about your courses, form study groups, find a roommate to sublease with next semester and more!

12. Faculty is a lot more willing to help you than you think.It can be intimidating asking a staff member for help, but they really are there to help you. If you think you have a stupid question, it’s likely they’ve heard it about 1,000 times before. Have no fear!

13. Football season is actually insane.Prepare yourselves. It’s going to be a long ride filled with orange and blue, tailgating parties and having absolutely nowhere to park on campus during the weekend. Don’t underestimate it, and more importantly, don’t overdo it. 

14. Don’t forget to take care of yourself.It will be extremely hard to do well in your academics and social life if you are not investing time into yourself first. Sleep enough at night, stay hydrated, get active and eat right. Know when you need to take a break and treat yo’self. Stress is a nasty creature that can sneak up on you and cause all sorts of mental and physical health problems if you’re not cautious. If you start struggling, then please tell someone. There are resources here at UF that are more than willing to help you. You never have to go through anything alone.

15. Take lots of pictures. You’ll regret it later if you don’t. Memories last but it’s nice to have a visual reminder of them to look back on, whether it be months later or decades later.

On behalf of the Her Campus UFL team, I'd like to officially welcome to you the best school on earth, baby Gators! Keep these 15 things in mind throughout this first semester of college, and you'll be on track to the best four years of your life!