7 Tips I Wish I Was Given My First Semester of Freshman Year

Packing clothes, going dorm room shopping, making your schedule. While all of these things may help one feel prepared going into their first semester of Freshman year, it is almost impossible to understand the adjustment of becoming a college student. Calling myself a Florida Gator was always a dream of mine; nonetheless, I was unaware of how little I knew about my school until I got here and experienced my first semester. From the endless restaurants, to the involvement opportunities on campus, the University of Florida has provided me with amazing memories and invaluable lessons. Here are 7 underrated and essential takeaways from my first semester that I believe any future Freshmen student can benefit from.

1. Get to know people on campus

Although going into my first semester I knew I wanted to make friends and form relationships with my teachers, I was unaware of the impact that these relationships would have on me. Some of the best memories I have are from staying up until 1 a.m. sitting on the couches of the Broward Hall lobby talking to complete strangers. In just one short semester, I’ve met people of different ages, backgrounds and demographics. Everyone has a story, and hearing different perspectives from a plethora of people has showed me the importance of getting out of my comfort zone.

2. Explore outside of campus

I have always prioritized my education; however, I believe I also benefited this past semester by familiarizing myself with my surroundings. I allocated time towards venturing around the city of Gainesville. One of my favorite aspects of UF is exploring all of the different food options; one of my personal favorites is Hyppo, an ice pop shop in downtown Gainesville containing a wide variety of flavored ice pops that can be dipped in chocolate.

3. Live, love, and drink coffee

Starbucks has pretty much become my go to place. While I was never the quintessential Starbucks enthusiast before I began my first semester, I now understand the hype. Whether it’s grabbing my go-to chai tea latte on the way to an early morning class, picking up a strawberry acai refresher on a hot day, or getting a french vanilla iced coffee to prepare for a study day in the library, coffee is what gets me through the day.

4. Don’t waste the day away

As simple as it sounds, it’s easy to end up in bed the entire day. This is the first time in my life I haven’t had my parents watching over me, but I try to utilize all that UF has to offer. Although I can easily stay occupied by binge-watching Netflix for hours, there is so much that campus has to offer. One of my personal favorite perks of UF’s campus is the free workout classes at the recreational center. Student Rec offers unique classes such as cycling, swim, zumba, stadium conditioning, and yogalates. Another one of my favorite leisure activities at UF is sitting by the pool right outside of my dorm. As a born and raised New Yorker, I enjoy taking advantage of Gainesville’s warm weather.

5. Facetime is your new best friend

Distance now separates me from the people I have spent my whole life with, but that doesn’t imply that these important relationships should end. Being so far away from those who I grew up with truly tested the strength of my relationships with others. I have learned how easy it is fall out of touch with someone when you have less overlap and don’t see each other on a regular basis, but I’ve also learned how important it is to maintain strong relationships with my friends and family. While making new friends at college has been an amazing experience, I don’t want to let go of old friendships. I know that I often have to put in extra effort to find the time to talk to a friend from home, but it’s worth it to keep the bonds I have valued throughout my life. I facetime my friends when the smallest inconvenience comes way, and it’s their college stories or our time spent reflecting on old memories that never fail to make me smile.

6. Thank your parents

My parents have always been my number 1 fans and role models. Moreover, they have been right my side through every part of my life. However, I didn’t truly realize how on my own I am at college until I got here. I now understand how lucky I was growing up to have parents who always support me. Being away from my parents is definitely a challenge, but I am lucky that they are always a call or text away. I constantly remind myself how thankful I am to have their continued support as I embark on new journeys through college.

7. Learn as you go

No matter how much I tried to prepare myself from transitioning into a college student, I’m still a work in progress. It completely normal to feel unadjusted and know that you are never alone. In fact, according to The Young Truth Survey, a majority of college students do not feel ready for college.  I still vividly remember my first day of classes, when finding my way around made me feel as if I was in a maze rather than on a college campus. Moving states, living in a dorm, taking difficult courses, and navigating my way through an organized and successful first semester was challenging and stressful, yet worth it and amazing. There were times where I felt overwhelmed and lost, and becoming homesick from time to time was inevitable, but adjusting to my new home has been one of the greatest experiences. I am beyond thankful for the new friends I have made, interesting courses I enrolled in, involvement opportunities I have participated in, and the one of a kind campus I am more than lucky to call mine. UF has slowly but surely become a comfortable for me, and I now consider college to be my happy place. To any aspiring Gators, I wish you the best of luck and be mindful that through all of the stress and anxiety, you will adjust and fall in love with UF the same way I did!