Gators Beyond the Borders: The Gator Nation Really is Everywhere

Living in a different country is exhilarating, beautiful and slightly frightening. In essence, it’s a change that can easily make you get caught up in emotions that distract you from enjoying new surroundings. I believe that being 4,321 miles away from Gainesville is both a blessing and a curse. Although I don’t miss the small-town life, I really do love UF and am extremely proud of being a Gator. As UF students, we are accustomed to hear about the Gator Nation, and honestly I always hesitated in believing that it existed beyond Gainesville... until now.

I’m currently studying in London, England, due to an internship opportunity. The city is absolutely magical — the history, architecture and the accents are all what they’re cut up to be. It's especially funny to compare it to Gainesville, where the potato by Turlington Hall is the closest thing to a national monument. Unsurprisingly, I’ve found myself having to explain where Gainesville is located on the map of Florida more than once. Yet a few days ago, I nonchalantly mentioned the city of Gainesville while having a casual conversation with a friend on the streets of South Kensington, when all of a sudden I heard someone scream, “Go Gators!”

Did he just say that in a British accent? You bet he did.

While abroad, I’ve realized that the Gator Nation expands far beyond the Swamp, and in this case, across the pond. How is it that this small town is recognized in a big city like London? I’ve come to the conclusion that school pride follows you wherever you go. The chances of meeting someone in London who cheers for anything besides a local soccer team seems to be rare, but that’s not always the case. I’ve only been here for a week, and I can vouch that the Gator Nation is real and it’s everywhere. It’s in the small sticker placed on car windows, written across chests on orange and blue sweatshirts and behind the smiles of many after they hear you attend Florida.

In a city full of strangers, having someone know and appreciate where you come from is quite comforting. The Gator Nation isn’t just the acknowledgment of a Gator. It’s a panel of networking opportunities and a rare set of people who are willing to help each other out. Just hearing that obnoxious scream helped me understand that the Gator Nation does indeed exist. I urge you to be aware of your surroundings and take advantage of the opportunities that are only available to students of UF. One day you’ll be surprised and unexpectedly happy when you hear your school’s name among the loud crowds of a foreign city.

I know I was.

Photo credit: i2.wp.com