I Went to a Small High School, and Then I Came to UF

All my life, I have attended small schools. In elementary school, I attended a small private school where my class only consisted of about 25 individuals. My middle school was even smaller, as the entire eighth grade graduating class consisted of about 40 individuals. And my high school was unusually small as well, with a graduating class of about 130, which is well under the average high school graduating class size of 752 students in the United States. Then, I came to UF, a university that consists of nearly 50,000 students. To say I was in for a shock was an understatement. I knew I would be attending one of the largest universities in the United States, but I did not really prepare myself mentally for the adjustment I would have to face once I arrived on campus. It was a difficult journey to learn to live and go to school at a place where I was just a number.

Firstly, I must say that I loved my high school. Though I was always a little bit envious of my friends who went to high schools with the football teams and the huge marching bands, I never really did wish to attend one of those schools because I loved my own. My high school was a small charter school in central Florida. We all had to wear uniforms, and our school was so tiny that we were only allowed two minutes between classes. Despite all this, I loved it. I loved that my graduating class was so small that I knew everyone’s name. I loved that the teachers knew me (even the ones who never even instructed me) and really wanted all the students to perform well. At my high school, there was always someone there for you.

But, I always wanted to try a big school. I lived in a small town while attending high school, and I always wondered what it would be like to go to college in a big city with thousands of people. I loved the idea of a big school. It seemed like there would always be something to do. When I made my college decision, I did not pay too much attention to warnings that students should consider the size of the school before they made their decision. To me, that was not a factor at all in my decision. I loved UF, and I believed it would be exciting to attend such a large school.

Flash forward to my first day on campus. I was so overwhelmed. There were people everywhere, no professors in sight (except in the offices), and I just blended in. There was no one I could reach out to and ask for help. I remember my first week on campus was extremely rough because I knew nobody, and it was extremely difficult to establish any sort of connection or relationship with somebody. I was scared and completely on my own.

As the weeks went by, I started to get used to all the people. There was so much noise at night, my classes were huge, and it was extremely difficult to talk to professors because of all the students. But, I adjusted. I got used to it. I learned to block out the noise at night while trying to fall asleep. I introduced myself to a few people in my lecture halls and made some friends. I learned to go to professors’ office hours to get questions answered. By the end of my first year, I was treading water.

My second year was the year when I felt like I truly belonged at UF. With a year of experience under my belt, I was able to make strides within my college and advance to working at the sports and news stations. It was at these places where I found friends who shared the same interests as me. I found instructors who cared about me and pushed me to succeed. And best of all, I felt like I had finally found the place where I belonged and was happy.

Looking back on my journey, I realize it is completely normal to feel scared and overwhelmed at such a big school. It just takes some adjusting. For me, the best thing I did was finding a place within my college. My college is honestly like my high school because it is small and everyone is just so close with one another. I realize now that you can make a big school feel small. You just have to be able to find the right place for you.


Photo Credit: Infusion at UF Innovation Square