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A Love Letter to HC UFL and my College Experience

If you had told me I would be graduating with a dual degree in economics and sustainability studies with a minor in women's studies back when I was a freshman at the University of Florida, I would have laughed. I went into UF intending to major in journalism but changed my major to computer science just before the fall semester began. 

My first semester was a rocky start to my college experience; computer science was a math-heavy major, and I have never excelled at math. I went into the major knowing I would have to work extra hard to keep up, as I had intentionally not taken higher-level math courses in high school because I thought I was going to pursue journalism. To make a long story short, the major was just not right for me. I was not fulfilled by the work, struggled through calculus courses, and lacked passion for computer science. As someone who is very passion-driven, this had a negative impact on my mental and physical health. 

I got three C’s my freshman year. I gave the courses my all but still fell short of the standards I had set for myself. At the time, it felt like the end of the world. I was signed up to take calculus 2 in the summer but quickly realized I just wasn't cut out for it. I dropped the course and never looked back. 

Staring at a list of UF's majors, everything changed when I spotted the sustainability studies major. As someone who has always cared deeply for the environment and was already well on my personal sustainability journey, the major seemed perfect for me. Spoiler alert: It was. Sometimes, the best decision you can make for yourself is to let go of what you once thought was right for you and let your passions dictate your choices. 

There's strength in acknowledging your weaknesses and using what you learn from them to move forward. It was nerve-wracking to wait for exam scores and see that I had, yet again, underperformed despite my best efforts. I gave what I could to those courses, and it wasn't enough, so I changed paths to something I'm well-suited for and deeply passionate about. 

Flash forward two years and one pandemic later, I'm about to graduate with honors from UF. My rocky first year didn't keep me from being successful. Once I took courses I was genuinely interested in, like introduction to natural resource and environmental economics, my attitude drastically changed. The sustainability studies major's flexibility allowed me to choose a track focused on human rights and social justice, with courses like ecofeminism and human rights and culture. My second major and minor go along with sustainability studies well and have allowed me to gain knowledge and experience while also engaging with content I'm deeply passionate about.

Because I'm graduating a year early and the pandemic began in the middle of my second year at UF, my time on campus was very limited. I think most students who left campus due to the pandemic have a shared feeling of longing for the days spent walking on campus, meeting with friends, and exploring what our college towns had to offer. While I miss being on campus and everything that experience had to offer, I made an effort to make the best of our current situation. Some might be surprised to know that some of my favorite courses and most impactful college experiences have taken place during the pandemic. This has a lot to do with the fact that I took classes I had been planning to take anyway and tried to make the best of what was left of my time as a UF student. Has it been easy? Nope. But since we're all going through this together, there was a sense of community among the students and faculty like never before in the courses I took. 

Since my second semester at UF, I've also had another driving force for my college experience: Her Campus at UFL! This community is incredibly uplifting, inspiring, and all-around lovely. Although our weekly meetings and events look different than they used to when I started, HC UFL has been a bright spot through it all. 

While I strayed far from my initial goal to study journalism in college, HC UFL has allowed me to continue writing and publishing content. It's a bonus that it's with the best organization with the best team! Over the years, I've written education pieces, news articles, and personal essays. The freedom of expression and ability to share my voice and thoughts through my position as a Features Writer has been a true gift, and I'm endlessly grateful for the experience. Truth be told, I don't know who or where I would be without Her Campus and the friendships I've made through it. 

Although it's bittersweet to be graduating and moving on from HC UFL and my college experience, I'm looking forward to what's ahead! I've learned a lot over the years, but I'm glad things worked out the way they did. It's important to remember that small bumps in the road don't mean imminent failure; no one is perfect! Our struggles teach us more than we anticipate: Resilience, persistence, and patience, more than anything. No matter what, I'll always have great memories to look back on and friendships that will surely last a lifetime!

 

Jessica Hernandez is a University of Florida Senior doublte-majoring in Economics and Sustainability Studies. She has a heart for activism, is an avid reader, a lover of vegan food, and a member of the rock climbing team at UF. She can often be found reading books in her hammock or trying vegan food at restaurants in Gainesville.
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