By Li Stalder
Dear Baby Gator,
Congratulations on joining the Gator Nation. Soon enough, you’ll be taking your first steps onto campus as an official student during Preview. Before you know it, you will meet so many new people and will be bombarded with what seems like an endless amount of opportunities.
As my time at the University of Florida draws to a close, I want to share some of the most meaningful connections I’ve made throughout these past four years, and why it’s worth building and maintaining each of these relationships.
Your Freshman Roommate
Ah, I’m sure you’ve probably heard horror stories about roommates, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, your freshman roommate will most likely be one of the first people you will meet. This doesn’t mean you have to be attached to each other’s hips, but make an effort to explore campus and Gainesville together. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up living with each other for the following years? At the end, it’s interesting to see where you both end up. I’m still good friends with one of my freshman roommates, and it’s crazy to see how much we’ve grown since moving into our small Beaty suite.
A Major Buddy
Finding someone in each of your classes to exchange notes with in case you’re absent is good. But finding someone who takes all the same major classes as you do is even better. I was fortunate enough to have a major buddy, and we somehow managed to take at least 10 classes together. So-called “weed-out” classes can be tough, but you don’t have to suffer alone. Your major buddy is automatically your go-to study partner and someone you can lean on for support—whether it’s getting a fact error, failing an exam or celebrating the news of getting an internship.
You’ll probably test the waters and join as many clubs and organizations as you can. Sometimes committing to a select one or two can be just as rewarding. I was active in only one club—Spoon University UF. I was able to get to know the other members really well. When senior year came around, I was confident enough to apply and accept the role of editorial director, which helped me come out of my shell and gave me valuable experience.
While asking for help in office hours sounds intimidating, it really isn’t as bad as you may think. Professors teach for a reason: to help you succeed. However, you don’t need to be struggling either in order to develop a connection with one of your instructors. Interested in the class? Stop by and talk to them about how you’re looking forward to the rest of the semester or just discuss career goals. My magazine and feature writing instructor and I once talked about the cool things I was doing for Spoon University, and even gave me tips to improve my writing.
Many students work part-time, so the likelihood of having co-workers around the same age as you is pretty high. They can also be cool people to hang out with outside of the office (or wherever you work). It’s funny how I met one colleague while we both worked at Charlotte Russe, and then a few months later, she got hired at my second job. She’s even a journalism major, so we bonded over shared classes as well.
So, those are just a few of the many types of people you may encounter. Friendships can blossom and professional connections can help you out later in your collegiate career, or even post graduation. You’ll probably hear this a lot, but make the most of your time here and enjoy every minute. Go Gators!