Written by: Joyce Jiang
Copy-Edited by: Jordan Harrow
I can scarcely believe it myself, but three years ago I first arrived at the University of Florida as a freshman, wide-eyed and excited to begin my collegiate career. Since then, I like to think that I have grown in maturity and in my “adulting” skills. Here are some of the lessons I have learned along the way:
- Get to know your professors
At first, I was incredibly intimidated by all of my professors and advisors. I had this inexplicable fear of opening my mouth around them and saying something that would not sound “smart.” Instead, I was wasting an opportunity to become smarter. Professors are an amazing resource of information. They have years of experience and education that can help answer your questions and teach you! And they are pretty cool people as well: I have had an incredibly kind research mentor who helped me prepare for a poster presentation, a Classics professor that joked around about having a funeral with a Viking funeral pyre and party hats, and a Chemistry professor that introduced me to her dog.
- Develop a good study schedule
I can be a world class procrastinator. It is just so easy to push assignments and studying off towards the far distant future—until the far distant future becomes the present. Having the self-discipline to schedule time for homework that isn’t an hour before the due date will save your sanity. It is also important to find the right study environment. Sometimes that means working in a study group in the library, and sometimes that means working alone in a quiet place. One of my favorite places to study is in an empty classroom, which gives me the benefit of silence and a place my brain associates with schoolwork.
- Try new things
College is a new place, with countless things to try! This could mean joining clubs such as the juggling club or the ukulele club, taking a class in an unusual subject such as Myths of the Greeks and Romans or an (un)common reads course, becoming a certified first responder, going kayaking, or learning to knit. One of my favorite aspects about being at college is that I found so many activities and skills that were previously unknown to me at UF.
- Track your budget
Creating a budget can be both boring and intimidating. However, this is one of the things that made me feel like an actual adult and most in control of my life. Even if you do not have a job or your own money paying for your expenses, it is still a good idea to keep track of how much you spend. It can also make you feel better about some of your expenses if they are already planned for (anyone else ever have that debate over whether you already bought too many books this month?) and it actually does not take up too much time once you lay the foundation. Just Google personal monthly budget templates and get started.
- Practice self-care
Personally, when I get stressed I lose my appetite and have trouble going to sleep. Everyone reacts differently to stress. Everyone has different limits for what is stressful and what is fine. And everyone has different ways of coping with stress. Self-care can be whatever works for you. I tend to crochet, have “Avatar the Last Airbender” nights with my friends, and read books for fun. For me, I had to stop comparing myself with my perception of my peers. I learned to set my own boundaries to try to avoid taking on too much and to make sure to take time to relax and practice self-care. To be honest, I am still working on this one, but it is probably one of the most important lessons on this list.
- It is okay to get a bad grade
My younger self would be shocked to hear me say this, but it’s true: It is okay to get a bad grade. One bad grade on an assignment does not mean a bad grade in the class, and one bad grade in a class does not mean your GPA is ruined forever. Rather than being upset about a bad grade, try to find ways to improve your own performance by going to office hours or doing extra practice problems. At the end of the day, if I get a bad grade but I still learned something new in the class, then it is okay with me.
- Make new friends
By make new friends, I mean make friends that have different backgrounds from yourself. Make a friend that will teach you some ASL. Make a friend who was adopted. Make a friend that is Jewish. Make a friend that is vegetarian. Find diverse friends and learn about their differences! I can spend time with someone exactly like myself just by being alone in my room. But if I want to hang out with someone different, then I need to walk outside. Friends that are diverse can help you expand your horizons and understand different view points.
College is exciting and hectic and unfamiliar. So my biggest piece of advice is to just enjoy the experience. Make the most out of your time at UF—have fun and do things outside of classes. Appreciate the community that will be your home for the next four years, both within UF and in Gainesville.
As the Roman poet Horace once said, “carpe diem!”