University of Florida
BackgroundInterview Date:January 2019
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Public school in Boca Raton, Florida with a graduating class of about 600 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First-Generation College Student: No
Majors: Political Science & Psychology
Minor: African-American Studies
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in a Greek life organization, I’m in the Accents Speakers Bureau where we bring prominent speakers to campus, I was involved in the Black Student Union, and I’m [involved with] the Student Government.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
Greek life has had the biggest impact and has led to many of those other opportunities.
Can you speak on being a Caucasian student who’s involved in the BSU and has an African-American Studies minor?
I’m pre-law and want to go into civil rights law or constitutional law. In that regard, I want to work for an organization like the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] working on cases of racial injustice and social justice. I decided it would be good to get into to immerse myself and see what I can do from within.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for Political Science?
The assignments are more essays and readings than exams. There’s a pretty light workload. We’ll have small, two-page discussion papers every now and then too.
Is there anything you feel the Political Science department does especially well or poorly?
They’re pretty good at letting us know about internship opportunities, not only in the area but in D.C., New York, and abroad. I get emails weekly. I’d say the student-faculty ratio could be better within the department. The class sizes are a little big, especially in the earlier courses. [In the 2017-2018 academic year, 327 students graduated with a Political Science degree.]
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I’d say it’s competitive, but my major, more so than others, has that collaborative nature because a lot of it is working with other people, sharing ideas and finding common ground.
How accessible have your professors been?
I’ve seen that as you go on and take higher-level classes they’re more accessible. Early on, you’re dealing a lot more with undergraduate TAs who aren’t that much older than you. They were helpful in some senses, but it was a little difficult the first three semesters or so to get in contact with professors directly.
Do you feel that people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
Yes. I think it’s largely the nature of Gainesville. It’s a very politically red area and there’s a pocket of blue at the school. In my classrooms, there are people from all different areas of Florida and you really see a geographic trend in people’s ideologies.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
Yes, I’m happy with my choice.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Broward Hall with one roommate.
Sophomore: Fraternity house with one roommate. There were 44 rooms in that house.
Junior: Off-campus house with five other people.
How was transitioning from Boca Raton to Gainesville, Florida?
I moved to Boca from New York when I was fourteen, so I was already used to relocating. When I moved to Gainesville it wasn’t that big of an adjustment for me. I found everyone here has a lot more in common than not in common. That largely depends on the people you end up surrounding yourself with. I found the transition not that difficult because I found people that shared my beliefs and interests.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I’ve felt safe. We’re one of the more heavily policed campuses in the country. There’s the Gainesville Police Department, UF’s Police Department, and the Florida Sheriff’s patrol the area.
Pros and cons of being in Gainesville, FL?
1) There’s a lot of nature areas to go explore around here. We have these hot springs a lot of people don’t know about. You can go tubing in them.
2) It really is a college town. The entire town lives and breathes Gator football. It’s really interesting because you’ll be out at dinner and see people who’ve lived here their whole lives and they’re super excited.
3) On game days, 200,000 people fill the streets of where you go to class every day.
4) The weather is pretty great.
1) It is kind of in the middle of nowhere. We’re 1.5 hours from Tampa and Orlando. Sometimes you feel like you’re in the boondocks.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
The typical going out to the bars closest to campus. More or less casually going out or hanging out with people on the weekends.
What nights of the week do you regularly do things? Are there regular places you go or things you do on certain nights?
Wednesday is a big going out night. It’s ladies’ night in Gainesville and girls can get free drinks free pretty much everywhere. Friday and Saturday people are all over and there are different deals everywhere. Particularly, there are good happy hours on Friday right after class, which has been popular recently. When there is football on, pretty much every place has good happy hour deals.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
To be honest, for me, they are kind of one. A lot of things I go to are with people in Greek life or paid for by dues. I’d say overall it definitely has a large impact, but there are lots of people who go out that aren’t in Greek life. When you go out there are lots of people at the bars who just live in Gainesville and may not even go to the school. You’re always going to get a diverse crowd. In terms of constantly having somewhere to go, it’s helpful to be in Greek life. [15% of UF students are in a Greek organization.]
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
There are lots of good nature preserves with hiking and camping. We have multiple movie theaters, bowling alleys, and mini-golf places. Anything you could more or less think of you could do here. Sometimes people go to St. Augustine, Tampa, or people will go to UCF in Orlando.
How happy are you with the weekend activities or nightlife at your school? Is there anything you would change if you could?
The only thing I’d change is how early people go out. It seems like every year it’s earlier and earlier. I want to relax and not feel rushed to go to a bar, but other than that it’s been good.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Through Greek life, whether that’s within my fraternity or networking within Greek life. A lot of my friends come from my involvement in the senate and the Black Student Union.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
It’s relatively strong, but we still take academics more seriously than going out I’d say. There are so many people here so it really differs for each person.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
UF has gotten pretty low scores in racial equity recently. I feel like I’m in a unique position with that because of my minor. There’s not a lot of social intermixing between races and sexual orientations. Greek life is sadly still relatively [not diverse], and if there’s a Black student they tend to be the only one. The same goes for a non-straight member of Greek life. [About 53% of students are White, 6% are Black, 18% are Latino, and 7.5% are Asian.]
To what extent do people in Greek life and not in Greek life mix socially?
Not much. Most people’s social circles tend to fall into groups they are with. There is some mixing between Greek organizations. It depends on what you do outside of Greek life and the people you meet in it, but I will say the people you meet freshman year who end up in a different fraternity you may fall out of touch with. Overall, there is a relatively constant mix between the fraternities and the sororities.
Do people generally seem happy with their college of Florida by senior year? Do people leave loving Florida?
Yes, I do. There is a very strong alumni network and people I’ve seen graduate in the past few years are always coming back. A lot of the professors here are alumni and I have a bunch of friends whose parents went here so they grew up loving it. You’re adjusting freshman year, but by senior year I don’t know anyone who’s upset.
How do you like the size of Florida in terms of undergraduate enrollment? [The University of Florida has about 36,400 undergraduate students.]
I like the fact that it’s large. It makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger, especially when we have big events going on like football, basketball, or baseball games. You really do feel like you’re part of a community that you may not get at a smaller school. There are some drawbacks, like how crowded places can be, and the student-faculty ratio. In certain aspects it’s nice, but in others there are drawbacks. A lot of the restaurants on Archer road, the mall, and Walmart gets pretty packed, especially if it’s family weekend.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Not so much alumni, but people within Greek life have helped.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
They’ve been helpful. They help us with our resumes and cover letters. I haven’t used it but you can rent a suit if you have a big interview coming up, which is pretty cool.
No, I haven’t.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Florida before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew how Greek life would impact everything. A lot of freshmen come in during the summer for a quick semester before the Fall. I came in not wanting to rush at all because of what I heard about it. Walking around, I realized quickly that I might be bored without it, but that’s a personal thing. I wanted the tailgating experience and to have a group of friends to network and travel with. I wish I knew earlier how prominent it is here. The Greek life tailgates are in the backyard of the fraternity houses. Throughout campus, there are other organizations and alumni where it’s a more typical tailgate atmosphere where you sit outside of a tent. Even girls not in sororities tend to walk up and down fraternity row on game days for tailgates because that’s where the action is.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
All the nature stuff I mentioned, which is something you find out by talking to people. There are springs nearby, there are places you can go see manatees, there’s a huge open federal prairie reserve with wild horses and alligators. It’s not something they show you on a tour, but I’d recommend looking into it.
Reasons to attend University of Florida:
1) Being a part of the Gator Nation. It’s cool being part of a school with such a rich legacy. Walking around any major city someone will walk up to you say Go Gators.
2) The state incentivizes in-state students to come here. I was thinking about going out of state and paying a lot of money, but I realized there’s no reason to put myself in that distress when there’s a great education here.
3) The campus itself. I walk around and am happy to be here. It’s not just brick buildings and boring office buildings, there are cool trees and you might see some animals. It’s a fun place to walk around because you don’t feel like you’re so much at school.
Reasons to not attend University of Florida:
1) If you’re not into the whole big school feel, I could see how it can be overwhelming. If you’re on the fence about being at a smaller school but you liked UF, I’d go to a smaller school because it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.
2) It can be hard to get involved in certain organizations if you’re not in Greek life. If you’re someone who wants to be really involved in something like student government, it’s more of an uphill battle if you’re not in Greek life. [See Cosmopolitan article “University of Florida Senior Speaks Out Against Student Government Practices in Troubling Viral Video.”]