Tomorrow, the University of Florida releases decisions for the Class of 2020; thousands upon thousands of anxious, eager, trembling students will go online at the very same second, blocking the computer screen with their hand as they press “enter” before seeing their application status change in the blink of an eye. This was me on Friday, February 13, 2015 – a date that is forever etched in my mind.
I recently stumbled across a letter I wrote to my ninth-grade self. I wrote this the summer before my senior year of high school. I probably thought I knew it all – but I had no idea what adventures were in store for me. (However, the bit about group project disasters is still relevant.) The idea of college was always floating around my head; in high school, I would lay in bed after a night of swimming and homework and imagine the possibilities of college life, classes that I loved, new places, and new people.
I was not born into a Gator family. I was not raised in a household that bled orange and blue. The more I think about it, I never felt like I was “destined” to end up at a certain school – and even though this only made my decision more difficult, I am grateful the way things fell into place. UF was not on my radar until my sophomore year of high school, when I had a knack for Googling college ranking lists and researching schools with top journalism programs. After visiting Gainesville for the first time during my junior year of high school and attending the Summer Journalism Institute (a week-long journalism camp for high school students), I knew UF would be an amazing place to live, learn, and grow.
My stomach hurts remembering the shaky excitement and jumble of emotions I experienced when I decided to make UF my new home for the next four years. I even get a little verklempt thinking about the moment I said “yes” (not to the dress) and my parents appeared in my bedroom with bags of Gator gear. (They said they stocked up “Just in case.”) In that moment, there was no going back (not just because the Gator apparel couldn’t be returned) – aside from my brief campus visits, a pile of pretty #UF19 brochures, and an email conversation with a former student, I had no idea what it meant to be a part of the Gator Nation…but somehow, I knew it was the right choice.
No matter how cliché it may seem, everything does work out – this applies to all big decisions, not just with college. Now, about one year after making my decision to be a Gator, I know for a fact that this is true. The “freshman experience” may not always be as picture-perfect as the glossy pamphlets and websites and promotional videos make it out to be. A new experience of any kind will oftentimes be different than what you had always imagined in your head – and that’s perfectly OK, because it may turn out to be even better.
There is no doubt that going away for college, whether it’s a short commute or thousands of miles away, is a transformative part of our lives. Simply put, we cannot remain in the familiarity of the only routine we’ve ever known and expect our dreams to just come blossoming out of nowhere. I feel very lucky to be here at UF, where there are endless opportunities to grow. Right now, I have a PR internship with a student organization (Her Campus UFL) that I absolutely love, and I was recently selected to be the official blogger for my study abroad trip to Spain and Provence this summer (!!!) – but perhaps even more exciting is the reality that this is only the beginning – not only of my college career, but of the rest of my life.
That being said, this is just the beginning, and as much as I have grown this past year, I am still figuring it all out.
Aren’t we all?
PS – Thank you for reading, following, commenting, etc. for over a year! I absolutely love sharing my stories, and it makes my day to know that there are actually people on the other side of the screen who enjoy my ramblings as well. (I promise, it’s not creepy if you tell me that you read my blog!)
All images are my own.