As a first year student here at the University of Florida, it’s very easy to immediately feel overwhelmed or scared of such a large and populated campus. Lucky for you, I’m here to guide you and let you know about the ins and outs of this magnificent campus, teaching you all about the places you’ll likely be frequenting as a first year student here.
Once you become a more experienced student at UF, you’ll likely live in an off-campus apartment, sorority or fraternity house, or pretty much anywhere other than campus. However, for now, you’re stuck living in a less than luxurious dorm, unless you get lucky and end up in Cypress or Keys. Typically, freshman prefer to live in the social, communal style dorms. The most popular options are Broward, Rawlings, and Jennings. Beaty Towers, Keys, and Lakeside all offer apartment-style dorms, meaning there are two to three rooms (housing two people each) that are conjoined by a kitchen area and bathroom, a great option for those looking to avoid a meal plan and cook for themselves. The only downfall of this type of dorm is that they are far much less social than communal dorms as people tend to stick to their apartment/suite, whereas in dorms like Broward people often leave their doors open and are almost always friends with their neighbors. No matter what dorm you end up living, this is your new home. It will be WHERe you start your journey most days, but let’s continue on from here.
Turlington Plaza is notoriously known to have the most foot traffic in the entire state of Florida, and yes, that does mean that it beats out Disney World for this title. No matter what dorm you live in, there’s a good chance you’ll end up walking by or through Turlington to get to class. In fact, about 90% of students have either a class or an exam in the Turlington building during their four years at UF. I’m telling you, this place is pretty unavoidable, no matter how hard you try (and believe me, I certainly try). During its peak time, from about 11:30-2:00pm, Turlington is filled with students heading to class, biking through campus, and tons of student organizations tabling for their upcoming events or announcements. If you’re lucky, you can end up with a free t-shirt or a slice of pizza. However most of the time, you just end up with a headache. During the past election season, a large scale political debate became a daily occurrence. As one of the major free-speech hubs on campus, you will often find eccentric people spouting their opinions, no matter how obscure or radical. Turlington is definitely a place you have to get used to, but once you do, you learn to embrace it as a part of the identity of UF.
After you get through the chaos of Turlington, you can make your way down Stadium Road, turn left through the College of Journalism and Communications, and head straight toward the Reitz Student Union. The Reitz has such a wide range of resources and features that make it useful for all students at the University of Florida. My personal favorite thing to do at the Reitz is eat, because what else do college students do? It’s the perfect place to grab lunch in between classes or dinner with friends. With options such as Panda Express, Subway, Croutons Salad, and more, there’s something most people are bound to want. The upstairs food court also houses a Starbucks, one of the five on campus, to help support the caffeine addiction every college student eventually develops. There is also plenty of open, comfy seating for students to get their work done. Major events are held here due to the spacious ballrooms and various smaller event rooms available at the Reitz. Many of these events are generated by the Reitz Union Board, an organization that hosts fun and free events throughout the year for students. The Reitz is also home to a bowling alley, a game room, a theatre, and even a hotel. Asides from the many amenities, there are some incredible, lesser known resources available through the Reitz. In the bottom level, students are offered 250 pages of free printing per semester, saving you hundreds of dollars on your own printer and ink. Located on the second floor (the main level) near the food court is the Career Resource Center, a place where students can go for resume critiques, mock interviews, and all around advising for their future after UF.
Once you’re done eating some lunch or checking out some of the cool events/resources at the Reitz, it’s probably time to crack down and head to the library so you can get your work done. Although there are more, the two most popular libraries are Library West and Marston. If you’re heading to Marston from the Reitz, you’ll have a nice quick walk along the Reitz lawn and then approach the “French Fries” statue, indicating that you’ve reached the library. However, if you want to go to Library West, you’re going to have to head back through Turlington and pray that it isn’t too crazy. Marston is my personal favorite primarily due to the close proximity to many of the dorms. It’s open from 8am-1am during the school week (bonus: so is the Starbucks) and is located right next to Turlington. Marston has 5 floors that decrease in conversation/noise level as you go up. The main floor when you walk in is great for group projects and light conversation, whereas the third floor and up are typically designated for essay writing and serious focus. Library West is a fan favorite library for many students on campus. The biggest draw to West is that it's the only library on campus open 24-7, meaning you can pull those all-nighters during exam weeks without even having to change location. Luckily, the 24-7 also applies to the Starbucks conveniently located at the front entrance, so students can have some expresso to fuel the aforementioned all-nighters. Being a little larger than Marston, Library West has six floors, each that follows the same noise level rule as Marston. Both libraries offer printing at a fairly cheap price, computer labs, and study rooms for students the reserve. Whichever library you choose, both have great amenities and serve as the perfect location to get all of your assignments and studying out of the way.