Choosing the place you’re going to be spending the next four years of your life can be a daunting task. We’ve been told that up to this point, every major decision that you have made has in some way, shape, or form been at the discretion of your parent or guardian. With college, it is ultimately your decision where you choose to go. But sometimes that’s not always the case. Perhaps it’s a monetary reason, perhaps you did not get into your dream school, perhaps life can just be messy. Regardless of the circumstance, some people can hesitate when it comes to committing to a university. I do know, however, that I have loved my UF experience with my entire being, even if I was a hesitant high school senior when I decided to commit to the here.

I like to dream big and be bold when it comes to my decisions. As a Jacksonvillian (go Jags, am I right), I thought staying in Florida would be a disappointment to my efforts from high school. I felt like I would be settling by staying in state and wanted to desperately attend an institution elsewhere. When circumstances failed to provide me with that opportunity, I was frustrated to have to say “yes” to UF. My freshman year here was full of unmet expectations and a load of homesickness. How could I feel like I stood out in such an incredibly large school with thousands of students who probably are also striving for the same?

What the University of Florida showed me was that the best things in life are often unexpected, and the most growth comes from discomfort. This school was able to challenge me with failure (whether it be academic or professional) and encourage me to push forth and keep trying by having welcome professors who genuinely cared about my well-being, not just my successes in class (shoutout to Kate Fletcher, Dr. Moore, and Dr. Harris. You’re real ones). It taught me to engage in discussion with people who I agree and disagree with, and change my worldviews through different student organizations and panels held, in addition to speakers brought in by ACCENT Speakers Bureau. It taught me to not be afraid to ask for help through several resources offered on campus, from U Matter We Care to the Counseling and Wellness Center. It showed me my passion and life purpose of advocacy for mental health and wanting to work in student affairs due to my positive experience with Student Activities and Involvement. And last but not least, it surrounded me with 50,000 driven and stellar individuals who all want to make their own lasting impact on the world and connected me with an alumni base of over 500,000 who all feel the same passion and excitement whenever they see the Gators logo in either Gainesville or in random airports across the world.

Ultimately, choosing where you go to college can be one of the most exciting and terrifying decisions that you will make. I will leave you with the parting words I give all of my tour groups: go to where you feel is right for you. Don’t go to where you think your parents want you to go, where your best friend is going, and definitely to NOT go to a college JUST because your significant other is going there. At the end of the day, your college degree is not just four years. You carry the title of your alma mater for life. I’m incredibly grateful to have a UF degree and be a Gator until the day I die. I hope you get the same opportunity as well.