My experience as an out-of-stater Gator has been amazing. I applied to 10 schools, half in my home state of Georgia and half in neighboring states. The University of Florida happened to be one of three large schools I applied to, and quite frankly, I did not expect to be admitted. I was overjoyed when I was, and the minute I stepped on campus I fell in love. The school spirit, the atmosphere, the campus – everything felt right.

I attended a small, Christian high school and was the first student from my school to ever be accepted to UF, let alone attend. My high school was the type that encouraged its students to stay at home or only attend Christian universities out of fear that larger schools would change our beliefs. At first, I assumed that a huge university would intimidate me. However, when touring UF, it was refreshing to not be in such a close-knit group of individuals where everyone knew everything about you. The ability to decide if I wanted to simply fade into a crowd was relaxing. In such a setting, I alone controlled the first impression that others had of me.

Once I started my freshmen year, I was able to realize my dream of having a “fresh start” and being exposed to a vast number of different individuals. Moving in with strangers sounds scary, but my assigned roommates are still my best friends (proof that the matching system UF uses works pretty well!). Even on a campus of 50,000 students, I always see a familiar face or someone to wave hello to on my walk to class or my bus ride home. Forming friendships has never come easily to me, so I understand the fears that students have about attending a large college. While I was lucky to find three quick friends in my roommates, I also found that peers in my classes and in clubs were just as easy to talk to.

My biggest advice to any out-of-state student is to take the leap of faith if it feels right. If your gut tells you, “This is it, this is where I want to be,” trust it and do not let fears hold you back! The first few days will be a little intimidating, as everything is unfamiliar. However, once you settle in and start to talk to your peers, you will begin to grow more comfortable and find the places you fit in – whether that is through clubs, cultural groups, Greek life, intramural sports, or even just friends you make along the way at on-campus events, like football games or GatorNights. Becoming a Gator was the best decision I have ever made, and I cannot wait to continue my journey through graduate school as well.