Friday, July 17, 2009

UF Preview (Day 2)

From the schedule alone, it looked like Day 2 would be much better than Day 1 -- not as much information to cram in, more things to see and do.

Breakfast was also at Broward Dining, where they have gator imprinted waffles. At 8:05am we met in the Broward Hall basement and were given individualized schedules by our Preview Staffer. The day was pretty much arranged according to your advising appointment time, whether it was morning or afternoon. Mine was at 9:45am. The morning appointment folks were herded over to Pugh Hall to be moved into another hall in even smaller groups. We were supposed to be reading that book they gave us, but most just watched Headline News on the large TV above us. At 9:15am the 9:45am group was moved to the advising center to a small lecture hall to wait for our individual advising appointment.

Speaking one on one with an advisior was great, as the generalized presentations assumed everyone came in with no credit and would basically have the same schedule. The advisor could easily assess your capability from scores and previous experiences and help you to make wise scheduling choices, I guess that's what they're there for. I registered for my critical tracking courses with my preview advisor present (its cool that they can call over somewhere and open up seats in classes if it's a tracking course that you need) and then she went over my chosen Gen. Ed courses and sent me to lab to finish registering. Everything worked out pretty well, except there were no seats open in Chem except for about 500 online, so I had to take that and see if I can change it to the live class in early August when the scheduling system opens up again. Registration is kind of a game -- searching for courses, seeing 1 or 2 seats open in the perfect time slot, rushing to type in your password to add it, finding the right section that fits into your schedule, or dropping courses and hoping your alternative is still available. Here's how my schedule came out for fall:

SYG2000 is Principles of Sociology, ENC3254 is Professional Writing and Communications for Engineers, MAC2311 is Analytic Geometry and Calculus 1, LIN3010 is Introduction to Linguistics, EML2920 is Department and Professional Orientation (Mechanical Engineering), and CHM1025 is Introduction to Chemistry.

After advising the group went one of the smaller recreational centers to hear a presentation about Rec Sports and how to get tickets for games. We toured The Swamp (Ben Hill Griffin Stadium), Heavener Football Complex (where all the championship and Heisman trophies are), and a few buildings and notable areas. I met up for lunch with my mom at the Hub and we had plenty of time to kill after so we headed over to the bookstore to buy official UF merchandise. They must make a killing on Preview days and during games.

Student and parents were separated again and the parents went wandering while students went to the Reitz Union Auditorium to learn some cheers, hear presentations from financial services, financial aid, the student health care center, and Gator 1 Central. After that half of us were herded over to Gator 1 Central on the first floor of the bookstore to get our Gator 1 cards and the other half went to see some more presentations. There was a bit of time to kill after getting my Gator 1 and before the next presentation, so I found my mom and caught up a bit. I also managed to switch around my schedule a bit since a course that I needed opened up. I'm finding more and more practical uses for my iPod every day.

The doors finally opened for the next presentation, which were fortunately more upbeat than the others. We heard about opportunities to get involved, the code of student conduct, and from some hilarious old guy about faculty expectations. After that there were separate presentations from on campus and off campus housing, we grabbed our final schedules from our preview staffer, and were done for the day around 5.

Overall the Preview experience was pretty nice, but there is definitely room for improvement. There is a lot of sitting and waiting, being herded around like cattle, and force feeding of powerpoints and brightly colored sheets of paper. I don't think all of the presentations were necessary since they were VERY redundant and almost everything was covered online. Maybe it was just more boring for me since I read everything they sent me and told me to read online and I guess everyone doesn't do that. Staying in Broward Hall made me more than happy that I have an apartment, since I couldn't imagine living in a tiny, old, decaying hole like that for an entire year. The Preview Staffers and Advisors were great, cheery, and exceptionally helpful though. Day 1 wasn't as exhausting as many may have made it seem, I think it was just a lot of information thrown at you at once, take from it what you wish...not everything was important and required full attention. Day 2 was definitely more engaging with less of being talked at.

So now that that's out the way I'm an official UF student with classes and an ID card and all that good stuff now, so all I have to do is show up and go to class on 8/24. Woohoo!

UF Preview (Day 1)

Yesterday evening I returned from UF's 2-day Preview (orientation). I've heard really mixed things about it, ranging from fun, exciting, and informative to boring, exhausting, and stressful. After thinking over the whole thing for about a day, I can say most of those feelings are true. There are about 20 different preview sessions through the summer to get 6400 freshmen registered for classes, informed, and ready for UF, so I can see how one may find the system overwhelming or redundant and formulaic.

The trip there was a journey in itself, as we took Amtrak from Fort Lauderdale to Lakeland (4hrs), and then a bus from Lakeland to Gainesville(3.5hrs). Traveling by rail is quite peaceful, but Florida scenery only consists of swamp and trees, so it gets boring after a while, especially since most of central Florida is undeveloped. I definitely prefer air travel, though I still love trains.

Day 1
Everyone arrives and checks in at the Reitz Union, where students are given a lanyard with a name tag screaming "NOOB!" and city of origin, also with a flash drive attached (no one figured out that there was stuff preloaded on these lol). Parents were also given a lanyard with either "New College Family" or "Seasoned College Family" as well as a canvas tote with informational stuff, maps, and what not. Gator alumni parents were cheered for upon arrival. After check in we headed up to the second floor for a quick continental breakfast and then the welcome in the Grand Ballroom. Students were then separated from parents and split into predetermined small random groups of 15 by letter of the alphabet. I was in Group D. Ever get the feeling that you won't like someone from first glance? That's how my entire group was -- just a group of people that I would never, ever see myself associating with. As the day progressed my initial reaction became more and more true. I became worried at one point that this small group would be representative of the population of UF, but thank goodness that thought was quickly dispelled as I met other people of interest.

Each small group was lead by a Preview Staffer, a bubbly UF student of some sort. The groups each went to a small meeting room in the Reitz, while the parents were stuck in the Ballroom and lectured and force fed powerpoints for hours. Each small group also had a Preview Advisor who aided in scheduling and general concerns. We were given a Preview bag like the parents' filled with a spiral workbook, the guide to majors, and some other papers.

After an awkward icebreaker and an introductory powerpoint we split up again to attend a "More Than Just a Major" session of choice, which happened to suck. After that we went to individual college information sessions. The Engineering session was pretty good and for the first time I felt that I was with the right group of people. There was no fluff in the presentation like the others and a few student reps from clubs and departments spoke. I was kind of disappointed that I had to go to another college's session since both of my choices were in the College of Engineering. I chose to go to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' session, where the rep there basically said that what you major in doesn't matter, so do whatever is interesting to you regardless of the practicality. Yeah...sure. The small groups were combined to form 6 groups for lunch and a quick tutorial on how to register for classes online. I don't really remember what else they went through, but during that time we were also given The Devil's Highway, which is this year's book for the Common Reading Program, mandatory for all freshman. I read Part 1 on the way home and it's kind of depressing and boring, but I'm not going to complain since enough of that is being done enough already.

We met up with our parents for more optional presentations, which were pretty informative. We attended the Study Abroad and Undergrad Research Opportunities sessions. Parents disappeared once again and students broke up into small groups to work with preview staffers and advisors on planning out a schedule individually. I did my research ahead of time and had everything planned out, so I kind of chilled while looking busy for an hour. The preview workbook was helpful though, as there was a worksheet and supplemental information for everything, majors, credit hours, gen eds, etc. I was just shocked at the amount of people that were clueless and had no idea what they wanted to do or what they were remotely interested in.

Parents and students were rejoined and funneled back into the Grand Ballroom for presentations from the Vice President for Student Affairs (snooze), GatorWell(oh noes drugs and alcohol, be healthy!), Victim Services (boring), and UFPD (quite humorous).

After that groups were divided by meal ticket color to check into Broward Hall, eat dinner, and attend the resource fair. Our group went to dinner first, at Broward Dining. After experiencing dining halls at CMU, I was expecting the worst, but thank goodness it was much better. Nothing superior or anything to write home about, but it was decent. I won't be eating here often (or at all) since I won't be needing a meal plan and it's overpriced.

After dinner was the Resource Fair, which consisted of about 10 tables from various organizations and recieved The F Book, which is a student guide and also full of university traditions to be completed. Completing 10, 20, 30, or 40 traditions gets you a Tradition Keeper pin for each level and a medal at graduation for 40. I joined the Student Alumni Association for all of their little perks (free stuff, events, tshirts, etc) and got The Box:

After the Resource Fair I checked into Broward Hall and we headed back over the the Reitz for some skits by the Preview staffers. They were about real issues, both serious and non-serious, and quite entertaining in the cheesiest way possible. I couldn't possibly count the references to Facebook.

Parents left after the skits and we broke back up into small groups to discuss the issues covered in the skit in the form of 4 corners. You had to move to corners designated Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, and Strongly Disagree based on your reaction to the serious or controversial question asked. Questions like "Would you be okay with a gay roomate?" and "Do you consider your area diverse?" came up. Some of the responses were shocking, others not so much. The point was to really stress tolerance and acceptance. We all went back to Broward Hall to finalize our schedule choices and discuss the next day's activities with our preview staffer.

I ran into someone that I knew from 5th grade and we chatted for a bit. It was nice to finally meet someone that I knew after being around strangers for hours. I heard so many weird towns and areas during the day that I never knew existed. It was nice to read a familar city on someone's name tag, as if it was an invisible connection of some sort. Also learned that Central and North Florida are WAY WAY WAY different from South Florida. It's like comparing deep south Mississippi to LA.

After getting my schedule signed off on, I returned to my room to drop off everything and head down to the basement for "Club Swag". That was probably the worst attempt at forced socialization that I've ever seen. Picture this: a dark open area, snacks on a table in the middle of the floor, a guy in the corner with a laptop and speakers, and a few dozen teenagers. Most people grabbed a cookie or drink and left after realizing how lame it was. I did too. Others were in the Broward lobby chatting with newly made friends, scurrying to finish their readiness assessments that were supposed to be done before even coming, working on perfecting their schedules, or hiding in their rooms. I was lame and went back to my room and just browsed around online on my iPod a bit. My roommate was okay, we only engaged in small talk.