Friday, July 17, 2009

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.


Anonymous said...

Dear Author !
The nice message

Anonymous said...

Nice info. I'm going with my daughter to UF Preview next week.

You're a good writer and obiously mature for your age! I hope you have a good experience at UF, as I did in the '80s.

Running Betty said...

This still comes up high in searches, and we'll be attending UF '19 preview tomorrow. Thx for some idea of what to expect. you forgot rain, though. Everyone says there are pockets of hour-long rain. :)