College Bound Wolves

Junior+Carolina+Navajas+pictured+at+FSU.

Justin Pradere

Junior Carolina Navajas pictured at FSU.

Justin Pradere, Editor in Chief

There is nothing like stepping onto a college campus as a prospective student. It is a sneak peek into campus life, including everything from the living quarters and dining halls. But the college trip was so much more than just seeing schools; it opened my eyes to the reality of growing up and the stresses of the application process. It’s a reality that many of us try to avoid for as long as possible, yet it comes closer and closer with each passing day.

It seems as though high schoolers do not take things seriously until it is almost too late. In the beginning of the year, I was still indecisive about what I wanted to do in the future. The question “Should I stay in town and be comfortable, or go away and surround myself with a completely new environment?” frequently crosses my mind.  To me, this is a blessing of sorts because I know that without proper motivation and a stressful push in the right direction, nothing will ever get done.

Writing skills, test scores, and extracurricular activities matter when applying to colleges. Without this trip and the helpful information provided by each university tour guide and individual TERRA seniors, I would not have taken into account the time management, efficiency, or focus that are going to be paramount in these upcoming months. The trip was not only an eye-opening experience into the real world that is deciding who you want to be, but it was also a great way to meet people and learn little quirks about colleges that the brochures won’t advertise.

To be quite honest, I was apprehensive about going on the trip because I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t have many friends going on the trip, but ultimately, I found that putting myself a little out of my comfort zone, by engaging conversation with more people than what I was used to, was helpful in setting the tone for the life that waits beyond the TERRA walls. I found comfort in being able to talk to current students of these schools and get an insight of what their life is like.

The first college campus I have visited outside of FIU happened to be the University of Central Florida in Orlando. The campus was beautiful and the UCF tour guides were very informative. While visiting the dorm rooms, we actually stepped into a college living space. This felt weird at first because we were in somebody’s bedroom but I thought, “This is going to be me in about a year.” This school has a lot to offer with various ways of getting class information and choosing the right major. We were at this school for roughly five hours and this gave ample time for us to explore this campus and venture into major buildings and the UCF Arena. “I liked UCF because they have a great engineering program and their campus is very large but centralized to student needs,” junior Michael Maza said. I even got to meet up with a TERRA alumni, Brianna Ferrer, that I haven’t seen since she graduated last year and this made the day much more memorable. This school is definitely in one of my top five choices of schools.

Justin Pradere
Juniors Lazaro Cabezas and Anakarina Aguilera at the first college, the University of Central Florida, on Jan. 18

On the following day, I found myself in the state capital. In the early hours, we were on the famous Florida State University campus in front of the “Unconquered” statue. My fellow travelers’ reactions were priceless; they were all in awe as we pulled up in front of the Visitor’s Center. We didn’t waste time taking plenty of pictures in front of the landmark. Northern Florida is definitely a different environment than South Florida because everything is much older there. The university buildings still had the well-preserved original bricks from the 1800s. This definitely contrasted with UCF in Orlando because the buildings were modern and parts of campus were being constructed during our visit. “What really got me liking FSU is that my whole family went there,” junior Curtis Crider said. “FSU felt like home as if I was meant to go there.” At the end of the tour, we got to into the bookstore and tried on Seminole clothing items and take advantage of the sales.

Juniors at Florida State University on Jan. 19 before beginning their tour. Photo credit: Julie Vivian

Later the same day, we arrived in Gainesville to tour the University of Florida. After eating in one of the most diverse food courts I have ever encountered, we started at the Reitz Union where our two tour guides explained how big this is on campus. It is home to practically everything a student needs at UF. It has the food court, the bookstore, offices of student government, and even a bowling alley. During our visit, we walked straight into the middle of campus where we saw college students in action — studying under the Florida sun, drinking Starbucks, and cruising around in mopeds. It felt a little overwhelming because we were high school juniors in one of the best schools in the state, and I felt so out of place. The Ben Hill Griffin stadium, also known as “The Swamp,”was definitely the highlight of the school. This is where the UF tour ended, overlooking the site of numerous historical Gator events. We captured a great group picture to close off the second day. 

Richard Hudson
TERRA juniors at the University of Florida at “The Swamp”.

On the final day, we started in Tampa at the University of South Florida. This school had a place in my heart. I wasn’t expecting much since we toured two of the biggest schools in Florida on the same day but USF was really something special. The campus was simple but offered everything that I want in a school with reasonable standards. What stuck out to me was that the tour actually brought out student media on campus and I got a copy of the university’s newspaper. I was surprised how so many of my classmates didn’t particularly like USF because it was “lifeless” and “drab.” However, junior Jessica Castillo aspires to be in the medical field, so she felt USF is a good choice for her because “it has a good ambiance being surrounded by motivated students and educations to aid [your] success.”

Justin Pradere
Juniors Michael Maza, Allison Medina, and Cloe Barber at the University of South Florida on Jan. 20

The final hours of the trip included a stop at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. The school is practically new, turning 20 this year. It is built on Southwest Florida wetlands, however, the school does have an incredible green thumb as they implement great amounts of environmental action at the campus. Shuttling around the campus, we got to see the freshman living area, which was impressive. The dorm rooms here were actually larger than UCF’s; they had more privacy for the tenants and had amenities such as a full arcade, movie room, and pool. Its opulence made me feel like I was at a resort.

Justin Pradere
Juniors Kelly Cortada, Veronnica Sanchez, Kristine Toraya, and Allison Medina pictured at FGCU on Jan. 20

This trip was definitely one for the books. I grew closer to my classmates and the teachers that accompanied us. “The best part of the trip was, surprisingly, the bus ride,” junior Allison Medina said. I was able to tour top universities that I had no real prior knowledge of, only hearing about them through stories from other friends and my family. While it was an amazing experience for many reasons, the greatest thing I gained from it is something you cannot get from talking to alumni or visiting the school’s website: the feeling of knowing that a school is meant for you. For me, I felt this with USF, and there is nothing else in the world like that feeling.