Gainesville is a sleepy town of 1,00,000 whose lifeline revolves around the university. Set on a sprawling 2,000 acres of landscape, the University of Florida (UF) sits majestically as the Flagship institution of the Florida Educational system with about 50,000 students and 5,000 academic staff. My initial days at Gainesville were spent searching for accommodation, registering for courses, completing the formalities of being an international student, meeting new students from across the globe and getting acclimatised to the American education system.
The educational system there is refreshing. The professors were informal, friendly and the classes very interactive. To ensure that every student contributed during discussions, about five per cent of the final grade was allocated to classroom participation. Further, a professor can decide the syllabus for the subject he/she teaches. Since most of the professors are involved in research using endowments received from the industry, they usually update the syllabus to be in line with the latest trends.
We had my classes four days a week, two to four hour sessions with about five to 10 minutes breaks in between. Students were expected to turn in assignments based on the concepts taught during the class. Most of them were group assignments and the professors ensured that students from the same country were not part of the same group. This ensured a multi-cultural team. One has to perform consistently throughout the semester to get a good grade as your marks in the final exam would usually contribute about 30 per cent in deciding your final grade. Another good aspect is that one has to register for courses before each semester and decide upon pursuing a course after sitting through the course class for about a week.
What made it worthwhile was the experience outside of the classroom. We have something called “Gator Nite” at the university, free for all the students, every Friday; screening new movies and other fun activities such as rock climbing, painting, balloon shooting, photo boots and caricature artists were possible at Gator Nite.
This post would not be complete without mentioning American football. UF as a matter of fact has been one of the most successful sporting universities with multiple national championship titles in football, basketball and other track and field events.
Gator Nation — the name sounded weird and funny. But, you will soon realise that being a Gator would make you proud for the rest of your life.
Do you know why everything had a Gator name to it, right from Gatorade (the sports drink), University logos, from merchandise to the car plates in Gainesville. Florida, due to its climatic conditions, is home to the “AlliGATORs” which thrive in swamps and hence the name “Gators”.