Sofi Gratas Essay Graphic

Our UGA 101 guide to campus includes letters of advice and recommendation from students and recent graduates. These are the opinions of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Red & Black. 

So you’ve ended up at the University of Georgia. Whatever paths or decisions you’ve made along the way have brought you to Athens, and one way or another, you’ve become a Bulldog. You may have never thought this is where you would end up, or maybe this has been your destiny all along.

Regardless of where you come from, here’s some advice.

This is a city where deep Southern history intertwines with progressive local politics. Where you might see the slogan “It’s Saturday in Athens!” on T-shirts and posters and wonder what everyone is talking about. Where yes, the buses may seem confusing but you can just walk anyway. Campus may seem huge right now, but just wait until you explore the rest of town.

Your first semester will be hard. People have already made memories without you, and it can be isolating to miss out on the experiences that come with freshman year.

I was in your shoes once. As a Georgia resident from upper-middle-class suburbia, I applied to UGA out of high school. I was denied. It wasn’t soul crushing though, since I got into a couple other schools that I didn’t mind attending. After a year at Appalachian State University up in the North Carolina mountains, my mother was fed up with out-of-state tuition and I was eager to return home.

I reveled in how easy the transfer application was. Just a copy of my transcript and a short form? Sign me up!

When I was accepted for the spring 2018 semester, I started worrying. What if this wasn’t the school for me? Will I be able to fit in at a big SEC school with thousands of students? Transfer student orientation felt like a repeat of freshman year nerves — hello, we’re not 18 anymore! — and I wondered if my lack of animation meant I had made the wrong decision.

Your first semester will be hard. People have already made memories without you, and it can be isolating to miss out on the experiences that come with freshman year. But if I had to give you one piece of advice, it would be this: your best years are ahead of you.

Athens has so much to offer, and you should start opening your eyes to all of this right away. Venture into downtown. Drive or ride a bus down Milledge Avenue until you can see fields on either side of you. Walk the entirety of campus. Go to a farmers market. Attend a house show. Start reading local news to get a sense of what exactly is going on here. Heck, maybe get a tattoo and don’t tell your parents about it.

In short, do not get stuck in the university bubble. My most treasured experiences so far have happened off-campus, and my dearest friends have come from part-time jobs or social gatherings.

But it’s important to mention that academically, you’re going to learn a lot. The University of Georgia is undoubtedly an excellent learning institution and you will have access to a variety of learning opportunities here. The faculty and staff at UGA really do care about their students — most of them, at least — and this learning experience is entirely what you make of it.

There is no right way to do things, but if you’re at UGA, I would hope you have a solid head on your shoulders. As your journey begins, remember to pay attention, stay safe and have fun.

I’ve fallen in love with this city and I know you will too.

Sofi Gratas, class of 2020, is a reporter for Georgia Public Broadcasting and has held several positions at The Red & Black including editor in chief and managing editor.

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