An Open Letter To The Student That Just Got Accepted Into FGCU
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An Open Letter To The Student That Just Got Accepted Into FGCU

You just got into Florida Gulf Coast University! Now what? Where do I start? What should I expect? Here is a little guide filled with small hacks that will help you make the most out of your Eagle collegiate experience.

An Open Letter To The Student That Just Got Accepted Into FGCU
Indira Willadsen

Hey there! Welcome to FGCU!

You probably have a million questions that are coming into your mind right now, but the most common one for freshman is usually about housing.

Where I should live now that I am going to be at college?

At FGCU, South Village is freshman-only housing where you will most likely end up your first year. If you are a transfer student, you will most likely live at North Lake Village. Both are great options! Everywhere you live on campus, you'll have your own individual room. Yep, you heard me right! No more worrying about having to share the same four walls with your roommate. You'll have your own personal space and door that you can close to have your own privacy.

South Village has three different layouts that you can choose from. The most common layout is a two-bedroom layout. These bedrooms are found in Palmetto, Everglades, and Biscayne hall. You and one other person will live in the same place, have your own room, and share a bathroom that is split into two. The second layout is a three-bedroom layout. These layouts can be found in Osprey and Eagle Halls. You and two other roommates will have your own rooms, share a full-sized bathroom, vanity, and kitchenette (microwave, sink, cabinet, and refrigerator). The third layout is a private bedroom. (I lived in this one my freshman year). A private is exactly how it sounds - your own bedroom AND bathroom. You can apply for housing as soon as you're accepted into the university, and it's first-come-first-serve. For pricing information, you can go to FGCU's website and look up the options in the search bar.

Something that I never knew until my second year here is that FGCU has its own "Netflix." It's called ResNet, and it is the best thing ever. You can only use it if you live on campus, and it is filled with free movies that FGCU housing provides. Students who want to watch a movie that they can't find anywhere else can contact housing and request to put the movie on ResNet, and if it gets approved, then it will be on there. Most of the movies are films that students have requested to be on there, so definitely take advantage of that!

So where is FGCU?

Florida Gulf Coast University is located in Fort Myers, Florida. It is a beautiful place and about 30-40 minutes away from the beach, which is a popular place for people to visit on the weekends. Downtown Fort Myers is about twenty minutes away from campus - another hot spot for students to visit. They have music and art walks every week for people to enjoy. And only five minutes from campus is Hertz Arena where students will go to watch the Everblades hockey team play. They also have ice-skating nights for college students on the weekends, only $10 for pizza and rental skates for a couple of hours.

What about the food?

The best place to eat on campus is definitely SoVi Dining. (SoVi is short for South Village). With your meal plan, you can swipe into the dining hall and eat anything you want. It's buffet-style, and the chefs make the food fresh every single day so you will never have leftovers from the prior day or meal. They also have dieticians in SoVi dining that will accommodate any restrictions you may have (like vegan or gluten-free).

A little catch about the meal plans that they don't tell you on tours: When purchasing the "Swipe" meal plan, a lot of the restaurants on campus only provide a specific meal for a swipe. For example, if you use a swipe at Chick-fil-A, I believe it is an 8 count meal with a small fry and a drink. But if you wanted to get something different, such as a grilled chicken sandwich, you can't use a swipe because that's not what they offer for that meal plan. However, if you get the "Flex Dollar" plan, it is basically like real money that you are only able to spend at on-campus restaurants (not Gulf Coast Town Center). With the "Flex Dollar" plan, you are able to buy whatever you want instead of specifically picked out meals with the swipes. From my personal experience, I loved the "Flex Dollar" plan a lot more than the "Swipe" plan. However, if you go to SoVi dining, they charge $9 for entry instead of one swipe. My overall advice for your freshman year is to get a "Swipe" plan, but after that, do the "Flex Dollar" plan.

If you don't have a meal plan and are cooking your own food, FGCU hosts a farmer's market every Tuesday on the Library Lawn. The produce is very cheap and is grown locally from our food forest!

The best place, in my opinion, to eat off-campus is Tacos & Tequila located in University Village Shops. You can walk from SoVi to the UV amenities because it is so close! T&T has $3-$5 tacos and free chips and salsa that makes for a cheap and yummy meal. My usual order is two of the Mom's Tacos, along with the chips and salsa, which will usually round out to me only spending $7. If you are of age, their margaritas are amazing, as well!

What about athletic events?

If you are a sports fan, FGCU is notorious for its basketball season! In 2013, our Men's basketball team was the first ever to advance to the Sweet 16 from being in #15 seed after beating #2 seed Georgetown. ESPN then gave us the title of "Dunk City" that we still use today on posters and apparel.

If you are not a basketball fan, there are more D1 sports to go and watch. FGCU has over 10 D1 sports teams on campus including tennis, baseball, soccer, beach volleyball, and more. My favorite sport to watch is men's soccer!

If you want to participate in sports on campus, do not hesitate to do so! Many of the D1 sports recruit, but if you want to join a club sport, most of them have social media that you can follow and keep up with updates. They'll post their practice days or if they are hosting try-outs on their pages, as well. For example, our Club Ultimate Frisbee Team has an Instagram (@eaglesultimate) if you want to follow them.

We also have intramural sports. These are sports teams through our clubs on campus. For example, the sororities will have their own teams and play against other sororities, as opposed to club sports that go against other university club teams.

What's the weather like?

Weather-wise, don't even bother packing pants. Fort Myers, or as my mother likes to call it, Fort Misery, is hot all year round. The coldest it will get will be mid-upper 50s in the winter months for about a week. I personally love the heat and I've gotten used to it, but that also means that you may want to invest in a nice water bottle that way you can refill it in between your classes to stay hydrated. They sell Hydro flasks in the bookstore. The library, however, is freezing, so if you're going to be in there for long hours at a time, I would definitely pack a jacket.

What if I need extra help in my classes?

College can be challenging, which is why the library also offers free tutoring services for students who may be struggling. If you need help in a class, take advantage of the Center for Academic Achievement (CAA). They have trained tutors that will help you with your assignments and academic coaches to help you with your organizational skills. The library also offers iPhone and Laptop chargers for rental in case you forgot yours' at home. There are plenty of study rooms to choose from, but my recommendation is to call D!BS on a room. To call D!BS, all you have to do is go onto the library website and go to the reservation portion. Select your room and how long you want it for, and you automatically have that study room for your chosen amount of time. It's nice to have a room to yourself where you don't have to worry about anyone interrupting you.

Where can I relax after a long day of classes and studying?

One way to take a study break is to utilize our on-campus beach. Yes, FGCU has an 80-acre, freshwater lake that we like to call our beach. Students get free access to the beach and can lounge out in-between classes. On the far right of the beach is our Outdoor Pursuits office where you can rent kayaks, paddleboards, and sailboats for free with your student ID. We also have a speed boat that you can reserve slots for and go wakeboarding, wake surfing, waterskiing, or tubing in between your classes as well. (A little hint: When you sign up for slots, they're only 30 minutes per person, but if you get a couple of friends to sign up for back to back slots, you'll have the boat for a couple of hours! Call Campus Reservations to see when the next batch of slots will be available.)

Should I get involved on campus?

When you get to campus, it's going to be intimidating at first. My recommendation is to join at least a few clubs on campus. Whether it's joining a sorority or fraternity on campus, joining a campus ministry, or even joining the hammock club, the biggest piece of advice that I can give is to try to meet as many people as you can. The more people you meet, the more stories you can hear about their collegiate experience.

If clubs aren't your thing, you can also apply to work on campus. If you need a job, I recommend trying to working on-campus first. They're super lenient with your schedule and are more flexible because they understand you have classes. I worked at the FGCU Welcome Center as a tour guide (hence the cover photo of me in my uniform). If you don't know where to go, we have a website where you can search for jobs.

Where can I work out?

We just opened our brand new gym in January. It's located right next to SoVi so there's NO excuse for the "Freshman 15." (Which is 100% real). It has two indoor basketball courts for you and your buddies to play a pickup game as well as a drop-down volleyball net. (If you don't own a basketball, they provide those, as well). They also offer free group fitness classes such as Cycle, Barre, and Zumba. You can sign up for these classes on the Campus Reservation app ahead of time that way you secure your spot. I would take advantage of these classes, especially if you're like me and want to be fit but absolutely despise working out.

What if things start to get really overwhelming?

FGCU also offers free Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for students. I have personally been going to CAPS and talking to a therapist for the past six months, and I absolutely love it. It is important to check in with yourself every now and then because college is a stressful time. You may seem like you have your s*** together, but let's be real - there are a lot of small things that will cause you to stress even if you don't realize it. Now that you're living on your own, you have to do your laundry, clean your room, make food, wash dishes, and do daily activities that didn't seem like a problem in high school. If you need help, CAPS also has a 24/7 hotline that you can call if you need to talk to a therapist. They always answer and will be there for you. Don't be ashamed of it. Your mental health is ten times more important than your reputation.

My last little piece of advice...

As tempting as it may be to want to watch Netflix all day, party, or live the college life, you are paying to be here to study. From my experience, I wish I took my studies a little more seriously during my freshman year. You and your degree with thank you later if you skip out on the bar to go study for that exam in the morning. Get your school work done first, then enjoy your free time. However, you don't want to punish yourself by staying in ALL the time. As long as you have the time, go out and do things! Go to the beach with your friends. Try that new restaurant with your buddies. Go to that basketball game. As important as school is, you also want to make sure that you are doing things for your mental health such as exercising or doing things you love.

The FGCU website is your best friend. If you have any questions about where things are or who to contact, the website will help you.

I know you're excited, scared, anxious, and nervous, but college is amazing. You will grow so much as a person, but only if you are willing to.

Lastly, I'll say this: stay true to yourself.

College is a place where people are free to express their opinion. Now is the time to explore what fits your morals or your opinions most and to stay grounded. If you don't want to go to an event or a Quidditch game, don't go! Or if your professor says something that you disagree with, speak up! Now is the time to find yourself and to mature into a young adult, because after this is real life. I don't mean to scare you, but really focus on what is most important to you and stay grounded in that.

With that being said, good luck and go Eagles!

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