HARI RAVINDRANATH shares his classroom experience and campus culture at the University of Florida
Gator Nation — the name sounded weird and funny the first time I heard it but never did I realise that being a Gator would make me proud for the rest of my life.
After giving my GMAT and TOEFL in late 2006 and having applied to about five universities, I was eagerly waiting for the results. I got an admit from the Hough Graduate School of Business at the University of Florida very early, but it was not on the top of my priority list for various reasons. But destiny had other plans and I ended up going there to pursue my Masters in Information Systems. I am glad that I did.
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 my experience outside of the classroom. Living independently in a new environment was a bit challenging, but enjoyable. I learnt time management as it was essential to prioritise and juggle between submitting assignments, doing part-time jobs, cooking, cleaning household and of course partying. We had 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.
My experience 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. I was amazed at the allegiance of fans to the university when I witnessed my first ever American football game against our arch rivals Florida State with close to 1,00,000 gator fans cheering for the home team.
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”.
The writer is currently working as a management consultant for KPMG in Brisbane, Australia. He completed his masters in Information Systems and Operation management at University of Florida in 2008.