Making the best of a good situation

The university of first choice. Not exactly the way people look at USF.

Student body president Mike Griffin said during a recent student gathering that attending USF sure ?wasn?t my first choice.? But now that he?s here, he?s obviously made the best of it.

Don?t think I?m weird, but I actually wanted to come to USF.

I grew up in Ocala, just 35 miles south of the University of Florida in Gainesville.

?Why didn?t you go there?? are the first words spoken when someone finds out where I?m from.

My reply: I was gatored out by the time I reached high school. So, I didn?t even apply. (I probably saved a tree by them not having to send me a rejection letter because of my low test scores, anyway.)

But before I arrived here two years ago, I had to deal with interrogation from the black community in my hometown, of which nearly every prominent African American there went to Florida A & M University. It was only natural that I applied, as well.

My acceptance letter came on a Thursday. I remember it well. I called all my relatives to tell them I was going to be a Rattler. Tallahassee, here I come.

Then there was Saturday of that same week.

USF had also accepted me.

What was a 17-year-old to do?

Visit them both, I decided. Then choose.

My brother and I loaded his Taurus and made the three-hour trip to Tally. Thirty miles from the city, our transmission died. Strike one.

The weekend could only get better. Walking around FAMU?s hilly campus wasn?t exactly a selling point. Strike two.

?When kids from our journalism program graduate, they have two and three job offers,? a recruiter told me.

?Yeah, but your student newspaper only publishes once, sometimes twice a week,? I said. Strike three.

I was more concerned about the opportunity to get experience more than an education.

The following weekend, it was back to the Taurus for a visit to Tampa.

It felt like home the moment I stepped into the MLK Plaza. The average yearly temperature was warmer and the newspaper published five times a week. At that moment, I began to bleed green and gold.

By the time we left that day to head back to Ocala, we had a ticket on our windshield. Ah, even the welcoming agency (a.k.a. Parking Services) acknowledged our presence.

When I began my first semester, I joined the Black Student Union and began working for The Oracle.

The joy that comes from being involved in a student organization can make even what seems like a last resort out to be the best choice.

College should be about more than just going to class each day. Get out and live ? albeit safely.

Speak to your suitemates if you live on campus. Create a bond with the person next to you in your English class.

Whatever you do, don?t sit around and complain that you?re here and there?s nothing to do. With more than 300 student groups on campus, you are sure to find your niche.

Just ask Mike. I?m sure he?ll tell you how being involved is what has helped him realize that while USF may not have been where he originally wanted it be, it?s where he?s glad he ended up.

Kevin Graham is editor in chief of The Oracle.