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Where should I go to college? Student stories, University of S. Florida

October 23, 2015
University of South Florida's student center. (USF Facebook photo)

University of South Florida’s student center. (USF Facebook photo)

Yaping graduated from the University of South Florida in 2013 with a dual degree in biomedical science and psychology.

Yaping graduated from the University of South Florida in 2013 with a dual degree in biomedical science and psychology.

By Yaping Tu

I attended University of South Florida for all four years of my undergraduate studies. However, my road to choosing this university was a slightly difficult one.

As the only member in my family who speaks English, I was pressured to stay close to home. But as a 17-year-old girl who watched too many Korean dramas, I had big dreams. I wanted to leave the familiarity of home and start a life somewhere new — somewhere with history, somewhere I may have to struggle a little to make friends (but end up finding the love of my life in a car accident).

Of course, those life goals drifted closer to pages in a dream journal than an actual one when my Chinese father totaled up the potential expenses. He would be paying a hefty sum if I were to attend out-of-city universities, let alone out-of-state universities. But USF, being 15 minutes away from our home, could not have been more ideal for my financially savvy parents. After a full scholarship and additional financial incentives offered by the university, I would be making them money to attend.

So, reluctant to comply but with no choice, I resisted in my own little way, attending the last possible orientation.

My first reaction? The campus is very large, very green, and full of turkeys and squirrels.

USF, located in the heart of Tampa, is the fourth-largest public university in Florida. It’s known for its research and famous for its high number of patents.

It was also the starting place for a number of notable athletes, politicians, business leaders and media figures, among them comedian Aasif Mandvi, legendary model Lauren Hutton and, yes, Hulk Hogan.

After a trip around the campus, I realized the school was an excellent choice for me as an aspiring physician. The campus houses Moffitt Cancer Research Center, Shriner’s Children Hospital, Alzheimer’s Research Center, Eye Institute, Morsani Health Center, and the VA hospital and the Florida Hospital across the street. On top of all of this, it had a medical school!

I wasted no time in getting involved in pre-med student organizations and came to realize the campus offered even more opportunities than I’d initially thought, from shadowing physicians to performing community service.

My advisor was also very helpful with tips on succeeding in classes and how to make the most of the time we had. For example, every summer, winter and spring break, we have organized groups that travel to a country in need to provide health, education and living assistance.

I signed up with Big Brother, Big Sisters my freshman year on campus; I started my own organization that helps students with disabilities achieve their academic goals; I started volunteering at Moffitt Cancer Center and was later given an internship to participate in colon cancer research; and I did extensive Alzheimer’s research with my professors and got to see my work published.

I kept my dream to travel, though. I applied for a study-abroad program at the University of Copenhagen and was accepted — for that, USF awarded me $5,000 as additional assistance.

Student life on campus has something for everyone. USF has recently started its own TEDx talk series. We have a large gym that offers fitness classes along with a full-sized pool, tennis court, soccer field, indoor and outdoor basketball courts and even a golf course.

If you are looking to live the Greek life, rushing begins at the start of each semester.

For nightlife (if you’re over 21, of course) you would head to South Tampa, where you see your classmates look their best and act their worst.

Looking back, I am grateful that my parents are down-to-earth and realistic. Because of them, I was able to attend a wonderful university that provided me with a wealth of opportunities. I graduated with two bachelor’s degrees and not a penny in debt.

I highly recommend all college-bound seniors to look close to home — you do not have to be on the other side of the country to have the opportunity of a lifetime.

 -

The Korea Times is looking for college students or graduates who would be willing to share advice regarding the search for the right school.

If you or someone you know has a story to share, please contact us at news@koreatimesus.com.

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