My Experience at the University of Georgia

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Olivia is an Atlanta tutor specializing in French tutoring, Study Skills and Organization tutoring, and a number of other areas. She is currently a senior at the University of Georgia majoring in Communication Studies and French. See what she had to share about the University of Georgia:

VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or rural is the campus? Did you feel safe on campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Olivia: The University of Georgia campus is located in Athens, GA, a medium-sized town one hour east of Atlanta. Athens is not urban, nor would I describe it as a “small town.” The city has its own charm – not too small that it gets boring, and not too big that it gets overwhelming. The campus has an extensive bus system (as it is a big campus). In addition, there is the Athens bus system, so you can live off-campus without necessarily having to buy a parking pass to drive to campus. I have always used the Athens bus system without problems. Athens is also a pretty bike-friendly city. Biking is popular here, and people do bike to campus. The University of Georgia does a lot to ensure safety, including staffing their own police force and releasing campus alerts through text messages, calls, and emails. I feel the campus is very safe, or at least as safe as any other big college. I have never felt anything but secure.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Olivia: Professors and advisers at the University of Georgia have been very responsive to emails and questions I have had. Some professors even specify a maximum two-day email response time on their syllabi so that they hold themselves accountable. Office hours are always emphasized, and teachers encourage you to come see them during the time they provide. Even briefly before or after class, teachers answer quick questions with no issue. Advisers are always available for appointments or questions via email. However, I do recommend doing your own research about class options before meeting with an adviser. They can help you sort out most things, but they will not give you every bit of information or option available, so it is always better to be informed.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Olivia: Dorm life is a big part of the University of Georgia experience! It is a great, hugely social experience that is truly characteristic of being a college student. It really makes your freshman year fun, and it helps you to integrate, meet people, and get involved on campus. First, there are many on-campus dorm options that involve living with a roommate. For example, I lived in a typical, very small dorm room in a tall residence hall, and it was great. You meet people on your hall, and they become the little community that you come home to every day. There are many options depending on gender, bathroom preferences, size, and location on campus. When you live on campus, going to class is very convenient by foot or by bus. Also, you can take better advantage of the long list of clubs, organizations, and activities that happen on campus every day. Something is always going on, and there is something for everyone. Plus living on campus makes it really easy to go to sports games (read: football) and to utilize the awesome gym.  

Dining options at the University of Georgia are way above what you would find at the majority of other universities. The University of Georgia dining halls are award-winning, and you can tell! The choice, quality, and size of the five dining halls are much better than a typical college dining situation (compared to the other college visits I did, as well as my friends who came from different places to visit). This is one of the best parts of living on campus, especially for freshmen – going with friends to the dining hall, where you can find fresh smoothies, ice cream, extensive salad bars, and a variety of dishes. You will never get bored of eating the same thing. There are also numerous cafes and eateries (separate from the meal plan) that you can stop into around campus.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Olivia: The University of Georgia is generally known for its Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, as well as its Public Relations major. The Terry College of Business and the Psychology department are highly regarded, as well. The science department (namely Biology and Chemistry) is known to be pretty rigorous. I am studying French and Communication Studies. I have a strong interest in language and foreign cultures, which ultimately pushed me to want to study a language throughout college. I wanted to have a broader education than just a language, and I found (after many major changes) that Communication Studies best fit what I wanted to learn and what I thought would be useful later in life. I think the university did support my areas of study, given that each department made an effort to engage students in organizations and outside events. French conversation tables, departmental scholarships, and respective clubs are all examples of things that I have been involved in via my majors.  

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Olivia: I would say that it was not super easy for me to meet people in the beginning, but let me clarify – this was not because there was not a million opportunities to do so. This is the way it was for me, and it is different for everyone. Meeting people who you relate to takes time, and it did not happen for me right away during my freshman year (even if I was involved in activities with others). Once I started really finding my niche, I met more long-term friends. But this is normal for freshmen, and it only gets better year after year. Greek life does play a significant role at the University of Georgia if you want it to. I was not a part of Greek life, but many people do it and enjoy it. I knew it was not something for me, so I made an effort to meet people in other ways, including sports, clubs, classes, dorms, etc.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Olivia: The Career Center at the University of Georgia is awesome. Every time I have interacted with them, they have been extremely nice, organized, and helpful. I have used their resume critique services, I have been to many workshops, and I have done many Skype interviews in their private Skype rooms. I still have a folder of resume and cover letter tips. They do a lot to help students succeed. Large career fairs happen several times during the school year, and many reputable companies are represented on campus. There are also many reputable companies on a job search database called Dawglink, which is a great way to connect University of Georgia students to companies for full-time and part-time positions. Company executives come to speak to different classrooms from time to time as well, especially in the business school.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Olivia: Places to study on campus are numerous and widespread. Since it is such a big campus, it may take a little time to find them all! I will name some of them here: there are two massive centralized buildings called the Miller Learning Center and the Tate Student Center. In a nutshell, they both consist of lots of computers, study rooms, armchairs, and tables. Quieter and louder areas are separated, and there is even a designated reading room in the Miller Learning Center.

The library is also a great place to study, and it is my preferred spot. It is quiet and huge – seven stories in total. There are computers, tables, chairs, whiteboards, and little nooks.

The Miller Learning Center does get crowded in the middle of the week. It is a major crossroads for many people’s classes and study meetings, etc. The main library is generally less crowded. However, there are also good places to study on other areas of campus, like the science library, the law library, and outside! Benches and green space are abundant on campus. So, basically, if you want to study on campus, there is always a place you can go that is not overcrowded.

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Olivia: Athens is such an interesting, eclectic town. It is no big city, and it does not have that bustle, but there are other advantages to it. It is very southern and very outdoorsy, yet full of culture and full of authentic people. The downtown area is probably its most famous perk. And it is pretty amazing, with something like 80 bars on four streets. This is, of course, a huge pull for students, especially since the downtown area starts at the very edge of north campus.

But having mentioned the downtown area, I would like to express how Athens is so much more than just the downtown. There are very interesting music venues all over the city. In fact, Athens is known for its music scene. There are parks and historical trails, organic farmers’ markets, and really great local restaurants. There is the Oconee River and several microbreweries. So as the University of Georgia does create a sort of bubble in the center part of the city, there is much to experience and explore outside of campus if you choose to.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Olivia: The undergraduate population is about 25,000, with graduate students adding another 10,000. So if you are looking for a big school, this is one of them. The class sizes will vary depending on the class. For example, lower-level classes that are popular and required for most students can be very big (250 students for many Chemistry, Biology, or Political Science courses). But other required classes, like English, might be smaller (about 30). Once you get into higher-level classes, the size is anywhere from 25-65. I have many classes that are only about 15-20. Honors Program classes are generally about 20 people.

I did not have issues with the large class sizes. This is a personal preference (whether or not you deal well learning in large groups like that). However, even if you do not like large classes, chances are only your first year will be like that, and then your classes will be smaller from the second year on. And in the end, sitting near the front and meeting with the professor during office hours makes it seem like a smaller class anyway. It depends on your learning style and preferences.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Olivia: My most memorable experiences go back to specific professors who were really intelligent and who really knew how to communicate and teach well. With these professors, I did not even have to be particularly interested in the subject. It was their teaching that made the difference. I remember my Anthropology teacher was so excited about what we were learning that he really engaged us, even if we were talking about non-human primates. I also remember my Intercultural Communications teacher. She had us read the most interesting articles about other countries and do a project where we acted as consultants. And my Political Science teacher was incredibly gifted and funny. He led class discussions with such ease, prompting us to think differently and critically about things. These teachers have made my experience at the University of Georgia especially enriching.  

Check out Olivia’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.