Group of students doing the Gator Chomp while holding a UF flag in front of Heavener Hall

Easing the transition

Gator Global Guides ensure that exchange students have an easy transition to their time on the Heavener campus.

Each exchange student is paired with a guide before they arrive in Gainesville. Guides are responsible for making sure the exchange student has arrived and is getting settled in their new surroundings, whether that requires a trip to the store for dorm necessities or assistance getting around Gainesville.

The guides continue to build friendships with their exchange students through events sponsored by the organization. They aim to make exchange students comfortable and connected by exploring St. Augustine, Universal Orlando and a day trip to Ichetucknee Springs, among many other activities. Besides planned events, guides often take exchange students from similar cultures to dinner, coffee or study together.

“We walk them through the basics of what it means to be a student at UF,” said Michelle Clayton, VP of Communication for the Gator Global Guides. “We’re helping them explore the opportunities they have in America and what they can experience in Gainesville.”

The program also benefits the guides. It challenges their leadership abilities, as they are required to be active and stay in contact with their exchange students. It also forces them to get out of their comfort zone and learn about the culture the exchange student comes from while improving the diversity and inclusion on the Heavener campus.

The program remains extremely competitive. With around 80 applicants in the fall, there were only 12-15 guides accepted into the program.