Story by Nyla Gayle, Class of 2022
Each year BRYC takes its Fellows on college tours both in and out of state to help expose us to schools we would not normally have the opportunity to visit. Over this year’s Mardi Gras break, from February 28 to March 4, a group of 29 Fellows and five BRYC team members traveled through Florida visiting eight colleges and universities: Eckerd College, Florida A&M University, Florida State University, Rollins College, University of Central Florida, University of Florida, University of South Florida, and University of Tampa.
We kicked off the Florida College Tour with the 10-hour bus ride from BRYC to Tampa. After a day full of traveling, we turned in early to prepare for our first day of school visits. That Friday we visited the University of South Florida, then my personal favorite, the University of Tampa, and lastly, Eckerd College.
Sophomore Fellow Roshad Charles’ favorite school on the trip was also the University of Tampa because our tour guide, Nick, explained how easy it is for freshmen to get involved on campus.
Eckerd College also stood out because its students are not required to wear shoes on campus, except, of course, in science labs and dining establishments. All the schools we saw on this first day of campus visits were predominately white institutions, or PWIs, but representatives at each campus mentioned their school’s commitment to diversifying their student bodies. At Eckerd we were able to talk with a panel of students in the Afro-American Society who explained some of the struggles they faced as students of color at PWIs. Roshad said he could see himself joining an organization similar to the Afro-American Society once he gets to college.
On day three we traveled to Rollins College and the University of Central Florida. These schools are also PWIs, and Rollins is a private institution. The University of Central Florida seemed like the biggest institution we saw on the trip. Once again we got the opportunity to speak to a panel of students and ask them about their experiences. The chaperones allowed us to be 100 percent honest with our questions by leaving the room while we got down to business. Senior Fellow Josephine Adeola said, “I feel like the panel did help me to see an African-American’s experience at a PWI.” Following the panel, those same students took us on a campus tour. After our campus tours, we left Tampa and went up to Orlando, where we checked into our second hotel. Later that day, we relaxed at Disney Springs, which is a large area with multiple restaurants and ample shopping; it was also an extremely pretty venue.
Day four started by bussing to Gainesville, where we visited the University of Florida. We had a great campus tour and even got to visit The Swamp, UF’s famous football stadium. After finishing the tour, we checked into our third hotel and then went bowling, where we were disappointingly defeated by the adults.
On the fifth and final day, we first attended Florida State University, where we got the chance to go to their Center for Leadership and Social Change. There we did activities to explore different aspects of our identities, such as race, ethnicity, and sexuality and discover our tendencies to associate certain demographics with particular professions. For example, when they asked us about race in medicine, most of us revealed that we think of doctors as being African-American or white. We were also able to talk with and ask questions of some of the students involved with the center.
Next we attended our first historically-Black college and university, or HBCU, of the tour, which was Florida A&M University. Both Josephine and Roshad said they could see themselves applying to this university. “FAMU brought a different vibe that I can relate to,” Josephine said, adding “the environment seems more friendly.” I have to say, out of all the colleges, FAMU did have the best food, and the company wasn’t bad either, as we were able to visit with College Fellow Christian Brinson and pepper him with questions about his experience there. This visit also made clearer the differences between PWIs and HBCUs.
After the last school tour, we began to make our way back over to “The Boot” or, as many say, Louisiana. This whole experience was definitely eye-opening because, before it, I didn’t know about more than half of the colleges we visited. Going on campus visits is extremely important to your college selection process in order to see what your options are. You may think you really love a school and it’s the best choice for you, not realizing how many other campuses could also be a good fit. Freshman Fellow Mya Beathley said, “What surprised me was that I actually liked PWIs even though I’m used to the HBCUs.”
This recap would not be complete without thanking the generous people who made our trip possible. To everyone who supported the Florida College Tour by contributing to BRYC on Giving Tuesday, thank you, thank you, thank you! This was an unforgettable experience, thanks to you. To Ms. Taee, BRYC’s college success coordinator, thank you for the many hours you spent planning this excellent trip. I look forward to exploring many more campuses throughout my next three years as a BRYC Fellow!