City Focus: Gainesville, Florida
Florida, it’s a state known for its beaches, the heat and theme parks, but it’s also known for having a large student population. With a list of excellent higher education institutions to choose from, Florida is home for many different types of national and international students. With a population ranked 4th highest in the US, it’s a great destination for a study abroad. Our student editor Ashley focuses on the city of Gainesville in the Sunshine State.
For 48 states in the USA, each of them is divided into geographic subdivision which is known as a ‘county’. (Alaska is divided into boroughs and Louisiana is divided into parishes) The point of counties is to serve as units of local government throughout the state. Gainesville, Florida is the largest city in Alachua County. This differs from Florida as a whole, as the largest city of the state is Jacksonville. Gainesville also has a few awards:
Gainesville is home to the University of Florida, which is the seventh largest single-campus university in the USA. Around 49,589 students were enrolled for the 2011 fall semester! Due to the student population, U of F is the second largest university within Florida. International students make up nine percent of the student body and come from more than 130 countries. The University of Florida is also one of the largest research universities in America, allowing it to contribute to Florida’s economy as well being the top employer for the population of Gainesville. As the oldest university in the state, the sense of tradition is strong throughout the academic staff and students. The student body can take part in purchasing the traditional University of Florida class ring known as “The Gator Wrap Ring”.
Gainesville’s climate is hotter than many of the northern states due to its southern location. Defined as humid subtropical, this is a city one shouldn’t visit if they have the desire for snow. Temperatures fluctuate throughout the year, ranging from 19 to 27C, but are similar to the rest of the state during the summer months at 30-33C. It gets hot, it rains and then clears. Transportation is usually by car, bus (Gainesville Regional Transit System) or bike. It’s not surprising that five percent of the population commutes via bike due to the allowances of the weather. Gainesville has its own regional airport with direct connections through the transit system. Residents of Florida are exempt from paying state income taxes, this has lead to the housing market being higher than normal but the cost of living is low. However, the median income is below the U.S. average, and the local job market is very weak. Making Gainesville a great place to study, but it’s best to move elsewhere for employment after graduation.
Gainesville is known for hosting two large art festivals, The Spring Arts Festival and The Downtown Festival and Art Show. This allows for a fantastic blend of academics and visual arts. There are also a number of museums and theatres that are enhanced by the Fine Arts Department from the University of Florida. Alachua County is also known for voting strongly Democratic, whilst the surrounding areas strongly vote Republication. As Florida has historically been categorised as being a wild card during elections, Gainesville presents a unique political environment. In 2008, Blender Magazine also declared Gainesville to be ‘The best place to start a band.’ With an impressive list of bands (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Don Felder of The Eagles, Less Than Jake and Sister Hazel) that have come out of Gainesville in the 70’s and 90’s, the music scene is still going strong today. Either way, Gainesville is a medium sized town with plenty to do and a great higher educational institution.