Living it right – the college life

Bradenton Herald – The start of a new school year has area college students hitting the books again. As they ease back into a life of lectures, writing papers and in some cases, dorms, concern for how they spend their precious free time arises, too.

Fun recreation is what keeps a student sane, says New College student Laura Weinkle, 22.

“I need breaks from my school work, academics, even New College’s bubble,” said Weinkle, who lives on campus. “It’s good to go out and explore a little bit.”

Like many collegians, Weinkle balances a job. Other area students have full-time jobs and families for which they need to make time.

So, contrary to popular belief, college extracurricular activities are not just about parties. Entertaining activities range from student clubs to area attractions that cater to collegians on a budget.

Yet sometimes, finding things to do can be a challenge in an area that caters more to retirees.

Especially if students such as Justin James are accustomed to an active college scene. James, 22, spent his three years at the University of South Florida in Tampa before transferring this year to the Sarasota-Manatee campus.

“It’s definitely a big difference,” James, who grew up in Bradenton, said about the switch. “I guess you learn to conform.”

Like the old saying goes, college is what you make of it. Most students here seem to be doing just that.

“Coming here, I would say I have taken as much from this place socially as I have academically,” said 21-year-old New College student body president Thomas Michael Mawn, otherwise known as TM on campus.

“The community here has been really important to me in just realizing the kind of life that I could live with a group of people that I get along with really well. Everybody says that high school (stinks) and that college is the best time of your life. So far, not having yet experienced life after college, it’s been true.”

So what do college students do for fun?

Here’s what the Herald found out:

The beach

In an area that has only 2.5 seasons — hot, less hot and a few weeks of cold weather — the beach is a popular locale for many college students.

Bradenton resident and State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota student Melissa Lumadue, 22, said the beach is a hot spot for many of her college friends. It also tops the list of Emily Gillebeau, a fourth-year literature student at New College.

Growing up in the suburbs of Athens, Ga., Gillebeau never had quick access to a beach. As a student here, she has taken full advantage of the area’s scenic award-winning beaches. Even Weinkle, who hails from Miami, said the beaches are more inviting here than the ones on Florida’s east coast.

Sailing and surfing

Hopping on a boat and cruising the Gulf of Mexico is a very New College thing to do on weekends, said Weinkle. The school offers a sailing program for the students, staff and alumni of New College and USF Sarasota-Manatee, which is next door.

James, a college senior studying hospitality, loves the water, too. When he was attending USF in Tampa, he was active in the university’s surf club, and he plans to start a surf club at the Sarasota-Manatee campus.

Campus activities

Local colleges offer numerous campus clubs, ranging in focus from environmental to religious. Being active in student government is another big draw for collegians itching for things to do. New College — the only area school besides the Ringling College of Art and Design that has on-campus housing — also offers barbecues and weekly activities such as dodgeball.

Believe it or not, dodgeball is a Friday night hit on campus.

“It’s really cool,” said Mawn, a history and sociology major. “A lot of those kid games that most people wouldn’t pay attention to once they get older are actually a lot more interesting once people are more coordinated and a little bit stronger.”

As many as 50 people have attended dodgeball nights, either to watch or participate. When it comes to recreation sports, it’s just as popular as soccer at the campus, Mawn said.

Area attractions

Mawn, who has lived in Sarasota since he was 8, enjoys the city’s Ken Thompson Park, which offers scenic views of Sarasota Bay and is the home of Mote Marine Aquarium. Weinkle, a biological psychology major, likes the art fairs that come through town and the exhibits at G.WIZ and other local museums. But Amanda Green, a 19-year-old SCF student new to the area, said she has to travel out of town for fun.

“There’s nothing to do here,” she said of the Bradenton/Ellenton area. “I wish they’d put a movie theater in Ellenton.”

One of her favorite out-of-town spots is the Westfield mall in Brandon.

Martial arts

Mawn said a popular exercise craze in the area is an Afro-Brazilian martial art known as Capoeira. Classes are offered at Capoeira Volta Ao Mundo in Sarasota. The classes were a big part of Mawn’s recreational routine and is becoming increasing popular world-wide, he said.

Movies

Gillebeau, a literature major, is easy to please when it comes to what she defines as fun. Besides the beach, she likes taking in a film. Besides the typical movie theaters in the area, Sarasota’s Burns Court offers a selection of artsy independent and foreign language films you won’t see elsewhere.

Dinning out or cooking in

Good times can also be had over a meal with friends. Area students said they enjoy going to eateries. They include student-run cafes on campus and various restaurants in Sarasota, Bradenton and St. Armands.

Weinkle, on the other hand, enjoys cooking her own meals. She loves to make guacamole, hummus and other simple snacks.

“Eating is important,” she said. “And I really find a lot of peace in cooking. That’s how I take my breaks.”

Music

College life isn’t complete without music. Green’s trips to Tampa have included country concerts. She’s looking forward to the Sugarland concert Sept. 25 at St. Pete Times Forum. Her friend, Lumadue, is excited about a Shine Down concert at Orlando’s House of Blues in October.

“That’s supposed to be a really good show,” Lumadue said.

Fellow SCF student James Young, 21, will attend Boyz II Men’s Nov. 4 performance at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Others, like Mawn, frequent concerts at St. Petersburg’s Jannus Landing.

New College tends to bring in bands from a variety of genres that perform the college circuit, said Mawn. Indie rockers, contemporary and experimental artists, folk and classic musicians to name a few. But students say the school is most known for its in-house student musicians.

“Currently, I live by and with a whole bunch of musical people,” Weinkle said. “They’ve been having jam sessions outside of my room at night.”

One friend plays the fiddle, another the guitar. Someone else plays the bongos.

Having musical friends makes for plenty of entertaining evenings. What more could one ask for?

“Life in general is more calmer here,” Weinkle said about college life compared to life in Miami. “It’s more my kind.”

published Sept. 3,2009

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