Florida College Road Trip: University of Miami

Dotted with palm trees and surrounding scenic Lake Osceola, the University of Miami‘s campus is something of a south Florida oasis for academics, athletics and community, students say.

Year-round sunshine and ample outdoor study spots are conducive to bringing people together, and with around 10,220 undergraduates, the university is “small enough to recognize familiar faces, yet big enough to meet new people every day,” says Millie Chokshi, a junior from Orlando, Florida, majoring in public health and Spanish.

Founded nearly 100 years ago, UM brings together students from all 50 states and 120 countries, with more than half of undergrads coming from outside Florida. About 1 in 4 students are Hispanic or Latino, 9 percent are black, and 15 percent come from outside the U.S.

UM has nine colleges offering more than 180 undergraduate majors and programs. Another 6,000 or so grad students also attend. A flexible curriculum makes it easy, and common, to take classes across multiple schools, although switching majors requires careful planning, since different prerequisites can be required in each college.

[See: 10 Things to Know About Selecting a College Major.]

Students need to complete classes in each of three broad thematic “cognates” — science, technology, engineering and mathematics; arts and humanities; and people and society, which might include courses like “The Business of Advertising” or “Gender and Politics,” for example. Additionally, undergrads take a writing course and a math or quantitative skills course.

Andrea Trespalacios, a senior from Miami, appreciated how easy UM made it to pursue her interests: She is pursuing a double major in English and international studies, plus minors in philosophy and ecosystem science and policy. She even found the time to study abroad in Prague, one of more than 60 international opportunities.

[See: These Are the Best Countries to Study Abroad.]

UM’s Coral Gables campus is located about 7 miles southwest of downtown Miami.

Each day, at least a handful of the school’s 300-plus clubs set up tables throughout the Student Center Complex and along the lakeside patio to try to promote their events or recruit new members. Scuba Club is one of the largest — you can learn skills in the pool on campus — and other options include CaneStage Theatre Company, beach volleyball and a number of multicultural organizations. About one-fifth of students join a fraternity or sorority.

Athletics are a big draw, and all events are free for UM students — including football games, which are played at Hard Rock Stadium, also home to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. A weekly farmers market on campus and Thursday music performances that echo off the lake add to the lively vibe. Homecoming weekend, with its sporting events, returning alumni, parade and fireworks, is a highlight of the year.

All nonlocal first-year students are required to live on campus, where they join one of several residential colleges. Each has a live-in faculty member, plus resident assistants and first-year fellows who serve as academic mentors to help new students get acquainted with all that the university has to offer.

[Read: 4 Surprises for International Students About On-Campus Housing.]

Half of all undergraduate classes have 16 or fewer students, and since you’re typically not in a large lecture hall, professors will recognize your face and know your name, says Adrian Nuñez, a 2018 management and political science grad from Miami.

A new housing option for upperclassmen, currently under construction, will consist of about two dozen interconnected buildings on the edge of the lake, with residences, outdoor patios, study spaces, an auditorium and more.

For those looking to venture beyond campus, a nearby Metrorail stop can get students to downtown Miami in about 15 minutes. There, they can find plenty of options for food, sports, entertainment, internships and service projects, or just otherwise explore the city’s sights and distinctive neighborhoods. The nearest beaches are about 20 minutes away by car.

“Miami is a place where if you dive in,” Nuñez says, “you can do anything.”

More From the Florida College Road Trip:

University of Florida

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This story is excerpted from the U.S. News “Best Colleges 2019” guidebook, which features in-depth articles, rankings and data.

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Florida College Road Trip: University of Miami originally appeared on usnews.com