Cristina Cruz

This is the third in the “Pathway Series” of stories on Cristina Cruz, who is part of the first generation in her family to attend college. Read Part 2 here, which covered Cruz’s adjustment to living on her own for the first time as a freshman at the University of Florida. In Part 3, we checked in about halfway through her spring semester at UF.

The University of Florida requires all undergraduate students — except those transferring to UF with an associate’s degree — to complete a Humanities course called, IUF 1000: What is The Good Life?

For Cristina Cruz, a 19-year-old freshman from Naples pursuing a computer engineering degree at UF, the course has helped put her future into sharper focus.

“We do a lot of readings that have to do with spiritual stuff and asking what a good life is to you,” Cruz said. “It’s about how, as an individual, you should be accepting of others’ opinions but really know what you want. You need to pursue something that you like, not pursue something because your mom or dad told you to.

“It’s kind of a way to help ease people into college.”

UF offers enough seats in IUF 1000 for new freshmen to be able to take the course during their first year. Freshmen, like Cruz, who are unable to register for the class during their Summer B or Fall term typically take it in the Spring.

“I definitely would’ve appreciated taking (this course) last semester, but I couldn’t because the class closed pretty early,” she said.

Although “What is The Good Life?” isn’t nearly as rigorous as some of the other classes she is taking during the spring semester, Cruz is appreciative of the fact that it has gotten her thinking about the quality of her college experience.

Among the other classes she signed up for this spring, were physics and calculus courses to go along with a programming course required for her major.

Cruz ended up withdrawing from her programming course and plans to re-take it during the summer. She said the experience taught her a lesson about pacing herself in her studies.

“The course was really going at a fast pace, and I felt like I needed some more time to process what we were learning,” Cruz said. “That was really tough to manage while I was taking physics and calculus too.”

In terms of college life outside the classroom, Cruz has continued to rapidly expand her palette.

“I was used to eating Mexican food at home pretty much every day,” said Cruz, a native of Mexico City whose family moved to Naples when she was 9. “I’ve eaten more types of food from different parts of the world these last few months than I did most of my life before I got here.”

Cruz is part of the first-generation in her family to attend college. Her two older brothers, Fernando Cruz and Jose Luis Cruz, are currently attending Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers and Ave Maria University in Southwest Florida, respectively.

While she returned to Naples for spring break and a few long weekends, she has mostly been content to maximize her range of experiences at UF during her first year of college.

“It was really fun and refreshing, and I liked being able to forget a little bit about school,” Cruz said of her spring break visit back home. “But I mostly think it’s been really good to have some kind of distance.”

This story is part of Florida College Access Network’s “Pathway Series”, a year-long project that seeks to highlight the diversity of experiences students face as they pursue postsecondary degrees. Each student will be profiled at the start of the school year, during the fall, in the spring, and during the summer following the conclusion of their first year.





Cristina Cruz is learning the pros and cons of living and studying on her own
Cristina Cruz is taking advantage of an opportunity her parents didn’t have

Introducing “The Pathway Series: Stories of Florida Students and Their Journey Through College”

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