If you looked into colleges in Nebraska, you heard of the Huskers first; it's guaranteed. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a great school with the spirit of 1,000 suns and a huge Greek life program, but it's no UNO.
You chose The University of Nebraska at Omaha, not because it is a much smaller version of Lincoln, with no football team and only a handful of sororities and frats. You chose UNO because it's a beautiful, opportunistic, inclusive campus that can offer you exactly what you need. We are the Mavericks: independent thinkers, explorers and risk takers.
So, welcome! Before you start your college journey, allow me to guide you through the wonderful world of Omaha and all we have to offer. Even if you grew up here and you're just driving down Dodge Street to take classes, UNO is filled with special curiosities you'll be lucky to uncover.
1. The entire city is your classroom.
I know that this cheesy slogan is kind of lame, but it's so true. Of course the campus itself is wonderful, but even in your first semester, you will be able to explore different nooks and crannies of Omaha doing research, interviews and hands-on learning projects. So many professionals you encounter will be UNO alumni and will share your Maverick pride through all your endeavors.
2. Participate in Durango Days.
Durango Days is our version of Welcome Week, but I'm going to assume it's way better. The week entails free lunch every single day, a million opportunities to get new t-shirts, sunglasses and hats, constant activities and opportunities to meet new friends, coupons to basically every local business, movie nights, petting zoos, soccer games and more. Of course, you won't be able to do it all, but the best part is that you have four years (or more!) of Durango Days. I fed myself for practically the entire month of September because of all the coupons I received. And I still wear all my t-shirts to the gym.
3. Ah yes, the gym!
The recreational facilities on campus are glorious. Right now, the building is called HPER, but there is supposed to be a name change, so don't be surprised if it's different on your first day. HPER has your usual athletic equipment, but we also have a full rock climbing wall and boulder, mindfulness center, indoor track and sauna. We also have a top quality counseling and medical staff standing by to help solve all of your problems. You're welcome.
4. Get used to hearing "It's a Small World."
I'm not kidding. This song is played from the Bell Tower multiple times a day, and although lovely, can become very slow and ominous when the sun sets. If nothing else, you get to visualize yourself in the Happiest Place on Earth each day you go to class.
5. Speaking of the Bell Tower, don't step on the bell.
When you walk under the Bell Tower, there is a mosaic-type fixture on the ground where you walk. You can walk anywhere, but the big superstition is that if you step on the bell, you'll fail your next exam. I've tempted the fates since I got here and haven't failed any tests, but you know, I'm not going to say any bad stuff about whatever ghosts haunt this place. That's bad luck.
6. The shuttles take forever and will shake your entire being. It's all going to be fine.
I know the university is trying new techniques for parking and shuttle services, so this might be different once you're enrolled, but right now, get ready for the speed bumps when you're on a shuttle from Scott to Dodge Campus. Miss Linda is the best driver, however, and Welton plays the best songs with his aux cord, so that makes up for everything.
7. Buy stuff from the bookstore!
I know we already went over free t-shirts, but nothing compares to the high-quality products in the bookstore. UNO has an awesome bookstore staff and managerial faculty, and all of our shirts, leggings, hats, ANYTHING are super cute and comfy. I straight-up put "anything from the bookstore" on my Christmas list this year, and I love being able to have something to wear to school spirit-centered events. Plus, my sister is a grad student here, so I know the perfect stuff to get her for the holidays.
8. There is absolutely stuff to do on the weekends.
A lot of people get whiny about the lack of Husker games at UNO, but there's still so much cool stuff to do around here! Campus events are going on constantly, and if it's not hockey season, you can explore the city on Friday nights. Aksarben Village is practically your backyard, and the Old Market and Midtown aren't too far away from campus, either. God bless the 20-minute commute to literally anywhere you want to go.
9. Take advantage of Baxter Arena.
Baxter is our newest development at UNO, and it's so cool! Because we cut out the football team, it gave the university a lot of freedom to focus on our hockey arena. There is also free ice skating and skate rentals all the time for students, and a lot of cool famous people LIKE BARACK FREAKIN' OBAMA come to speak here.
10. Actually, take advantage of everything.
There are so many gorgeous buildings and establishments on campus that are designed specifically for your use. There's a movie theater in Scott Hall that you can rent out for your own date night or for a late night Hocus Pocus viewing around Halloween. Some of these gems are hidden away, and it's the most fun opportunity to uncover them and make your own memories around them.
11. Everyone is SO nice.
I'm not exaggerating. I was really nervous to come to college and have to work my way into other people's lives and hearts, but at UNO, everyone's already accepting. Any adult or faculty member I meet is always so thrilled to meet me and have me study as a Maverick. Some students are awkward or not exactly aligned with my personality, but they're still always so polite and friendly. In our Community Engagement Center, the bathrooms are filled with kind Post-It notes and Sharpies. Kindness is thrown around like confetti — and you get to be a part of that.
12. And the dorms. The dorms are SO nice.
I don't even feel comfortable calling them dorms. I live in an apartment. Everyone, except those who live in Scott Hall, will live in an apartment format dorm with a full kitchen, living area and bathroom. Some buildings even have balconies. I have a hammock in mine and I get to watch the sunset whenever I have a second to breathe. I don't even have to share a bedroom! If you're coming to UNO, you definitely already know this, but don't take it for granted. Your college life has been made so much easier because of your living situation, and that is priceless (or about $500 a month, but it's fine).
13. Get the curly fries in the Student Center.
They taste like Arby's and they're only $1.79. It's so tempting to get them every waking moment of my day, but I try to settle on once a week. I'm just saying, it might make your entire month just eating a little boat of those. Plus, the student center is newly renovated and gorgeous!
14. Read the Gateway.
This is a bit of a shameless plug since I write for the school paper, but READ IT. The Gateway is hot off the presses every single Tuesday and updated on the website daily. It's so important to stay up-to-date on campus news, and the journalism department of UNO, though small, is incredibly brilliant.
15. Visit the Planetarium.
I still have yet to take a tour/watch the stars from the Planetarium, but it's prided as one of the coolest and most educational attractions at UNO. There are shows on the weekends and demonstrations for various science classes, and I'm sure you could recreate that one scene from "La La Land."
16. Watch the forensics team do their thing.
MavForensics was just ranked No. 6 in the nation, and if it were up to me, I'd rank them even higher. These students are incredible speakers and performers and come from all over the nation just to participate in our forensics program.
17. Wear black, get loud.
In case you were concerned about a lack of school spirit or sporting events to attend, wipe that off your plate. Our athletics are very well-supported and do very well. We were also just recently named the Best Student Section in America by the NCSSA. Our hockey team has made it to the Frozen Four and this year, our basketball team was a mere game away from making it to March Madness. No big deal though.
18. Your MavCard is your literal key to everything.
My sweet roommate — bless her heart — loses her MavCard all the time. It costs $10 to replace each time, and without it, you can't park, get into your dorm room, print, buy things, check out library books, get attendance points in certain classes or get into the gym. So protect that child and don't worry about the picture on it. It's like getting your driver's license: no one looks good in their MavCard pic.
19. Don't make any sound on the third floor of the library.
The third floor of the library is the silent floor, which I'm guessing isn't super rare among universities, but know that they mean business at UNO. If you're someone who keeps your phone on vibrate, laughs at innocuous things in the middle of reading or studying, or opens chip bags during the quiet parts of movies, maybe stray further away from the third floor. Don't be disrespectful, because it's just wrong and you'll get dirty looks.
20. Be proud to be a Mav!
No matter where you go, what you do, who you meet or what you get involved in, all facets of UNO are well-built and welcoming. Find your niche, find your people and find who you are meant to be. You won't discover all the answers in your first year, let alone your first week, but we're all here to help you along the way. Welcome to UNO, and no, it's not funny to make the card game joke anymore.
In all seriousness, I hope this campus finds you excited and alive, because we are so thrilled to have you in our little diverse community. And for real, look for my byline in the Gateway.
Lead Image Credit: Kamrin Baker