USF St. Petersburg: Down by the water

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It's small. It's on the waterfront. It's got a tavern with killer beers on tap just a few feet from its campus core. What more could you want from a college? The University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus is revered by its students as a sort of hidden gem. With a student body that is split between commuters and those who live on campus or nearby enough to walk to classes, USF St. Pete is worlds away from its parent campus in Tampa and feels like it. Like UT and HCC-Ybor, USF St. Pete is an urban downtown campus (though with all that waterfront footage it doesn't feel like it) and boasts 5,000 students in 38 different programs. Most are liberal arts majors, but USF St. Pete also has two professional colleges (business and education) and four programs of distinction: Florida Studies; Journalism and Media Studies; Environmental Science, Policy and Geography; and Social Responsibility and Corporate Reporting.

Top 10 Survival Tips

See the CAC. The Campus Activities Center is the home to Student Life at USF St. Petersburg. Here you will find the office of the student newspaper, The Crow's Nest, the campus fitness center, the Harborside Activities Board and student organizations. 140 Seventh Ave. S., activities desk 727-873-4596.

Gawk at the new neighbors. USF St. Petersburg's Residence Hall One is open and is the only on-campus housing offered to USFSP students. As of early August RHO is 95 percent full, so it may be a good idea to contact the facility for availability information. Residence Life and Housing, USF St. Petersburg RHO1, 500 Second St. S., 727-873-5101 or stpt.usf.edu/housing.

Everyone into the pool. The university's 100-foot-long waterfront lap pool is one of USF's most underused amenities. On any given day, the pool sits empty, just waiting for you to cool off between classes. And don't shy away during the winter — the pool is heated and there are group activities year-round. Open Mon.-Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Coquina Hall, 140 Seventh Ave. S., 727- 873-4597, stpt.usf.edu/waterfront.

All aboard. In addition to the pool, the Waterfront Office is the place to start for all aquatic activities, including scuba diving, kite surfing and kayaking. You can join others on kayak adventures at nearby aquatic preserves, take a fishing clinic or check out one of the vessels for your own trip for just $5. Coquina Hall, 140 Seventh Ave. S., 727- 873-4597, stpt.usf.edu/waterfront.

See Dalí for free. The Salvador Dalí Museum has the most comprehensive collection of artwork by the Spanish surrealist in the world. And you get in free, with USF I.D. 1000 Third St. S., 727-823-3767, salvadordalimuseum.org.

Get a haircut on the cheap. The Aveda Institute is a great place for a cheap haircut — if you have time to wait while the instructor observes and inspects what the student is doing to your head — and if you don't mind being a guinea pig. 235 Third St. S. 727-820-3160.

Buy a parking pass. Parking at USFSP is not as bad an experience as it is on many campuses. Metered parking around campus is only 50 cents per hour. But open spots can be hard to find at peak times, so your best bet is to bite the bullet and buy an official parking pass for the garage or one of the lots. Passes are $70.62 for fall 2008, or $139.10 yearly; for motorcycles and scooters, it is only $46.01 yearly. Rogue parkers with no permit will get a ticket, so it costs less in the long run to just get a pass. 727-USF-4480.

Chug it at the Tavern. The only watering hole literally on campus. "If you get stuck taking one of the many three-hour night classes, make sure to take advantage of the Tavern," advises Amanda Smith. "Give yourself a real academic challenge: drink a pitcher of beer during the 15-minute break you get in the middle of class. You'll contribute much more to the classroom discussion." Tavern at Bayboro, 121 Seventh Ave. S., 727-821-1418.

Get to the Poynter. USF St. Pete has a fortunate association with the name Poynter. There's the Nelson Poynter Library, named after the scion of the St. Pete Times' first family. And for graduate journalism students, there's the chance to take courses at the Poynter Institute, the influential think tank and training ground founded by Poynter that's located across the street from the campus. poynter.org.

Invest in earplugs. The USF campus has a front row seat for April's Honda Grand Prix, which is a very cool event but also a very loud one. So come prepared. gpstpete.com.

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