Gators & Great Location

Happy April everyone! I’m currently blogging from Daytona Beach, FL and it is officially my LAST month of undergraduate classes before Final Exams in May, Graduation, and Commissioning! I am so excited for the semester to be over and my 5-year college journey coming to a close. When I graduate I will have a B.S. Aerospace Engineering with an Aeronautics Area of Concentration, in addition to Minors in Arabic Studies and Military Science. It’s been a challenging, yet rewarding journey and I’m in the final push to the finish line!

I’ve been preparing for the semester to end by focusing on my studies, while trying to combat burnout. Thus, I’ve been exploring! I recently took a short weekend trip to Gainesville, Florida, about two hours from Daytona Beach to go to Trader Joe’s, see some old friends, and look at alligators! While I was visiting Gainesville, only a day trip away from ERAU, I stopped at Sweetwater Wetlands Park – a nature preserve with walking trails and thriving wildlife. While getting some sunshine and walking around the park I saw a total of 17 alligators! Yes, SEVENTEEN! Other than when I visited the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, it was the most alligators I had seen in one place, and wild alligators at that! Although I have heard that all waterways in Florida have the potential to contain alligators, I have never actually seen any alligators in the wild or in captivity in Daytona Beach. Florida’s State Reptile is the American Alligator so I sought out the wildlife park in Gainesville to fulfill my ‘before graduation’ bucket list of seeing wild alligators, and it did not disappoint!

Gator in Gainesville – only a short distance away from ERAU!

The alligators I saw ranged from baby gators around 1-2 feet long, to medium sized teenage gators, to adult alligators. I also saw a plethora of various birds, fish, and even rabbits!

Another alligator spotted from the hiking path at Sweetwater!

One of the best aspects of Daytona Beach is that it is close to many major cities. I highly recommend day-trips to St. Augustine, Orlando, Gainesville, and the Space Coast. Kennedy Space Center is only about an hour south of the university! While most launches from Kennedy Space Center can be viewed even from campus, taking the journey to watch them up close is a truly special and remarkable experience I recommend partaking in – at least once while studying at Riddle! Additional fun activities to check out throughout your time in FL include Universal Studios, Walt Disney Disney, or SeaWorld! My personal favorite is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but I’ve also heard great things about Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios and the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival at the EPCOT theme park at Walt Disney World! There is so much to do so close to ERAU, the possibilities are endless. Keep on keeping on folks, will report back soon!

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