Getting to Know the Class of 2026: MHPers Off-Duty

This year’s MHP cohort has members from all over the east coast–– from Long Island, New York to Fort Lauderdale, Florida–– with seven out of ten students transferring to UF this semester. For those moving across states, continuing existing hobbies has helped them adjust to the new environment and meet new people. Those already at UF have reconnected with friends and discovered new attractions, as the world (hopefully) reopens from COVID-19. Below, each member has shared what they enjoy doing over the weekends or during their free time.

Finding Time Alone

Akanksha Dave

Alone time lets us enjoy activities we love at our own pace and in our own ways. Finding a sense of familiarity with our usual hobbies can be comforting in stressful environments. Akanksha says, “I find that keeping my hands busy helps me destress. I like to unwind by playing my cello or embroidering, but since I wasn’t able to bring my cello with me to Gainesville, I’ve spent most of my free time this semester embroidering!”

Xuban Palau Villarreal

Some have immediately fallen in love with Gainesville’s great outdoors. Xuban states, “During my time off from being a gator student, I spend my time being a gator in the pool, on the track, and on the bicycle. The versatility of Gainesville’s landscape allows me to train throughout the three triathlon disciplines while enjoying the challenges of these sports.”

Sohum Sheth (Left)

Meanwhile, others find ways to stay connected with home wherever they go. Native Long Islander Sohum keeps up with his favorite New York baseball team, “as a huge Yankees fan, I love to watch Yankees games in person or on TV!”

Getting Outside Gainesville

Rohan Arora

Going outside helps us take our minds off school and physically get away from our busy schedules. Rohan remarks, “I enjoy going on walks and exploring during my free time. As a person who enjoys photography, I often find some great sights to photograph on these adventures.”

Tomas Potlach (Right)

Some need to get much farther away from Gainesville during their time off. Tomas, a natural-born traveler and explorer, shares photos from a day trip with friends to St. Augustine, “we toured the historic sites and later went surfing at the beach. We had a great time connecting with Floridian nature, and I look forward to going back again soon!”

Annika Liu (Left)

Some enjoy basking under the warm Florida sun every chance they get. Annika loves going on picnics, “whether it’s a sunny brunch with friends or an afternoon spent reading until dusk. I always keep a book, a blanket, and some forks in my car, just in case.”

Nico and Charles Manhas

Others enjoy going out in nature with furrier companions. Outside of class, you can find Nico with his golden doodle, Charlie “at a nature park together or working to become certified as a therapy dog-handler team.”

Being with Friends

Anjalika Chalamgari (Right)

Traveling with friends and trying new things is an opportunity for bonding and new memories. Anjalika shares, “One of the things that I enjoy doing the most in my free time is going out and trying different kinds of cuisines. My friends and I love exploring all kinds of food– my favorite experience thus far was definitely when we ate authentic Belgian waffles.”

Caroline Lunny (Center)

Over the weekend, Caroline loves to do fun and new activities with her friends, “like going to TopGolf in Jacksonville or going to watch the sunset at Payne’s Prairie!”

Daisy Valle (Center)

For some, the highlight of these adventures is the quality time spent with loved ones. Outside of the classroom, one of Daisy’s most cherished leisure activities is “dedicating quality time to friends and family. As such, embarking on a small adventure to the beach to watch the sunset, as depicted by picture, is the perfect way to end my day in the presence of those I love.”

Front (Left to Right): Sohum Sheth, Akanksha Dave, Caroline Lunny, Nico Manhas, Xuban Palau Villarreal
Back (Left to Right): Rohan Arora, Anjalika Chalamgari, Annika Liu, Tomas Potlach, Daisy Valle

Of course, much of our time off from class is also spent together. Potluck dinners, beach volleyball matches, and picnic outings throughout the semester have brought us closer as a cohort. Sharing our diverse interests has helped us broaden our horizons individually, and more importantly, start new traditions with each other.