New international students are arriving on campus for the fall semester, so our International Voices columnists will be sharing their experiences as new UT students on the blog this month. Welcome to Austin, incoming students! We look forward to connecting with you in ISSS.
I knew that I wanted to go to college in the United States since I was 10 years old. I’m not exactly sure what the allure was, and I knew it would definitely be more challenging in terms of adapting to the lifestyle and living about 8,000 miles from my family. However, I decided to take a leap of faith, and with my parents encouragement, I accepted the offer to join the University of Texas at Austin. I had never been to the United States before, and as I landed in Houston, I felt a mix of apprehension and excitement with a tinge of nausea from sitting on a plane for 17 hours. Time flew past as I attended orientation and started to meet my fellow Longhorns. I found out that registration really isn’t that stressful as long as you have a general idea of which classes you want to take (waitlists are your best friends) and that Tex-Mex food was like eating happiness in a bowl (or burrito).
I think one of the most dreaded questions you can get asked as an international student is, “So, where are you from?” Ninety percent of the people I met were from Texas, but I was still unfamiliar with the Texas geography, and so when people said Grapevine or McKinney, I was mystified. When I said I was born in India, grew up in Qatar, but went to an English school, I drew quite a lot of attention, and to be completely honest, I enjoyed it. I think as an international student, one of the most entertaining things you can do is to compare and contrast culture in the United States with where you’re from. For example, that little dot you use to complete a sentence, is called a “period” in America but a “full stop” in some other parts of the world. Also, everybody kept talking about how it was 110 or 90 degrees outside, and I was baffled by this obscenely large number until I realized they were talking about degrees Fahrenheit. A definite advantage of being an international student in America is you get pretty used to doing quick calculations in your head as you mentally convert Fahrenheit to Celsius and miles per hour to kilometers per hour!
I have currently finished my first year of college, and as I think back to a year ago, I admire how far I have come. Apart from a wonderful education at a world-renowned university, I appreciate how much I have learned from the American culture, just by living here for a year. The most sincere advice I could give to an international student who is just about to start their freshman year at college is that even though it may seem like a scary experience right now, you will get through it! You will find your niche and make some great friends and even greater memories at college. I can honestly say I made the best decision of my life choosing to come to the University of Texas at Austin, because really, who wouldn’t want to go to a school where squirrels eat Chick-fil-A fries out of your hand?!