As the fall semester begins, our International Voices columnists will be sharing their experiences as new UT students. Welcome to Austin, new (and returning) students! We hope your school year is off to a great start.
Exactly a year ago, I had just started my freshman year at UT, and I had no idea what to expect in terms of adjusting to social life in America. I quickly discovered that college is definitely not what you see on TV shows, where the characters always look extremely well put together and you never really see them spending Friday nights at the library. The reality of the situation is that no matter what major you are, college is difficult, and at a great school like UT Austin, the workload is pretty intense. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean you have to shut yourself in your dorm room and pore over your books every waking minute, especially in a vibrant and beautiful city like Austin. Balance is key! Meeting people and making new friends is also a big part of feeling at home in college. I found that joining a First Year Interest Group as a freshman is the best way to make friends since you share some classes with the people in your group.
There are definitely tourist-y things Austin is known for, like watching the bats fly out when the sun sets at South Congress, visiting Barton Creek and posing in front of graffiti decorated walls in Castle Hill. I would recommend doing all these things at least once during your freshman year at UT. Seeing the bats fly out at dusk is extremely exciting to watch, even if it does smell a little funky, and waiting for 45 minutes for a burger at Hopdoddy’s Burger Bar in South Congress is worth it (don’t forget to order a milkshake too!). Just walking down South Congress on a Friday or Saturday night when the trees are lit up and there are live musicians on the street, is such a great experience – it feels like Christmas every night! However, I would suggest getting to know the bus system quite well before venturing out on journeys across Austin, otherwise you could find yourself hopelessly lost in a sketchy part of Austin (I speak from experience). Downloading the Google Maps and the Cap Metro apps if you have a smart phone is a surefire way to keep track of where you’re going.
Austin definitely lives up to its reputation as the live music capital of the world. I have discovered fantastic new music in the year that I have lived here, and I have also had the opportunity to see some of my favorite bands live. Even if tickets are a little pricey, I would really urge saving up to go see your favorite artists live because it is an experience you will never regret.
The best way to really feel at home in a new country is to explore it with new friends and make really great memories. The International Office at UT really helps with this by arranging trips to nearby cities like San Antonio and Houston. This way you get to meet other international students whilst visiting exciting places in Texas.
So, whether you decide to spend your weekends strolling down South Congress or checking out the music scene, you will never run out of things to do in Austin. They say home is where the heart is, and after a few months, Austin will absolutely have your heart.