To welcome incoming international students this spring, International Orientation Volunteers (IOVs) conducted “Mentor Meetings,” a series of informative presentations covering various cultural, social and academic topics introducing new students to the Longhorn way of life.
These sessions took place over Zoom from Jan. 6-14. There was a total of 14 Meetings conducted by 18 IOVs from all over the world, representing a wide range of the university’s schools and colleges.
Presenters offered useful tips to students on studying, working and living in Austin, Texas. From interacting with professors to thrifting locally, here is some advice our IOVs have for new international students at UT Austin:
What has your experience been like making friends?
Adrian Reilli Melendez, junior computer science student from Mexico City, Mexico: My experience has been very positive. UT is a diverse college, both in terms of ethnicity and nationality as well as what people like to do. I’ve made many friends via my major, international student organizations, intramural sports, pick-up soccer games at Clark Field and, probably most often, by meeting friends-of-friends.
Jeongmin Park, sophomore early childhood education student from Seoul, South Korea: When I first came to UT, I didn’t have any close friends — so, I was very nervous and afraid to be alone. Since I am a person who likes to try out new things, I tried to face a lot of boundaries and meet new people and explore new things. For example, I went to the first meeting of the Undergraduate Korean Association. As an international student, going to those meetings helped me open up to people who share the same culture as me. Also, I met a lot of friends during freshman orientation. I tried to be open-minded and able to accept people’s differences.
How did you find and join student organizations?
Jeongmin: On campus, look through the organizations tabling and see if you find some that interest you. Recruitment is mostly online this semester, so checking Instagram is also a great resource to get in touch with several organizations. There are many cultural organizations, so I suggest finding them as well.
What advice do you have for new students getting around Austin and Texas?
Kayla Jacob, junior public relations student from Manila, Philippines: Google Maps is your best friend! I don’t have a car, so I have to walk everywhere, but Google Maps makes it super easy. Austin is quite a pedestrian-friendly city, so you’ll be able to walk most places as long as you know where you’re going.
What is your favorite outdoor activity in Austin? How do you get there?
Leti Murga, sophomore psychology student from Seville, Spain: I love having a little picnic at Zilker Park and watching the people and dogs everywhere.
Kayla: I’m not a super outdoorsy person, but UT has some nice green spaces on campus, like the lawn in front of the Tower!
Adrian: Go-Karting at Circuit of the Americas. It’s a ways out, so you have to have a friend with a car take you there.
Yuwan Guo, doctoral candidate in chemical engineering from Luoyang, China: My favorite outdoor activities in Austin are hiking and taking strolls in parks. I normally drive to hiking trails and parks. I have visited Lady Bird Lake, Bull Creek, Zilker Park, Mount Bonnell, Barton Creek.
I did my undergraduate degree in Los Angeles, and driving in Austin is much easier since there were fewer cars and people are patient and nice most of the time, unlike some aggressive drivers in Los Angeles. Mopac Expressway is very new and is one of the nicest freeways to drive on.
How can students enjoy live music and dancing in Austin?
Jeongmin: My favorite activity is going to different restaurants and karaoke. There are many restaurants on Congress Avenue, and you can get there by bus — all buses are free for UT students. Also, I love going to the Domain, a shopping district north of campus. You can get to the Domain by bus, but I recommend taking a ride-share taxi or having someone drive you there.
Leti: Austin is a great city, and even in the worst of situations, the music continues. I am old–fashioned and, personally, I love going to a coffee shop and finding the local newspaper. A lot of events have been canceled, but there are many ways that the city is trying to move forward and keep its music. I find local newspapers and venue websites to be the best places to see those advertised.
My favorite live music experience was at a small backyard live music show at the beginning of my freshman year, and I loved it. It wasn’t big, it wasn’t flashy, but it felt so intimate and so special — it was a very unique experience.
What advice do you have for students interacting with professors?
Jeongmin: Professors are always open and welcoming to new students. I highly recommend attending professors’ office hours to not only ask questions regarding class content but also to get to know them. In the first week of school, visit office hours, introduce yourselves and have short conversations with them to interact with professors more easily.
How have you managed to maintain a work-life balance?
Yuwan: I try to do as much as possible and finish my to-do list during workdays so that I hardly need to work during weekends and breaks. I try to leave at least two hours for exercising every day. I feel exercising is very important especially during the pandemic when many of us work from home and sit in front of computer screens all day.
I like to unwind during weekends and do things unrelated to my research. For example, cooking, reading a fun book, watching a few movies, hiking and hanging out with friends. I find myself more productive when I start a new week of work if I relax during the weekends.
Kayla: Working as a student employee is great because they know you’re a student first. I enjoy where I work so it has been super easy to maintain a work-life balance. However, if you’re not used to working/studying, don’t sign up for too many hours at first! It can be a little overwhelming.
What advice do you have for new international students finding and purchasing secondhand goods?
Jasmine Lee, junior biochemistry student from Kingston, Jamaica: For students that want to find and purchase secondhand goods, I recommend checking Facebook groups such as UT Buy/Sell/Trade/Free. Most of the people in the group are students, so it’s easier to receive the item as they will likely meet around campus. There are numerous items that are on sale and it’s best to buy items that are used rather than buying a new one. Also, don’t be afraid to ask around your friend groups if they have anything to sell! If you are looking to thrift, look carefully at the product as there might be some wear and tear.