Where has the time gone?
It seems like just yesterday we were lugging all of our belongings into a tiny dorm room, saying “See ya” to our parents, and settling into our new lives as Freshmen at the University of Texas at Austin. Fast forward to April, and we only have two weeks left of the school year. So, what happened? How did we get to this point? Freshman year is full of learning experiences, big and small, and there are many roadblocks along the way. So, parents, alumni, incoming freshman, and of course, the class of 2020: Here it is, a recap of my first year at the best school on earth, and advice on how to survive it. These accounts are broken down into four aspects of life at UT: School, Dorm Life, Social Life, and Austin Living. Let’s start with the most important part, school of course!
It is no secret that academics on the 40 acres are challenging. Every student here is dedicated to their studies, motivated, and clearly has their head screwed on straight. Let’s visit some of the most important takeaways freshmen took from the classrooms this year.
1. This school is hard. Really hard.
It is no secret that Texas is an academic powerhouse. By consistently ranking among the top schools worldwide, this school draws students from all over the country. The professors here are at the top of their fields, and will push students to learn and grow as much as possible. This being said, the workload can pile up. Some nights are longer than others, whether you are studying for a huge exam, taking notes, writing an essay or lab report, or all of the above. At the end of the day, just know this isn’t high school. Not everyone gets a 4.0, and it is ok to mess up sometimes. Longhorns are Longhorns for a reason, they are the best of the best.
2. Bragging about your high school resume isn’t cute.
Every Longhorn is smart, so bragging about your high school resume is not going to impress anyone. In fact, you may get the dreaded nickname, “High school hero”. Who cares if you were valedictorian? Chances are, half of your classmates were, too. So in the wise words of Kendrick Lamar, be humble.
3. People are going to be smarter than you, and that’s ok.
Are we sensing a trend here? This school is basically full of geniuses. You do not have to be the smartest one in your class! So often people are disappointed in themselves for not doing as well on a test than their friend does. This is normal, but it is important to know you won’t always be the smartest Longhorn in the room. But that’s ok! You are here for a reason.
4. Each major here is hard in different ways, don’t try to one-up your friends.
As a Public Relations major, I write a ton of papers. 14 this semester (and counting), to be exact. One of my best friends is a Chemical Engineer, and she spends more hours of the day in a lab than she does in her room. This does not mean one of us is smarter than the other. We are good at our own things! That is what college is all about: targeting your interests and working towards a career in them. Though these interests and skills needed to execute them vary, they are all valid and impressive at a school like UT.
5. Keep up with your reading. Trust me.
I cannot stress this enough. This isn’t high school, where you can SparkNote a book or a chapter an hour before the test and still get an A. You have to read, re-read, and take good notes to be successful in your classes. There is no worse feeling than sitting in a study room in the late hours of the night, drowning in a pile of textbooks when Netflix is calling your name. Make a schedule and stick to it. If you are feeling extra motivated, try using color-coded pens (I do).
Living in a dorm is unlike anything you have done before, and something that you will most likely never do again. It is so rare to live in such close quarters with 200 (or so) people your age, in your same situation. Whether you live on-campus or off, you quickly figure out the vibe of your dorm. Do people come here to study quietly, or is nap time never an option when people are blasting music 24/7? Let’s look at some of the best advice and stories from freshman dorm life.
6. Never, ever do laundry on a Sunday.
Doing laundry in a dorm is really hard. People overload the machines, will take your clothes out of the washers and dryers, or forget they have laundry in all together. This is all ten times worse on a Sunday, when everyone does laundry. Chances are, you won’t find a machine available. Or someone will take your clothes out and use your money instead. Or you will have wet clothes and no dryer available, walking down the halls lost and confused. (Just saying). So, just don’t do it.
7. It is totally ok to ask your roommates to keep it down.
When living with people you hardly know, it is easy to be afraid to stick up for yourself. Nobody wants to seem like the drama queen, right? Wrong. If you have an 8 AM test but can’t sleep because your roommates are being loud, it is more than ok to send them a quick text. Chances are, they don’t realize they are being loud, or don’t know you have a test. Just ask nicely!
8. Know what your roommates are up to. For example, know if they are about to purchase a baby duckling to live with you.
Communication really is key. For example, my roommate bought a duckling second semester for $11. (A steal, I know). She made sure to ask us if it was ok beforehand, and I’ m very appreciative of that. I would have been a bit freaked if I walked in on a baby duckling on our couch. But really, look at Roger. He’s too cute! On a serious note, it’s so important to track your friends and roommates on their phones. It’s not creepy, but safe so you know they are ok.
9. The elevators take forever, so plan your schedule accordingly.
One of the three elevators in my dorm has been broken for at least a month. This has been a real hassle, especially when I wait 10 minutes for an elevator, just to see it is jam-packed. To curb this, be a courteous neighbor. Take the stairs if you can, and please don’t press floor 10 if floor 9 and 11 are already pushed. It’s rude and people will hate you.
10. Dining hall food is not your mother’s cooking.
In the beginning of the year, the dining hall is great. Food options are endless, and you can eat as much as you want. A few months in, you will get tired of the options. By April, you will absolutely dread the dining hall and the same old food: Taco Tuesday, Chicken Tender Sunday, it’s all too much. A tip: when you go home, it is ok to pig out on your mom’s cooking. Maybe, it you’re lucky, she will send you back with some homemade cookies. Just know, real food is a luxury in college.
As if leaving your family and home wasn’t scary enough, leaving the comfort of your high school friend group can be really tough. Chances are your best friend isn’t a Longhorn, especially if you came from out-of-state. Navigating the social scene at UT can be overwhelming, but it is much easier with a group of new friends by your side. It might take a few weeks, or even months, but these will be your friends for life.
11. Sit with random people in the dining hall, it’s the easiest way to make a new friend.
When you all into the dining hall alone, your first move is probably to find a booth alone in the corner and scroll through your phone. Don’t do this! Find another person sitting alone and strike up a conversation. Chances are, they are feeling just as alone as you. Same goes for orientation! I met some of my best friends sitting in the Jester dining hall this July. Who knows, maybe this person will be your best friend. Even better, your future spouse (gasp).
12. Greek life is something, but it’s not everything.
Greek life is often stereotyped as a bunch of rich kids who are exclusive among their peers. As a member of a sorority, I can say this 100% not true. Joining Greek life is one of the best decisions I have made here at UT, as it has given me some of my best friends, and a home. This being said, I have many great friends that aren’t in a sorority or fraternity. This is normal! Only 14.7% of UT students are involved in Greek life. So yes, this is a great way to find a group of friends quickly and make social connections. However, there is so much more to college than being in a sorority or fraternity.
13. Download Venmo and RideAustin right now.
These are two applications that every college student should have. Venmo allows you to make electronic payments to other users through your phone. Want to split meal with your friend? Venmo them for half. Buying a ticket from a student? Pay with Venmo. After Uber departed from Austin, RideAustin emerged as a ride-share company that students can rely on. The coolest part about this app is that the company is a non-profit, meaning your sale goes to a good cause. And guess what? You can Venmo your friend for part of your ride, too.
14. Have a designated pair of frat shoes.
Frat houses are downright nasty. You never know what is on the floors, or even worse what is on the ground outside. I designated a pair of white converse to be my “frat shoes”. This way, only one pair is subjected to the nastiness that is floating around those houses, and you can have fun worry-free.
15. Give everyone a chance!
Freshman year, first impressions aren’t necessarily everything. Often you will meet someone and think you won’t be friends, but meet them again and really hit it off. At a school like UT, school can stress students out a lot. If you start talking to a new friend an hour before they have a Biology test, chances are they won’t be too enthusiastic. Give everyone a chance, they could end up being your best friend for life.
One of the best parts about going to UT is living in Austin, Texas. This place is truly the best of both worlds: a lively, modern city surrounded by rolling hills and a beautiful lake. It is so important to take advantage of living in such an incredible place, even if you sometimes feel like you only have time for school. Get outside! Go shopping! And most of all, eat the food! Is is damn good.
16. Check out some of Austin’s many coffee shops.
Over these past two semesters, I have accumulated a list of about 60 coffee shops in Austin I would like to visit. Whether I am studying, meeting friends, or just enjoying the company of a warm brew, these are some of my favorite places to hang out. I recommend Dominican Joe’s, a shop that donates a percentage of their profits to underprivileged children in the Dominican Republic. Also be sure to checkout Bennu, a 24-hour coffee lounge nestled in East Austin.
17. Get outside!
Like I said, Austin is a unique city surrounded by nature. Whether you are on the lake, hiking, or dog-watching at Zilker park, being outside is a great stress-reliever. One of my favorite things to do is paddle board on Lady Bird Lake. For just $1o an hour, you can paddle through down with a great view of the skyline. You can also visit the Barton Creek Greenbelt: a place for hiking, cliff-jumping, and swimming.
Click the picture for directions to Lady Bird Lake!
18. Go to the original Whole Foods, it will change your life.
Since Austin is a very health-conscious city, it makes sense that Whole Foods was started here. This grocery store mecca is full of fresh produce, baked goods, meats and cheeses, and more. This place is so popular with tourists, they have a three-level parking garage underground. A must-see for Longhorns.
19. Tex Mex. Enough said.
Tex Mex food right be the best part of Austin. For those of you who don’t know, this stands for Texan-Mexican cuisine, and is my favorite type of food. When I need a break from school, I round up my friends for some chips and queso, fajitas, and sopapillas. Check out Guerro’s or Chuy’s for a great meal, I promise it’s worth the calories.
20. Austin traffic never sleeps.
Traffic is Austin’s one downfall. It’s easy to forget that you are in the middle of the city, so Longhorns are initially surprised by the never-ending line of cars. However, living in a city this great makes the traffic more than worth it.
Austin is the best city in this country, UT is the most incredible school, and going to college here rocks. The best part? It has only just begun! As freshman year comes to a close, it’s easy to think that it was gone in a blink. In reality, we have grown and matured so much over these past two semesters. College is a learning experience, and the best way to get through it is on the 40 acres, with 50,000 other Longhorns. Hook ‘Em!
Written By: Rissa Broudy – University of Texas Class of 2020