If you are considering/planning to come to the University of Texas and are not from Texas, I assure you, you’ll be fine. Coming from California and leaving everything comfortable and known was extremely difficult, but now I love UT and couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else!
With only 10% of UT’s student body being out-of-state, it definitely initially feels a bit isolating and nerve-wracking, but I have learned that stepping out of my comfort zone in this way has been the best decision of my life.
As most college freshman feel, I was so overwhelmed at the beginning of college, mostly by the fact that I had to figure out the social, academic, and regular parts of my life fully independently.
So, here are some things I have learned since being here for a year which I wish I would’ve known before coming.
- your expectation of college will be different from the reality
This is definitely easier said than done, but I encourage you to come into college with minimal expectations of how you think it will be. Although your experience will undoubtedly be enriching, fun, and transformational, I can almost guarantee that it won’t be at all what you were expecting. The social media highlight reels you see from upperclassmen, the scenes from TV shows and movies, and the contemporary romance college novels are nothing like what your unique experience will be. Be flexible with your ideas of what your freshman year should be like, remember everyone has their own unique journeys, and always be open to trying something new!
- it’s ok to be alone sometimes
This is something I struggled with immensely in the initial months of college, but after I became comfortable with being by myself, I enjoyed my experience much more. While you might be surrounded by your family at home, at college there will definitely be large portions of the day in which you are solitarily studying, sitting in your dorm, or eating at the dining hall, and that’s ok! Be comfortable doing things independently and don’t be afraid ask your classmates to study together, if that’s what you prefer!
- Yes, you do need to sign a lease that quickly
Something which I wish I knew before starting school, is that with the tremendous demand for apartments in West Campus, students have to sign a lease almost a year before their move-in date to get a good price, room, and location. As a freshman, make sure to find roommates for your sophomore year as soon as you can, and try to sign a lease before the end of October. The rooms fill up very quickly, so try your best to sign a lease as early as possible! If you don’t, there are definitely still options, but the best options fill up the quickest.
- know Austin’s general location
You will meet a lot of people who casually mention cities they are from, or places in Texas during a conversation. To be able to keep up, here are some general things it might be helpful to remember:
- Austin is almost in the center of Texas, closer to the southeast of Texas
- Dallas is around a 3-hour drive north of Austin
- San Antonio is around an hour’s drive southwest of Austin
- Houston is around a 3-hour drive east of Austin
- If someone is from the “valley”, they usually mean the Rio Grande Valley, the southernmost part of Texas
- know the nearest grocery stores
There is a mini-Target right outside of campus, which should be able to cover any small grocery needs. If you are looking for a more robust grocery store, check out this list cultivated by UT, or this one by Texas Global. Both Kin’s Market and Jester City Market within the dorms also have frozen foods, quick snacks, and non-perishable foods.
- how to get around without a car
An easy, reliable option is using Uber or Lyft to travel long distances. I encourage you to download both apps, as during rush hour they sometimes have significantly different prices. For shorter distances, all UT students get free admission to use the Capital Metro public bus system. You can use Google Maps to plan your route with the busses, but I highly encourage you to download the Capital Metro app as well to keep track of bus schedules and be informed of last-minute delays/cancellations. For more transportation options, check out this list of resources from Texas Global.
- explore Austin
One of my favorite things about this city is the extent of things to do and the boundless amounts of cool shops, restaurants, and coffee shops. You can do this by participating in the campus-led aUsTinite events, or check out these recommendations by Texas Global. My personal recommendations for must-see places are:
- Bennu Coffee (24-hour coffee shop)
- South Congress and specifically Jeni’s Ice Cream
- Mozart’s Coffee Roasters
- the Blanton Art Museum
- Hiking the Shoal Creek Trail and Shoal Beach at Town Lake Metropolitan Park