University of Texas at Austin
BackgroundInterview Date:May 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Graduation Year: 2020
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
High School Experience: Public school outside of Dallas, TX with a graduating class of about 800 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Chemical Engineering
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in a sorority, I [have a leadership role] in Undergraduate Chemical Engineering Women, and I do intramural sports.
Did any of your extracurriculars have a particularly big impact on your experience?
I’ve met two different friend groups in college being in Greek life and engineering because they’re super separated and there are not many people who are in Greek life that are also in Engineering. I have really liked the difference of that because I have two different groups of friends which I really enjoy. I would say I’ve met my best friends in my sorority.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for Chemical Engineering?
Each semester I take four classes and a lab. I came in with a lot of credits, so I don’t have to do that next semester, which is really nice. I have a big problem set due for every class each week. Lab reports depend on the lab that you’re taking, but usually you have one due every three or four weeks and those take a good chunk of time. Usually labs are not nearly as much work as your actual class, but what’s frustrating is labs are only worth an hour of credit and you are putting a significant amount of effort into them. You then usually have three midterms and a final. We don’t get participation points, but if you don’t go to class you’re going to do bad.
Is there anything that you feel the Chemical Engineering department does especially well or poorly?
I feel that they do a good job of encouraging you to talk to other people in engineering. You have study groups and TAs, and for a lot of the really hard classes they’ll not only have TAs, but also have tutors who have taken the class in the past who can also help you. The availability of TAs and tutors are really helpful in the Engineering school and the Chemical Engineering department. That’s how I met a lot of my friends and gotten through my classes.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s very collaborative. The schoolwork is really hard so that we have to do it together. There is a level of competition, but it’s only with the people at the very top trying to get a 4.0. Besides that, everybody helps each other out. Job hunting can also be competitive in the sense of people comparing where others got internships, but people don’t care about that too much. Pretty much everybody has a study group, there are very few people I know who don’t study with other people.
How accessible are your professors?
They’re pretty much all very accessible. I can reach them by email or just drop by office hours if I need to.
Why did you choose Chemical Engineering? Are you happy with your choice?
I knew I wanted to do math and science because I was good at it in high school. I just picked Chemical Engineering. I wish I knew the differences in all the engineering majors because I got lucky that I ended up liking Chemical Engineering, but all the majors are very different and I don’t think people realize that. It’s also really hard to transfer within the Engineering school.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: I lived in an all-girls private dorm off-campus. You don’t have to live on campus freshman year. A lot of people that choose to go into Greek life tend to live off-campus freshman year, but there are obviously always exceptions. That was where I met a lot of the girls who ended up being in my sorority.
Sophomore: Off-campus apartment that is in West Campus not even 10-minutes away. In general, most people at UT end up living in apartments in West Campus.
Junior: In my sorority house. People at Texas tend to live in their sorority houses junior year.
Senior: Off-campus house in West Campus.
What has been your favorite living situation?
I love living in the sorority house and it’s fun living close with your friends and stuff, but after an entire year I’m kind of tired of it.
How was transitioning from living outside of Dallas to Austin, Texas?
My dad went to UT, so I had been coming to Austin a lot and was kind of familiar with the area. The transition was really easy. Everything you need is in walking distance. Freshman year I didn’t have a car and it wasn’t a big deal at all.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I never feel unsafe, but there definitely are people who have nothing to do with UT around West Campus where most of us live. UT is really good about sending out notifications if we need to stay away from an area, and that’s only happened a couple of times. They also have UT Night Rides that will take you home at the end of the night if you don’t want to walk home by yourself. As long as I’m with someone, I feel safe.
Pros and cons of being located in Austin, Texas?
1) Austin has so much to do. The music is amazing and the arts are amazing.
2) I like going to UT because Austin is not just a college town. It’s nice to be able to separate from your school life.
3) No one lives that far away so it’s easy to get around to your friends’ apartments. Nobody drives to class here unless you live really far away.
1) The amount of stuff you have to do can be a con because you always see people doing fun stuff around you that you would want to do, but then you have to do work.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in?
Usually, Thursday nights we’ll go downtown to 6th street or any of the bar areas. Friday or Saturday there is usually a big fraternity party that we’ll go to.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
It gives you an excuse to go out more and your friends will be going out more, so you definitely will be too. I would also say the people in Greek life start going out earlier, but there are also so many people who go out at UT because we have cool bar areas. There’s 6th Street, Rainey Street, and so many others. You don’t need to be in Greek life to go out or to go to some Greek parties, but it would be a lot harder to find out where and when they are because a lot of that information is sent through GroupMe and stuff like that.
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
I like going out to try new restaurants. The food culture is a big thing in Austin. There’s also a lot of outdoorsy stuff to do in Austin. If it’s a nice day there is Zilker Park that is really nice. You can also go paddle boarding on the lake downtown. There are a lot of outdoors activities and almost everyone tries to go do them.
How happy are you with the weekend activities or nightlife at UT? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m pretty happy with them. There’s nothing I would change.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Freshman year if you’re in a sorority or a fraternity there are mixers which happen on random weeknights. You go out and have a little party with your pledge class and another fraternity pledge class. I met a ton of people doing that. I also met a lot of people in my classes because you want to study with them and see them at office hours a lot. There are also a lot of engineering organizations that you can get involved in. A lot of the community does get pretty involved.
How would you describe the overall social scene at UT?
It totally depends on who you are, but I think most people would say that there is a big partying scene. Obviously, there are people who don’t go out and people who go out all the time. It’s also not an easy school to get into, so it’s not that crazy because there are a lot of people who are super serious about their academics. UT is so big and there are so many resources that it’s pretty much whatever you want to make it.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
It depends on what group you’re in. In engineering, I see it mix much more. In Greek life, it doesn’t mix that much. In general, I think people group up with people of their own race a little bit, even in our classes. But, everyone still interacts and are friendly. [University of Texas is 41% White, 21% Hispanic, 19% Asian, and 4% Black.]
To what extent do people in Greek life and not in Greek life mix socially?
People don’t mix that much. I’ve noticed that most people that I’ve met in Greek life know and hang out with people also in Greek life. Then a lot of my friends in Greek life are in majors where there are a lot of Greek life people, so they were never pushed to reach out to people because they just saw people they recognized in their classes and worked with them.
How do you like the size of the University of Texas? How has it influenced your experience? [UT has 40,804 undergraduate students.]
It hasn’t really impacted my experience. I think it depends much more on your major. Like, the Chemical Engineering department is relatively small so I know my professors and everyone in my classes. It can be really scary for some people at first, and probably scarier for people who aren’t in Greek life because rush is before the fall semester starts so you feel like you’re going into college with few friends. I like going to a big school because there are so many people to meet and be friends with.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
They haven’t helped me directly, but they do put on a thing called EXPO, where companies come to recruit. I got an internship from there and they are already planning events for the summer for the UT people to network and meet each other. I know it could help me later on, but it would have to be through someone I know really well because it’s such a big school.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
They’re pretty helpful. We have a specific engineering career office and they have as many resources as you could want if you make use of them. My friends who were seniors went to them for advice on how to ask for what they wanted salary-wise.
Have you learned any computer programs or computer languages that will be helpful professionally?
I know Excel really well, but we don’t use it for any monetary calculations. We more so just use Excel as a calculator. I just finished a class on MATLAB, but I wouldn’t consider myself proficient. We also had to take two computing classes which were more so to get you comfortable with the logic of thinking through how to write a computer program because a lot of companies want you to learn certain programs, but often times they teach you or want you to figure it out yourself.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Texas before you entered as a freshman?
I wish I knew how much harder engineering was than other majors. I’m kind of glad I didn’t know because I would have been nervous to make the decision to do it. I also wish I knew a bit more about the importance of your major because it’s not that easy to switch at UT if you’re in business or engineering.
What is something that we haven’t touched on that a prospective in-state student may want to know?
There are a lot more in state people than out of state. I know that was kind of hard for my out-of-state friends at first because a lot of the in-state people know each other. That leads to some out-of-state students making friend groups with each other. [About 10.6% of students are out-of-state and 10% are international.]
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Going to a game day, those are really big and fun here.
Reasons to attend University of Texas:
1) It’s a public school so it’s cheaper if you’re in-state. It’s the most bang for your buck school in Texas.
2) Having the UT network and UT degree. UT is pretty well respected across the board.
3) Living in Austin.
4) The number of things that you can be involved in. That’s probably my favorite thing. There are so many different types of people, activities, and clubs here. If you want to do something, you can find a group for it.
Reasons to not attend University of Texas:
1) Austin gets really hot, so if you can’t handle that it might not be good for you.
2) I know a lot of people are intimidated by the size. You have to force yourself to get out there and be brave to get involved with things and meet people.