University of Texas at Austin
BackgroundInterview Date:December 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: African American/Black
Graduation Year: 2019
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
High School Experience: Public school in Round Rock, Texas with a graduating class of around 500 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Public Health
Extracurricular Activities: Black Health Professions Organization (BHPO), and I’m part of Texas UNICEF.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
BHPO has helped me with my pre-med path and getting ready for the MCAT by going on school tours. Texas UNICEF has allowed me to hold a leadership position. It’s very interdisciplinary, so I can reach out and expand to other people while working with children.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for Public Health?
It’s a lot of writing, assignments, quizzes, and papers. There are not a lot of labs for Public Health itself, but because I’m pre-med, a lot of my labs are through [those courses.]
Is there anything that you feel the Public Health department does especially well or poorly?
I think Public Health at UT isn’t the greatest compared to other schools. I feel that we lack hands-on and real-world experience with internships. One thing they are good at is having good access to the professors because of how small the department is.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think it’s a mix of both, but a little more collaborative than competitive. A lot of us are pre-med students, so we are all seeing who is going to have the best GPA and who will get into what school.
What has been your favorite class in your major?
Health in Society. The professor opened up my eyes to a lot of different perspectives about the humanities component of Public Health.
What has been your least favorite class in your major?
Medical Microbiology, because the professor was terrible.
How was transitioning academically as a first-generation college student? Are there systems in place that helped you transition?
My first year I was in an Interdisciplinary Studies FIG (First-Year Interest Group). It’s a group of freshmen with all the same majors, and we had assigned mentors. This helped us figure out our course schedule, and because there was only four of us we relied on one another. Having a mentor who had gone through what we went through helped a lot.
Why did you choose Public Health? Are you happy with your choice?
I heard about Public Health during orientation, and choose it over Biology. I know I needed a backup plan in case medical school didn’t work out. I’m happy I did it and I’m passionate about it. It has opened up an insane number of doors for me.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Jester Hall with 1 roommate
Sophomore: Off-campus on West Campus with 1 roommate
Junior: Off-campus on West Campus with 1 roommate
Senior: Off-campus on West Campus with 1 roommate
How was transitioning from Round Rock to Austin, Texas?
It wasn’t too bad. It’s about a 30-minute drive from Austin and is in the suburbs. I go back home at least twice a month, so that part wasn’t difficult.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on campus?
It’s been pretty good. There have been a few moments when I felt unsafe, but that’s only when a serious incident happens. Even walking home late at night I feel a little bit nervous, but not like I’m about to die.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
The Austin Central Library.
Pros and cons of being located in Austin, Texas?
1) The downtown is definitely up and coming, so there are new restaurants and hang out spots. It’s a fun place for young hipster people.
2) It’s very outdoorsy, so if you’re into the sunshine and fresh air, it’s the place to be.
1) There is still not a lot of diversity. If you’re Black, you don’t’ feel as connected with the up and coming culture downtown.
2) It is a fairly big city, but you can essentially do all of Austin in a weekend.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in?
Mostly just study. Now and then we’ll go downtown to 6th street where the clubs and bars are. Twice a semester I try to go out with my friends, but I usually have so much homework I don’t go out much.
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
Honestly, ordering pizza and catching up on shows and just talking. We don’t see each other that often because we’re all so busy.
What have been your favorite times at Texas?
Going to ACL my freshman year was the highlight of my college career. During my junior year, I got to participate in Fest Africa, a fashion show where I showed off my Senegalese heritage.
How happy are you with the weekend activities or nightlife at UT? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I think there are plenty of options and I’m pretty satisfied. Whenever you leave Austin to go to Dallas or Houston there is more to do, but it’s a far drive.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I met one during orientation freshman year, one I knew from high school, and the rest were in the same FIG group from freshman year.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Texas?
It’s ok. I think when you’re a freshman there is a lot to do, and a lot of places to go that you’ve never been. At UT, you can do it all pretty quickly so for me it got old. It’s not like there is nothing to do, it just can be done pretty quickly.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
In terms of sexual orientations, they mix pretty well. In terms of racial mixing, there isn’t a lot at all. All Greek life organizations stay in their zone. Some organizations try and bring these groups together, but it’s still not where it needs to be at all. [University of Texas is 41% White, 21% Hispanic, 19% Asian, and 4% Black.]
Do people generally seem happy with UT by senior year? Do people love your school?
I think love is a strong word, but I think they are satisfied. It’s a standard college feel, and overall most people like it. It’s a hard school to get into, and we go through a lot so to be done makes you feel proud by completing the coursework. At the same time, it feels like they played you. The professors do not show mercy, so you have to jump through a lot of hoops with the administration to get your classes. This goes along with being played. Being a Black student at UT we’ve experience incidences of racism and discrimination which makes you feel detached from the school a little bit.
How strong is the Black community on campus?
Because it’s so small, it’s pretty tight-knit. We have a Black UT [social media], and there’s a Black Homecoming that tries to get us all together.
How do you like the size of University of Texas? How has it influenced your experience?
It doesn’t bother me. I like it, and don’t think I could do a tiny school where everyone knows each other. I would say I’m an outgoing person that enjoys meeting new people and getting fresh ideas from different backgrounds. Getting that change every now and then is good for me. [UT has 40,804 undergraduate students.]
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Not really through UT. With BHPO, the past members now in med school have given us good networking opportunities and advice into the pre-med track.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
They have been pretty helpful. I went in there and they helped fix my resume. There is also a Health Professions Office which has been really helpful for a lot of things I’ve been involved in.
Have you learned any computer programs or computer languages that will be helpful professionally?
I learned RStudio, and have been working with SPSS, but didn’t learn it at UT. I took one class on Final Cut Pro.
Have you used financial aid? If so, accommodating was the office to your needs? Were they responsive to your questions?
I use it every year and haven’t had any issues. They have been pretty accommodating.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Texas before you entered as a freshman?
I wish I knew that in our lab classes your grade depends on the TA because they do the grading. I also wish I knew more about study abroad because if I had known beforehand, I could’ve planned for it.
What is something a prospective African-American student may want to know that we haven’t touched on yet?
If I could give advice, I’d say find a good group of African American students within your field. It helps to have someone to lean on that knows where you’re coming from.
What is something a prospective first-generation college student may want to know that we haven’t touched on yet?
There are resources to get help as a first-generation student at UT. There is a lot of pressure and stress and you may not know where things are. Don’t be afraid to ask your peers or professors.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Getting to visit the Life Science Library or the engineering building, because those are pretty cool study spots.
Reasons to attend University of Texas:
1) It’s a big school, so if you’re not intimidated by that it’s the perfect setting.
2) There are hundreds of organizations so you’ll find the niche where you fit it.
3) Overall the classes aren’t too bad, they really prepare you and help with critical thinking.
Reasons to not attend University of Texas:
1) The city of Austin gets old really quick.