Katie is currently studying abroad at the University of Texas at Austin and would like to provide y’all with some tips on how to go about making friends on campus at UT Austin!
Moving to another country is of course going to feel scary, especially when you’re moving to a country in a different time zone to your friends. Trust me, I know that fear, I felt that fear, and there will be moments when you’ll want to speak with your friends, only to realize they’re fast asleep! Of course the likes of FaceTime and WhatsApp make keeping in touch with your home friends easy enough, but admittedly you’re going to want to make your own friends on the ground. So not to fear! I’m here to help you with my top tips for getting involved and making friends at the University of Texas at Austin.
For the first week of the semester, every semester, clubs and organizations set up tables on a major pedestrian street on campus. They hand out all kinds of free stuff, and there’s new tables every day. So you just walk down the street, and anything that catches your eye you can stop and ask them about. Most times they have sign up sheets, or QR codes for you to scan and some information sessions to go to to see if you’re still interested, but there are so many groups that table you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Hornslink is a great website that advertises all kinds of things for you to get involved with. Just sign in with your school ID and click on the tab you want to explore. Anything from events to go to, and to organizations to join, just modify your search how you want, and you’re all set!
GroupMe is a platform you’ll use all the time, whether it’s your classes or your hall of residence chat, there’s a GroupMe for everything. If you live on campus, or even off campus, when you move in, you’ll get a QR code to scan and it will automatically add you to your residence chat. In the dorms, your RA will put in all kinds of mixers and events so you can get to know your neighbors, and watch movies or make crafts together. And people will advertise all kinds of events in different GroupMe chats so you won’t be short of things to do.
- Planet Longhorn
Planet Longhorn is an organization for international and exchange students. They throw all kinds of parties and have some really cool mixers and events so you can get to know other international and exchange students. Plus they do a lot of philanthropy work so you can get involved in the wider community through that too.
- Religious Orgs
Whether you are very religious or just spiritual, or even want to discover that side of yourself more, there’s all kinds of church groups to get involved with. Most of them will have a table at the beginning of the semester, but if they don’t, their buildings are on or near campus and you can just go there and ask for more information. A lot of times, the churches will host events for members, where you can eat and meet new people.
There’s two different kinds of sports you can join, club and intramural. Club requires tryouts, and is much more competitive, with traveling and more commitment required. Intramural is much more relaxed, and you can sign up as a free agent for someone to pick you for their team. You play casually, with a fun tournament at the end of the semester, but both are great ways to get involved and meet people.
Honorable Mention: Greek Life and Spirit Orgs
I feel like I should mention Greek Life because we’ve all seen the fraternity and sorority movies and we all want to know how to join those BUT they are no easy feat and not really available to exchange students. Joining a sorority or fraternity is a great way to meet people, but it is a huge commitment that costs roughly $2000 to just be a member. Additionally, your first year will not be the best year, with a lot of philanthropy and GPA requirements. So while you only have one year abroad, this isn’t the best use of your time, and for that reason, you likely will not be allowed to rush Greek Life at all because they want your membership for more than one year. But, you will go to plenty of frat parties and events, which is what you want to join for anyway, so don’t worry about that.
Spirit Orgs are a less intense version of Greek Life, with a much heavier philanthropy focus, but again, depending on the Org, they might not let exchange students join because your first year is not the best year of your membership. If you are really interested, it’s worth asking, but membership to a Spirit Org does cost money too.
Making friends at UT has truly made my year so much more memorable. I have a nice group of people to explore the city with, and a lot of them are from Austin/Texas so they have been showing me their favorite spots in the city, and even the state. We go to the library together, and get coffee in the middle of the day, and it’s really helped me to settle in and feel at home here.