“I like it. It’s different, but good.” I have repeated this phrase a seemingly innumerable amount of times since arriving in Austin this past August. Why would a Yankee, specifically a Hoosier from Indianapolis, who four years ago ran away to eastern Tennessee for undergraduate studies (go Vols!), trade in Indiana crimson and Tennessee orange for Texas burnt orange Longhorns? I’ve been asking myself the same thing.
I began my search for a graduate school about a year ago. I knew I wanted to go to a big university with a good journalism program, as well as a place that allowed me the freedom to take a variety of classes and to cater a program to my interests. I applied to five schools across the country. Then I got engaged. My now husband and I applied to two overlapping schools, Texas and the University of Colorado, but our first choice was Austin. It has great programs in both our areas and, most important to me, little snow to speak of.
I was beginning to think the only school I really wanted to attend would be the only school that didn’t want me, and then the letter came. I was accepted to the University of Texas sometime around late March. When I began advertising the fact I was moving to Texas to become a Longhorn, I discovered that everyone seems to be connected with the state of Texas in some strange and roundabout way. Usually the conversation went something like this: “Where are you from?” “Well, Indiana, but I’m about to move to Texas to go to the University of Texas.” “Oh, my cousin’s uncle’s college roommate’s best friend’s sister-in-law lives in Austin.” “What a small world.” Apparently, my dental hygienist’s daughter is in school in Texas, and a random cab driver that took me to the airport used to frequently visit the Lone Star State.
The good thing about all these connections is that I got some information about the area before making the move. Everyone that knew anything about Texas told me that Austin was a great town, full of life and culture, with a great independent-film scene and lots to do. Who could resist living in the “Live Music Capital of the World?” It made sense to me, an aspiring entertainment writer and amateur actor, to move to such a place.
Initially, I came to Austin and UT for a change. My undergraduate institution was a small liberal arts school in northeast Tennessee. We had a total of 900 students, including those in three graduate programs. Most of my classes had 8 to 10 people in them, but I once had a class of 2. Then I got to Texas. On the first day, I met the 53 incoming journalism graduate students and my first class had 120 people in it. Despite the size difference, everyone has been really accommodating. Most notably, my professors have been surprisingly accessible. Almost all are willing to help or at least point you in the right direction if you ask. The students have been equally as accepting. At first I felt like an outsider, but several students have gone out of their way to talk to me on the bus, ask questions, or just strike up a conversation.
The university offers something that a small school can’t: anonymity. Last year, if I missed a class, my professor would call my dorm to ask if I was all right or if I had had a bad hair day. Now I can get lost in the crowd if I so choose and no one really cares. But the university also offers the chance to be really involved. There are student organizations, volunteer opportunities, intramural sports, and arts programs in which to participate, plus tons of things to go see and do. The resources are unlimited, from one of the many libraries to the variety of people on campus. These two features may seem slightly contradictory, but what they mean is the freedom of choice. A student can blend in or stand out, fall through the cracks or rise above them, and it’s completely up to him or her.
I moved to Austin and came to the University of Texas for change, for variety, for good weather, and for fun. So far, I can honestly say, “I like it. It’s different, but good.” I guess what I’ve learned from my journey is three-fold: I wasn’t crazy to move here, Austin is a really great place to be, and school, big or small, is what you make of it. So I look forward to making the most of my graduate years at the University of Texas and, most important, I’ve got my horns up.
Christan M. Thomas is a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. She is studying journalism.