Rodolfo - University of Texas at Austin

B. Engineering
Semester 1, 2017

Academic experience

Courses names:
- Dynamic Systems of Controls
-Heat Transfer
-Flight Control Systems
-Production Engineering Management
-Applied Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer

The grading system at UT Austin differs from UQ because they break down multiple exams (2 or 3) with less weight where in UQ typically there is only one final exam. This gives the student more room for error as they can always try harder on the next one. Fortunately, I was always up to date with my material and didn't experience any major difficulty. However, I disliked that they do not record their lectures and therefore if I missed a class it was hard to figure out what happened by just looking at some lecture notes. This was especially harder on the first weeks of class when I didn't know many people and I couldn't ask for help. Therefore, coming to all classes was essential to keep on track with the material.
I really enjoyed the way that they conduct tutorials as well. Instead of raising my hand and waiting for a tutor to be available (which sometimes took all the tutorial hour), tutors at UT solved problems for the whole class in the whiteboard for the first half of the tute and only after that there was a questions time. This made the time in there more effective.

Personal experience

During my exchange, most of the friends I made were students that were at UT for an exchange semester too. I had a Brazilian and a Chilean roommate. We hung out all the time, made more friends, got to know the city and the landscape of Austin and other places of Texas. It makes me happy to know that now I have new friends in Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, France, Peru, Nicaragua, Spain, Canada, and more! Being an exchange student really did impact my life in a bigger way that I thought and the people that I met impacted me with their cultures, peculiarities, beliefs, mannerisms, and their different ways to perceive life.

Since I didn't work I had much more time available than I do in Australia. This helped me learn to do many things that I found exciting but never tried before. I shot a gun at a shooting range for my very first time, I learnt how to play an instrument, to play squash, did some bouldering (rock climbing), cooked different dishes from other countries (Yummmmmmm), but overall I learnt how to look at life from other perspectives.

I had already been in the USA a few times, but never in Austin which made me fall in love with its beautiful people, landscapes, and culture. I visited many iconic places like Barton Springs, Mount Bonnell (beautiful), and many others. I travelled around Austin as well. I went to Houston and visited NASA, Galveston Island, I was outside of the stadium in Houston for the super bowl and the environment was the best. I went to South Padre Island (on the Mexican Gulf) for spring break. I visited San Antonio and went to the Alamo and the Riverwalk. 

I was sad when it all ended but I guess that is normal when you are having all that fun. I am very glad that it all happened and of all the memories of Austin. Every student that has an opportunity like this should take it because it is indeed a life-changing experience.

Accommodation

The campus is very big and I lived in the so-called West Campus. I had to ride my bike for about 9 minutes to my building. Most of the students of UT lived at West Campus. There were lots of fraternities around my building and they sure know how to party. There is also some accommodation on the Main Campus. From the places I visited and the friends I made I can say that living on the Main Campus is a little bit more expensive but also the rooms are smaller.

I really liked to ride my bike so anyone that does too could look for the west campus accommodation. It is still more expensive than living in St Lucia so it is necessary to save some money. Sharing a room is very common and that reduces the prices for about 30%-40%.

Budget

Practising the ukulele on the beach!
Playing the ukulele on the beach

Rent is paid monthly and cost me 1000 USD but because I had an own room.
Buses are free for UT student all over Austin so unless you travel out you won't have to pay anything. 
Groceries prices are very similar to St Lucia 
Hanging out at bars is cheaper... There are many more specials and happy hours with up to 1$ beer. There are many activities (like theatre or talent shows or even small concerts) that are sponsored by the university and are free. Also, the university gym is free for all students. I learnt to play squash in there, went to the pool every sunny day, did weights, did racketball, indoor soccer, outdoor soccer, everything is free but you need to book with time (5 days maybe) since it can be very busy some days.

Budget:
Mandatory UT Health insurance USD1000
Accommodation USD4000-USD6000 in total
Living and going out: Monthly USD700 but depends on every person

In my opinion, this is enough including some small travels unless you want to make big trips.

Professional development and employability

The courses that I took are essential for my graduation process and for my engineering career. I also learnt how to communicate effectively with other cultures and how to engage them with my opinion while respecting their beliefs and culture. This was very important because some of their cultures had customs that were even barbaric for me but it's important to understand or at least accept their point of view.

Highlight

There were may exciting thing happening in my exchange but the highlight with no doubht was when we all made a farewell dinner in my apartment the week that classes ended. I got to enjoy around 20 different dishes, desserts and drinks from all over the world while talking of all the good moments we had had. My friends were all happy with my meal too. We ate drank and played games all night long. We played music from different places and cultures plus we all sang to our favourite song as a group (which I taught them hahaha) because it marked our exchange. It was a night full of laughs and good vibes.

Top tips

If you have the chance to go on an exchange you shouldn't hesitate. It is one opportunity to travel, meet people, and learn new things.

Rodolfo - University of Texas at Austin