Zhe - University of Texas at Austin

B Information Technology
Semester 2, 2018
Go explore, don’t wait, just go do it. Be brave, Austin is a magical city!

Academic experience

I had 3 Electrical engineering courses and 1 Math course.

What I enjoy most about the different academic system is that I get to learn a different perspective of looking at the same problem. Here at UT, electrical engineering is taught bottom-up approach whereas computer science is taught top-down approach. I started at UQ with top-down approach which is like I learn the high-level language and then slowly dig it down to low level language to see what’s going on in the computer.
But in UT, I learned the bottom-up approach way of looking at things. I learnt Assembly and C, and we have to do really complicated things with these basic languages. Especially Assembly, we can do a formula in high-end language within couple of lines, in Assembly, we have to use hundreds of lines of code. It was absolutely painful but by the end I see what I learnt in that process, I get to understand and analyse the problem from a different point of view.

Personal experience

I made so many friends in States, both domestically and internationally. Also, I have friends that live in States that I knew from Brissy, and I get to visit them and it was awesome. I visited 7 different States, California, Washington, Louisiana, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York and other places in Texas. It was an amazing time. 

There is a huge amount of Mexican in Texas but I didn’t pick up Spanish. Instead, I enjoyed Mexican food haha, it is THE BEST. 
I definitely learnt how to be confident in public and how to behave and socialise so that I can make more connections.

Accommodation

I lived off campus, it’s 5 minutes’ walk to the edge of campus so it’s fairly close. I loved this place that I stayed at. 
It’s called Pearl Street Coop. Basically 120 people living in this huge house/dorm. Mostly students, only a few non-students, but everyone is like between 18 and 28. Half domestic and half international. I made so many friends here in this house. 
The rent is also surprisingly cheap, even though we have a industrial-standard kitchen (with unlimited avocado supply), common area, computer room, TV room, entertainment room, a small gym, a pool table and a swimming pool! 
We need to do 4 hours of labour per week to make up for the cheap rent, but the labour is basically cleaning up and cooking food. It’s quite an enjoyment. 

University provided a list of accommodation options and link to each company/organisation. UT will help you if you want to live on campus but it’s a bit too expensive for me and the meal plan are so good that I’m sure everyone gains so much weight if living on campus.

Costs

My rent is fairly cheap so it doesn’t cost more than 3,000 USD. 
I can’t recall the spending of each month but I do remember it comes down to 9,500 AUD. So I guess budget 10,000 AUD for everything including travel will be a good idea.
Nike is the sponsor for UT and I got tricked into buying their merchandise (and spend too much money)

Challenge

The culture shocks. American college culture is just like in the movies, it’s nothing like Aussie ones. I really liked it though. The way people are connected and the way people do things. It’s an amazing time there and I love American college culture.

I struggled with my courses for a bit just because I didn’t take it seriously the first two months. Then I started really get into it and by the end I got a decent result.

Professional Development

As I am doing software design back in UQ, I never really get into hardware. And now I did and I realise that software is actually better for me. 
I learnt a different way of looking at the same problem. In computer science, I was taught a top-down approach of looking at problems. I was taught high-level languages and then move on to low-level languages. But in UT, I started with low-level languages and then slowly move up. It’s a very interesting perspective when you look at the same problem from a different angle. We are required to do lots of programming with Assembly which we used to do with Python. And it all makes sense in Python because it’s a high-level language. But in assembly we need hundreds of lines of code to replace that one line in Python. But it’s pain in the arse but looking back it is such a journey and I did learn a lot from it.

Highlight

First football game in UT Austin. 100,000 people in our university stadium it was absolute nuts. And I fell in love with American football and now I play for Brisbane Rhinos. 

Saw Matthew McConaughey at the football game. 

My weekend trips to Atlanta Georgia. I met many friends that study at Georgia Tech from Australia and now I am able to visit them. So I booked the special cheap flight to Atlanta two weekends in a row. And I get to meet my old friends, make new friends and explore Atlanta.

Top tips

Watch out for how much money you spend. Remember that every time you go a restaurant you need to pay tax and tips and that’s like 30% more money than the menu price. 

Go explore, don’t wait, just go do it. Be brave, Austin is a magical city!