International Voices: Discovering Happiness in a Bowl

New international students are arriving on campus for the fall semester, so our International Voices columnists will be sharing their experiences as new UT students on the blog this month. Welcome to Austin, incoming students! We look forward to connecting with you in ISSS.

Shruti_141By Shruti Kota

I knew that I wanted to go to college in the United States since I was 10 years old. I’m not exactly sure what the allure was, and I knew it would definitely be more challenging in terms of adapting to the lifestyle and living about 8,000 miles from my family. However, I decided to take a leap of faith, and with my parents encouragement, I accepted the offer to join the University of Texas at Austin. I had never been to the United States before, and as I landed in Houston, I felt a mix of apprehension and excitement with a tinge of nausea from sitting on a plane for 17 hours. Time flew past as I attended orientation and started to meet my fellow Longhorns. I found out that registration really isn’t that stressful as long as you have a general idea of which classes you want to take (waitlists are your best friends) and that Tex-Mex food was like eating happiness in a bowl (or burrito).

I think one of the most dreaded questions you can get asked as an international student is, “So, where are you from?” Ninety percent of the people I met were from Texas, but I was still unfamiliar with the Texas geography, and so when people said Grapevine or McKinney, I was mystified. When I said I was born in India, grew up in Qatar, but went to an English school, I drew quite a lot of attention, and to be completely honest, I enjoyed it. I think as an international student, one of the most entertaining things you can do is to compare and contrast culture in the United States with where you’re from. For example, that little dot you use to complete a sentence, is called a “period” in America but a “full stop” in some other parts of the world. Also, everybody kept talking about how it was 110 or 90 degrees outside, and I was baffled by this obscenely large number until I realized they were talking about degrees Fahrenheit. A definite advantage of being an international student in America is you get pretty used to doing quick calculations in your head as you mentally convert Fahrenheit to Celsius and miles per hour to kilometers per hour!

I have currently finished my first year of college, and as I think back to a year ago, I admire how far I have come. Apart from a wonderful education at a world-renowned university, I appreciate how much I have learned from the American culture, just by living here for a year. The most sincere advice I could give to an international student who is just about to start their freshman year at college is that even though it may seem like a scary experience right now, you will get through it! You will find your niche and make some great friends and even greater memories at college. I can honestly say I made the best decision of my life choosing to come to the University of Texas at Austin, because really, who wouldn’t want to go to a school where squirrels eat Chick-fil-A fries out of your hand?!

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Posted in General, International Voices, Spotlight

International Voices Contest Winners Announced


ISSS staff members are thrilled to announce the winners of the International Voices blogging contest for 2014-2015! We welcome four student bloggers who will share their stories as international students in the UT Austin community. We are excited to follow them as they record their thoughts and experiences this year.

Visit the ISSS Blog on Wednesdays during the semester to see the latest International Voices column!

Let’s get to know our bloggers ….


ARM Nabiul Afrooz – Nabiul is pursuing a PhD in Environment Engineering and working as a Graduate Research Assistant in the department of Civil, Architectural, and Environment Engineering at UT Austin. He received his master’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of South Carolina in 2012. Nabiul is a citizen of Bangladesh and has been living in the United States since December 2009.

Shruti Kota – Shruti is a second-year undergraduate student in Chemical Engineering at UT Austin. She was born in India and moved to Qatar when she was one year old. Shruti grew up and attended a British school in Qatar until moving to Austin for college in fall 2013. 

Cornelia Loos photo Connie Loos – Connie is a fourth-year doctoral student in Linguistics at UT Austin, where she teaches German as an Assistant Instructor. She considers herself a professional international student as she spent part of her undergraduate degree in Montreal and received her master’s degree from a university in Amsterdam. She decided to brave the Austin summers and hot sauces in 2011 to come to UT to do research on American Sign Language and looks forward to sharing her observations inside and outside the American classroom on the ISSS blog this year.

Rita FB profile picRita Bitar Nehme – Rita is a graduate student from Lebanon. Driven by her love for science, she completed her undergraduate studies in Chemical Engineering and is now pursuing a master’s degree in Geochemistry and Geological Sciences at UT Austin. She is the oldest of four sisters and participated in the Texas  4000 bike ride during Summer 2014.

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Posted in General, Spotlight

OPT Workshop schedule during Summer 2014

If you are wanting to apply for OPT during the month of July and August (ex: if you will defend your dissertation during this time or will graduate in Summer 2014), please be aware that there are fewer OPT workshops during this time.  Our office will only have the OPT workshops every other Monday afternoon.  Please refer to our website to schedule an OPT workshop.

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Posted in Immigration Updates

Insurance Announcement: Summer Graduates & Students Not Returning Fall 2014

Please be aware that the summer coverage period of the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) will end on 7/31/14.  This date is before the official end of the summer semester.  Due to the high cost of health care in the United States, we highly encourage you to maintain coverage for the duration of your stay in the U.S.  Note that if you have been covered under SHIP for at least the last 6 months, you are eligible to purchase 1 to 6 additional months of this plan beginning August 1st.  To purchase this coverage, please contact by 7/31 for enrollment instructions.

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Posted in Insurance

KAUST Foundation Year Program Renewed for 2014-15

The UT International Office is excited to announce we will be hosting a second cohort for the KAUST Foundation Year Program in 2014-15.

KAUST awards scholarships to top achieving high school students in Saudi Arabia. Before beginning their undergraduate programs in the U.S., students attend a one-year foundation program which consists of test preparation, academic coursework, cultural programming and leadership activities.  During the fall semester, students take TOEFL and SAT exams, complete college applications and apply to universities. During the spring semester, students participate in supplemental activities including a leadership training workshop, a volunteer opportunity, a ropescourse activity and a Dude Ranch trip.

Photo of the KAUST Foundation Year Coordinator and KAUST Cohort 1 during their Closing Ceremony (May 2014)

Photo of the KAUST Foundation Year Coordinator and KAUST Cohort 1 during their Closing Ceremony (May 2014)

Last year, UT Austin worked with 20 KAUST students and is expected to receive 20 new KAUST students this year.  The Cohort 2 students will arrive in August 2014 and will participate in a one-week, customized orientation before beginning their fall semester classes.

We are looking forward to meeting the new cohort and coordinating another successful program!

For questions regarding the KAUST Foundation Year Program, please contact the KAUST Foundation Year Coordinator, Ms. Corissa Wandmacher.

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Posted in Programs & Events

Limited Advising Appointments for August 2014

The month of August is International Student & Scholar Services’ busiest month! During this month, our office is welcoming all our new incoming international students and holding numerous International Briefing and Check-Ins (IBC).  So what does this mean for current international students?  This means there will be fewer advising appointments available with an international student advisor during this month.  We highly recommend meeting with an international student advisor now or before the month of August. Please take this into consideration for the following services that may apply to you:

  • Applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Academic Training (AT) if graduating in August 2014
  • Needing an F-1 extension of stay or a J-1 extension of stay if your I-20 or DS-2019 will expire in August 2014
  • Needing to apply for Curricular Practical Training that will start at the beginning of Fall 2014 semester
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Posted in General

On Campus Summer Employment Opportunities

Good news! Immigration regulations allow for F-1 and J-1 students to work on campus more than 20 hours per week during summer semester and during official university breaks. During the summer 2014 semester, F-1 and J-1 students can more than 20 hours per week between May 18 and August 26, 2014.

During the fall and spring semesters, students are limited to 20 hours of automatic on campus work authorization. The fall 2014 semester begins August 27, 2014.

Students who are searching for on campus employment should look at the Hire a Longhorn job bank. However, there are many types of employment advertised on this site. Please look only at part-time, on campus employment. Students can also find on campus jobs by going directly to offices on campus and inquiring if they are hiring part-time student employees. Many positions will require students to submit a resume and cover letter. For help developing a resume or cover letter, students can contact their school or college’s career center. Additionally, the Engineering Career Assistance Center offers some resume tips for international students.

Acceptable On-campus Employment:

  • Any position on campus, 20 hours per week or less (during the fall and spring semester), which is paid by UT Austin
  • A position in a store or restaurant on campus where employees provide a direct service to students (ex: Starbucks, Wendy’s, University Co-Op)

Unacceptable Employment for International Students:

  • An on campus position which is more than 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semester
  • A position on campus which is paid through an employer other than UT where student employees are not providing a direct service to students (ex: work for a construction or IT company doing a job on campus)
  • Any off-campus employment

International student advisors can meet with students by appointment to discuss employment options. Best of luck with your employment search!

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Posted in Immigration Updates

Mental Health Month: Sleep

Woman Sleeping

Did you know that lack of sleep is one of the top factors affecting UT students’ academic performance?  With the school year over and summer ahead, now is the perfect time to improve your sleep habits.  Here is a little inspiration:

Playlist: Most Relaxing Songs Ever 

  • This Spotify playlist of 160 relaxing songs was submitted by listeners of WNYC Radio.  Guaranteed to help you wind down and doze off.

Video: Children Describe their Dreams

  • This Sleep Project video documents kids’ thoughts on their dreams.  Let them inspire you to get some deep sleep of  your own.

Interactive Nap Map of UT Campus

Check out related posts in our Mental Health Month 2014 Blog Series

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Posted in General

How Do I Clear My I Bar? IBC Dates for Summer & Fall 2014

Are you a new UT Austin student starting in June, July or August 2014? Are you an international student (i.e. not a US Citizen or US Permanent Resident Card holder)? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then you will have an I bar on your record. This bar is placed by the International Office as a reminder to attend a mandatory Immigration Briefing & Check-in (IBC) session.

At IBC, we will inform you about important immigration, registration, medical insurance and other resources that you’ll need to be familiar with during your time at UT Austin. You will also be informed about any other registration bars you may have from other offices on campus. Your registration bars must be either waived or cleared before you may register for your classes.
We will hold IBC sessions throughout June, July and August.

To sign up for an IBC session, please visit our website.

For Master of Business Administration (MBA) students:
Please contact your academic department for MBA-specific IBC dates and how to schedule an appointment.

For Executive or Option III Program Students:
If you are admitted to one of the following Executive or Option III programs, please click here for instructions on how and when to satisfy your IBC requirement:
• Master of Science in Finance (MSF)
• Master of Science in Technology & Commercialization (MSTC)
• Master of Science in Business Analytics (IROM)
• Master of Science in Economics
• Master of Arts in Human Dimensions of Organizations (HDO)
• MSE in Engineering Management Overview
• Executive MBA at Mexico City
• Executive MBA Programs: Austin, Dallas/Ft. Worth, & Houston

If you have any questions about IBC, please feel free to contact our office via email at

Posted in General

Summer Health Insurance Coverage

Important reminders for students enrolled in the Spring/Summer coverage period of UT’s AHP/BlueCross Blue Shield Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP):

  1. Your Spring/Summer SHIP coverage period lasts until 7/31/2014, even if you are graduating in May.  NOTE: Students graduating in May are not eligible to use University Health Services during the summer.
  2. If you have held the SHIP for 6 months prior to graduation,  you can purchase up to six additional months of Continuation Coverage beyond the 7/31/2014 end date.  Contact the ISSS insurance advisor for more details.
  3. Dependents must be re-enrolled for summer SHIP coverage even if they held spring coverage.  Please make an appointment with the ISSS insurance advisor before 6/9/2014 to enroll dependents in the summer coverage period (6/1/2014 to 7/31/2014).

As you use your insurance over the summer, be sure to keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Keep your insurance card with you at all times and add Blue Access Mobile to your smart phone or tablet.
  2. Fill your prescriptions before leaving for vacation.
  3. Use University Health Services and in-network providers to save money.
  4. Take advantage of the University Health Services Nurse Advice Line at 512-475-6977.  UT Austin students and enrolled scholars may call 24 hours a day/7 days a week for medical guidance.

Have a safe and enjoyable summer break!

Posted in General

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