Texas Excursion: Six Flags Fiesta Texas

Six Flags Fiesta Texas roller coaster

Six Flags Fiesta Texas is a theme park in San Antonio with many fun rides spread out over a 200-acre park!  The park has various thrill rides, family rides, and kid’s rides.  One of the rides opening this summer is the world’s first 4-D roller coaster, the Batman.  In addition to the several rides, there are various types of entertainment such as music and performance shows, food stops and restaurants, and souvenir shops.

During the summer the park also has a full water park named White Water Bay.  White Water Bay features several large pools, lazy rivers, multi-passenger rafting adventures, and various open and tubed speed slides!

Come join in on the summer fun!  The trip will take place Saturday, June 13, between 10 am and 9:30 pm. Seat reservations are $105 and include transportation to Six Flags, a breakfast bag, and snacks and refreshments at the end of the day.

To purchase a seat visit the International Office online store. Email any questions to intercultural@austin.utexas.edu.

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Posted in Programs & Events

Insurance Deadlines Monday, 6/8/15

Please be aware of the following insurance deadlines coming up on 6/8/15 at 5:00 pm:

  1. Summer waiver deadline for graduate students with insurance through a TA/AI/GRA assignment
    1. Spring/summer student health insurance is included automatically on all international students’ spring Tuition/Fees Bill.  If you have insurance coverage over the summer due to a graduate academic assignment, you must request a waiver online in order to waive the summer student insurance fee.
    2. Note that TA and AI spring assignments generally carry insurance benefits over the summer.  Please see the Human Resources website for further information about academic assignments and insurance benefits.
  2. Summer waiver deadline for students graduating in spring
    1. Graduation waiver forms are available online and should be submitted by scan to iowaivers@austin.utexas.edu .
  3. Deadline to purchase dependent Insurance
    1. International students are automatically billed for health insurance coverage, but dependent children and spouse must be re-enrolled in coverage each semester(fall, spring, and summer).
    2. You can enroll dependents by scheduling an appointment with the ISSS Insurance Advisor or emailing insuranceadvisor@austin.utexas.edu .

Have a safe summer!

Posted in General

Have a Fun & Safe Summer

Summer is a great time for adventures and fun in the sun! Unfortunately, it’s also a prime time for accidents and ER visits. Check out this practical, tip-filled blog from the New York Times: This Summer, Safety First. From road trips, to hot summer days, to camping, and more: read about some easy ways to avoid common pitfalls and enjoy your summer safely!SafeSummer

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International Voices: Dead Days and Impromptu Vacations on Campus

This post is a part of our weekly International Voices column, writing by UT students, for UT students. Enjoy!

The dead days are upon us (you can’t expect me to call two puny little days a dead week) – and I believe they’re aptly named. After all, campus turns into zombieland, populated by sleep-deprived undergrads all jittery from over-caffeination. Aimlessly they wander around campus reciting formulae, dates, and German verb conjugations before heading off to PCL or SAC or an acronym of their choice to catch some zzzs in a dim corner. You can tell the seniors by the dreamy, far-off look in their eyes, half-excited for graduation, half melancholic to leave the sheltered 40 Acres behind. Sure, college feels like losing your mom in the supermarket – for four years (aphorism coined by one of my students) – but at least it’s a supermarket you know well. And it’s really a mom-and-pop store compared to what’s waiting beyond these burnt orange walls.

Connie Loos

Connie Loos

While I wish the graduating class of 2015 all the best in their future endeavors, this is not a commencement address. My post is just about the next few days and where you’re gonna spend them. On campus, I presume, but where do you go when you need a time-out from studying? Where can you let your soul dangle and your mind rest? “We asked 100 undergrads…” (are you too young to get a Family Feud reference?) …well I asked a bunch of grads and undergrads for their favourite Zen places on or near by campus. Places that make you feel like you’re on vacation. Here’s what I learnt.

  1. The Outdoor Pool at Gregory Gym – Palm trees swaying in the breeze, the faint smell of chlorine in your nostrils, and the Beach Boys spreading Good Vibrations – nothing screams leisure like the Aquatic Complex at Gregory! If you like it a little more rambunctious, check out their Splash Bash on 12 May, 2pm.

    UT Turtle Pond

    UT Turtle Pond

  2. The turtle pond – Off Inner Campus Drive and University Avenue lies the notorious turtle pond, home to over 40 turtles whose lazy circling paddle will inspire you to slow down and do some pond-ering yourself. Crane your neck towards the sun as turtles do and enjoy doing absolutely nothing.
    Eastwoods Park – Just off campus below San Jacinto and to the right of Dean Keeton you’ll find all the solace and distraction you could want: Equipped with basketball and tennis courts, sanitary facilities and a playground, this Park has it all! Play some ball, swing as high as you can, or find the one tree that perfectly fits the shape of your back and read (no textbooks allowed!) or nap. Aside from hosting the original Eeyore statue, the best thing about Eastwoods Park is that there’s no power cables or internet access anywhere, forcing you to take a break.
  3. Waller Creek – This modest little creek runs right through Eastwoods Park and continues above San Jacinto, passing by CLA and winding its way around the Alumni Center (across from the Stadium). When you’re walking along San Jacinto, all it takes is a few careful steps down a green slope and you will find yourself in the middle of an urban forest. Listen to the bubbling, gurgling creek, take a deep cedar-soaked breath and feel instantly refreshed.
  4. The Color Inside: a James Turrell Skyscape – If you need blinders to forget you’re on campus, James Turrell’s Skyscape might be just the place for you. A white cylinder that opens at the top but blocks anything else from view, Turrell’s piece let’s you contemplate the sky and only the sky. Sitting on the simple stone bench that lines the wall of Turrell’s turret, or lying on the floor staring up at the sky canvas, you can watch the clouds drift by and reflect, dream, or scheme your next steps.

Wherever you go, make sure to leave your work behind for an hour or two. I assure you it will still be there when you get back.

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Get Smart With: Time Management


Do you feel like there isn’t enough time for all the things on your plate? Here are some tips to help you portion out your time effectively.

  • Start Small but Start Now!
    • Even taking a few small steps early on can help you avoid rushing to finish assignments. Remember, “Well begun is half done”.
  • Prioritize!
    • Look at your assignments and prioritize. The Sanger Learning Center is a great resource on campus to help you develop skills to better prioritize tasks and manage your time.
  • Separate the Assignment!
  • Find a Work Space!
    • Try experimenting with different locations to find a working environment that you enjoy and that helps you focus.
  • More Resources
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Spring Fun in Austin

At this beautiful time of year, many take time to venture out, often spending time outdoors or exploring new places. Austin has much to offer in the spring. While some of the ideas below are always free, those who plan ahead may discover days or times when museums and other venues are open to the public at no charge (or at a reduced rate), so be sure to take advantage of information available online.

barton springs Consider walking the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake or exploring Zilker Park where you can go for a swim in Barton Springs or discover beauty at the Zilker Botanical Gardens.  Near the park you will find the Umlauf Sculpture Garden too.

For those looking to get a bit further outside of Austin, consider visiting Hamilton Pool or McKinney Falls State Park for both swimming and exploring.

Austin also boasts many museums worth vising, with several on or near campus, including the Blanton Museum of Art and the Bob Bullock State History Museum and Theatres. The Texas Memorial Museum and the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum on campus should not be missed.
state capitol
In South Austin, the Lady Bird Wildflower Center offers tours and exhibits and while you’re downtown, don’t forget to take time to tour the Texas State Capitol.

As you gear up for the end of the semester, another helpful online resource is the Free Fun in Austin website where you can get a regularly updated list of upcoming events and resources to plan your weekends and experience all that Austin has to offer. Enjoy!

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International Voices: Defending My Dissertation

This post is a part of our weekly International Voices column, writing by UT students, for UT students. Enjoy!

It’s been two weeks since I successfully defended my PhD dissertation, and I can still feel the numerous emotions associated with its completion. In the weeks prior to the actual day of defense, I found my life to be a hectic whirlwind of last minute preparations: scheduling the final examination, drafting my presentation, and most important of all, finishing up writing the dissertation itself! Managing these various steps towards my degree fulfillment proved to be quite stress inducing indeed, and it might be no surprise that one of the greatest challenges was the preparation for the defense preparation. So today I’d like to share a little bit about what it was like to defend my PhD dissertation.

Nabiul Afrooz

Nabiul Afrooz

I was asked to prepare a 25-30 minute power point presentation covering the 5.5 years of my research. As I’m sure many of you are well aware, presenting the hypotheses, designed tasks, and key findings for multiple projects in such a short amount of time was alone a very challenging task.  I had to laugh wondering how it could be expected that such a long period of time could be completely and properly represented in a mere 30 minute window. PhD studies are frequently compared with running a marathon, however if we’re going to use that analogy, to me the defense preparation seemed like a bizarre attempt to convey the endurance, training, and perseverance of the marathon through a 100m sprint.  At some point, I realized that it would be impossible to do justice to all of my projects in such a short period of time, so I instead chose to focus on my last project.

I wish that the word “nervous” could convey the feelings I went through at the beginning of the presentation. My hands sweat and I felt as though my examiners could actually see me shaking. I was more nervous than the time I was asked to give an impromptu speech in front of 200 people on stage at my high school. Thankfully however, by the time I reached the fourth slide of the presentation, I regained command of myself and was able to take control of every word I said. This short presentation was only the public part of the defense. All of my lab mates were present and were asked to leave the room after for a more technical, closed-door session with the PhD committee members. I was temporarily reminded of my nightmares: what if someone from the committee was to tell me that my 5 years of PhD research wasn’t actually worth the degree title? Brushing these thoughts from my mind, I happily watched as my work spoke for itself and the closed-door session seemed to slip by with casual ease.  The session lasted for an hour or so. After that, I was asked to walk out while the committee members deliberated my fate.

I sat outside the door counting the seconds. Time seemed to crawl and at one point I actually imagined seeing the clock hands stand at a standstill. Thousands of thoughts ran through my mind and my heart raced. After an eternity of two minutes, the chair of the committee walked out to congratulate me for passing the oral defense. Though it wasn’t unexpected, at that exact moment I don’t recall really feeling much of anything. I shook his hand, thanked him, and that was it. Looking back, it probably took me some time to actually absorb the news. When my brain finally caught up with reality, I found myself beaming with elation and most importantly, feeling a sense of relief as though a thousand pound weight had been lifted from my very being. If I had to characterize the actual moment of my completion, however, it would be perhaps best described as empty and at the very core, surprisingly anticlimactic.




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Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans

Applications are now open for the 2016 Class of Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. These fellowships are open to immigrants and the children of immigrants who are entering or have begun graduate school. Fellows receive up to $90,000 in support of their education: $40,000 in tuition support and $50,000 in stipend support over two years.  The application deadline is November 1, 2015 at 11:59 pm EST.

For full eligibility requirements, to register for a web info session or to apply, go to: www.pdsoros.org.  Please direct any questions to pdsoros@sorosny.org.


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Posted in Financial Aid

International Voices: All Work and No Play…

This post is a part of our weekly International Voices column, writing by UT students, for UT students. Enjoy!

It is Sunday, just past morning, and I’m treating myself to breakfast tacos at the Red River Café and contemplating why it is that we always need a reason to treat ourselves to something: A dissertation progress report that went well, receiving a fellowship, finishing a term paper, grading 100 exams…. The notion that we need to earn our fun and doing something good for ourselves pervades grad student and undergrad thinking alike, and I suspect it doesn’t stop there: Work hard, play hard is a truly American credo, right?

Connie Loos

Conni Loos

Germans are proverbially hard workers, too, but, in contrast to Americans, we also cherish relaxation and (try to) separate work and private life neatly. Concepts that form part of the core values of a society tend to be lexicalized, and so we have a word marking the end of the workday: Feierabend, literally the ‘celebratory evening’. Time to have a Feierabendbeer, and ‘let five be an even number’.

The saying Freitag um eins, macht jeder seins (Fridays at 1pm, everybody does their own thing) further illustrates this work ethic: Once you’re off the clock on Friday, the weekend is yours and yours alone. Everybody takes a break, as most stores are closed on Sunday, and offices deserted. An acquaintance of mine who spent a year doing research in Potsdam told me he would often be the only one working at his institute on Saturdays. Even grad students will wish each other a schönes Wochenende and take off.

Here, in academia, there is neither a Feierabend nor a full weekend unless you decide to just take time off and deal with the guilty conscience later. So you didn’t get all your readings done? You didn’t do your best on an assignment? You haven’t finished grading 100 exams and 25 homeworks? At least you got enough sleep and thought about something other than work for a day or two! Weekends are necessary to gain perspective (the world won’t come to an end if you don’t understand Krifka’s model of telicity, no abyss will swallow you whole if your students have to wait two days longer for your comments on their draft, which they may ignore anyway) and to soak in all the motivation and sunlight you need to get through the next week.

For fifteen weeks, you flail your arms just to keep your head above water, until finals’ week, when, too exhausted to feel anxious anymore, you hand in your last paper and squint confusedly at the bright sunlight outside. Suddenly you’re free and summer is beckoning, 3 glorious months of freedom lie ahead. I, for one, find it hard to adjust to all this free time – I can’t stop marching to the you-need-to-be-working rhythm for at least another week or two. And I find myself wondering, wouldn’t it be nice if instead of frantic semesters and long summers, I’d have a real weekend every weekend and take only a month or two off in the summer? But that may just be the Tschörman in me talking…

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Posted in General, International Voices

Tips To Tackle Homesickness

Snoopy_HomesicknessIt’s okay to express yourself, so give writing a shot!

If you’re currently feeling homesick, remember that you’re not alone. Feelings of homesickness are a completely normal part of adjusting to a new environment. In a recent ISSS blog post, international student Nabiol Afrooz shared his feelings about his homesickness. Like Nabiol, you might also consider writing about how you feel. Take the advice of UT Austin psychology professor Dr. James W. Pennebaker, who has shown that just 15 minutes of expressive writing can carry major emotional benefits.

Talk about your feelings with someone your trust.

Another great way to address feelings of homesickness is by talking to someone who is close to you, whether back home or here at UT. In addition to friends and family, talking with someone from the Counseling and Mental Health Center can be a great option. They have workshops for international students on a variety of topics, including homesickness. If you would rather talk to someone in private, you can set up an appointment with a counselor from CMHC. Counseling is great resource for ANYONE who just needs someone to listen to them. Your counselor will listen to you without judging and won’t tell anyone about your conversation.

Join an organization that catches your interest.

A final way to tackle homesickness is to make connections by getting involved in things that you find interesting. If you haven’t noticed, UT is a BIG school! On a campus this size, there are groups and activities for everyone. Check out the hundreds of different student organizations you can get involved in at UT.

Have patience

Homesickness won’t go away overnight, so be patient as you settle in to a new place and rhythm. Don’t forget that this is an adventure, and you’ll be able to tell stories about how weird and awesome Austin is for years to come.

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