Is it too early to apply for Post-Completion OPT if I am graduating in Fall 2014?

So you might be wondering when is the appropriate time to apply for Post-Completion OPT if you will graduate in Fall 2014 or defend your dissertation within the next 120 days. The answer to your question is now!  For some students who already have a full-time job offer to begin immediately after Fall 2014 graduation, the best time to apply for OPT is late August or during the month of September.  In this particular situation, it is advantageous to apply early because the processing time for OPT can range anywhere between 2-3 months.  By applying early, you put yourself in a good situation to have your EAD card in hand before you start work.  Please remember that before you can apply for Post-Completion OPT, you have to attend an OPT workshop in the International Office.  You can register for the OPT workshop through the ISSS website.

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International Voices: 10 Things I Found “American”

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


Nabiul Afrooz

Although I was aware about the cultural differences between the country I am from and the US (TV shows and movies give a clear hint about the western part of the globe), it was hard to know exactly what to expect. After living in the States for nearly 5 years, here I present 10 observations of American life that I did not realize before arrival:

 1. As a Bangladeshi, I always take pride in being from a very hospitable nation; I was surprised that Americans are also very friendly, even to a complete stranger. In this part of the world, people initiate small talk and enjoy it a lot.

2. While #1 is true, people do value their personal space very much. People might talk a lot about traffic, weather or sports, but people would like to keep the family or personal stress related discussion for a more planned or organized gatherings.

3. Expressions like ‘see you later’ or ‘we should get together sometimes’ are just expressions. It doesn’t necessarily mean the person will see you or arrange an invitation for real. So, you shouldn’t stop by someone’s place just based on such invitation.

4.  Americans are very informal in their social greetings and gathering. If you are not in a very formal setting like job interview, shaking hands while being introduced could look a bit awkward. Most social outings with college friends are unplanned.

5. Pumpkins are everywhere in American culture. Especially during the fall months, near Halloween, you’ll see a gazillion pumpkins in almost any food store.  Here, people add pumpkin to many sweet treats such as coffee drinks, breads, cookies, and more!

6. People, especially students, do not care much about dressing up. College students seek comfortable clothes that often catch on as fads. Things could be different for a formal gathering though.

7. America is a consumers’ paradise. People shop a lot around the year, but things go crazy on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Many stores open at 3 a.m. or earlier to hold extreme sales throughout the day. This is a deal-loving nation; so they made a day just for awesome deals.

8. American football is a big deal. Every fan has their team and will dutifully sit through rain and cold for a game. Alumni and current students ‘tailgate’ before games, serving drinks and snacks for fellow fans.

9. Unlike eastern tradition, professors are very approachable in American schools.  Many of them even prefer to go by their first name among students. They are pretty accessible inside and outside classroom with dedicated office hours and endless email support for the students struggling on the subject matter. Professors provide individual sessions, readings, and other suggestions to help students learn and grow as a person.

10. Finally, many Americans have extreme pride for their alma mater. So, once you arrive in the U.S. and get settled, take pride in your new home; and don’t be afraid to show it!

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Welcome Hubei Visiting Students Program!

DSCN0433The pilot Hubei Visiting Students Program began this week! 38 students arrived to Austin from the Hubei province in China on Sunday, September 21.

Designed by the UT International Office in collaboration with the UT Global Initiative for Education and Leadership and Severn Institute, this new 3 week program will provide students with academic coursework, English language skills, intercultural understanding and leadership development.

All participants are currently enrolled university students in China. Their fields of study are diverse, including education, finance, engineering and architecture. Upon completion of the program in Austin, students will return to their respective universities with new insights provided by this unique international experience.

For more information about the Hubei Visiting Students Program, or if you are interested in having UT Austin coordinate a custom international education program for your institution, please contact Support Services at the UT International Office.

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Sponsored Student Meet & Greet

On September 12, we held a Meet & Greet networking event for newly arrived sponsored students at UT. New students enjoyed interacting with returning students and forming new connections among their peers. This annual event provides the opportunity for students to meet others in their same academic programs or who share the same sponsor.

Who are sponsored students, you may ask? This unique group of students receives funding, scholarships, or other awards most commonly from a government entity, private company, or organization for the purpose of studying in the United States. Most of these awards are highly competitive and prestigious. This fall, we welcomed over 100 new sponsored students to our campus!

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Oct 15 Deadline to Purchase or Renew Dependent Insurance

International students are automatically billed for health insurance coverage.  But don’t forget to add your dependents to your student health insurance plan!  Spouses and children must be re-enrolled in coverage each semester (Fall, Spring, and Summer).  For Fall 2014 coverage, the deadline to add dependents is October 15.  Dependents can be enrolled by scheduling an appointment with the ISSS Insurance Advisor.

Posted in General

Gemütlichkeit or How to feel at home in a foreign culture

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

Cornelia Loos photo

Connie Loos

Sunday morning I got up early to bake Brötchen – not sweet bread, nor biscuits or croissants but good old-fashioned bread rolls covered in pumpkin seeds. I’d never made those myself but I was craving a traditional German breakfast so much that I braved the daunting yeast-based recipe and kneaded myself the best self-made Brötchen ever. I served them with home-made egg salad and thyme butter, supplemented by store-bought cold cuts, cheeses, jam, and Nutella. Add to that some orange juice, good friends and plenty of time and you’ve got yourself the best Sunday breakfast ever!

Brötchen seem to be my coping mechanism for occasional onslaughts of homesickness or a way of grounding myself in this city and culture. I’ve made friends in Austin, I go out and socialize, but sometimes I need to do things that feel utterly familiar. After a stressful week of interacting only in English, I’ll watch a cheesy German movie like I used to back home with my mom. Or I’ll go to a Stammtisch and indulge in German conversation (not so much German beer, something must have gone terribly wrong in my design plan and I do not like beer!).

Apparently, I’m not alone in needing a familiarity fix now and then. A friend who just moved to Kuala Lumpur admits to working at Starbucks for the familiar flavors, the ordering ritual and free wifi. Another American friend would frequent McDonald’s in Germany although she’d never set foot in a chain fast food restaurant at home. I’ve sighed at the familiar silly names of furniture at the Round Rock IKEA and have pilgrimaged there several times to buy almond pastry because it reminded me so much of family vacations in Sweden. Funnily enough, Walmart makes me want to travel to Mexico, because that’s where I used to shop when living in Guadalajara as a German teacher.

If you are studying abroad for six months or even a year, you want to experience and soak in as much of American culture as you can, and I encourage you to do so. Go to at least one football game wearing only burnt orange (or cheat with coral and salmon, because let’s face it, burnt orange isn’t everyone’s color), take in a music festival, a rodeo, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Howl at the moon at Barton Springs and watch the bats fly (bring a nose clip) on Congress Bridge. But if you’re here for the long haul, because you’re getting your MA or PhD at UT, you might need to take a break from Austin now and then. Hang out with other internationals, rejoice at finding that spice/dish/beverage from your country on the shelves at the supermarket (or, in my case, Haribo juicy goldbears), and pursue a hobby that makes you feel at home. I for one like salsa-dancing, because no matter where I am on this globe, the familiar moves and rhythms of the dance are a welcome constant.

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Posted in General, International Voices

Schlumberger Foundation Call for Applications for the 2015-2016 Faculty for the Future Fellowships

The Schlumberger Foundation is accepting new applications for the 2015–2016 Faculty for the Future Fellowships from September 10th to November 14th, 2014.

The Faculty for the Future program, launched in 2004, awards fellowships to women from developing and emerging economies to pursue PhD or Post-doctorate studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines at leading universities worldwide.

The long-term goal of the program is to generate conditions that result in more women pursuing academic careers in STEM disciplines thus contributing to the socio-economic development of their home countries and regions. The program is growing each year and has become a community of 405 women scientists and technologists from 68 countries. Grant recipients are selected as much for their leadership capabilities as for their scientific talents. Ultimately they are expected to return to their home countries to continue their academic careers, to further their research, to teach and to become inspirational role models for other young women, especially in the STEM fields.

More information.

Posted in General

International Voices: The Summer That Changed My Life

Meet our final International Voices blogger, Rita, who shares her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this summer and why international students should seek opportunities to get involved on campus.

I recently returned from a 70 day bicycle ride from Austin, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska, with Texas 4000, a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading hope, knowledge and charity in the fight against cancer.

Rita Bitar Nehme

Rita Bitar Nehme

This ride was the longest annual charity bike ride in the world. When people ask me about my summer experience was, I struggle with words. It seems impossible to express how these 70 days were spent and what they meant to me, but I’ll try my best to tell you a story about the things I learned along the way, and how I came to take part in this life-changing experience as in international student at the University of Texas at Austin.

It all started with a leisurely walk on the Forty Acres. It was my first month in the United States. It was my first week of school with thousands of students and hundreds of student organizations. I stumbled upon the Texas 4000 table and instantly felt drawn to learn more about it. The idea of cycling across a continent to fight cancer struck me. I knew I needed to apply and be a part of this. No matter how physically and mentally challenging this was going to be, I knew I needed to do it. I applied, got an interview, and made the team. I made the team!

After 18 months of fundraising, volunteering, route planning, physical training, and friendship building, the summer ride started on the 31st of May 2014. We took off and started the summer of our lives. Everything was new to us in the first few days of riding.  It felt like it was yet another form of training. Not only were we exploring our physical limits, but we were also expanding our mental limits too. The ride was divided into three different routes. This helped us reach out to as many parts of the country as possible. The routes separated on day 2 and met again on day 60 to ride together during the last 10 days. I rode what we referred to as the “Sierra” route, the most Westerly route. We cycled through New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Yukon Territories and finally Alaska.
DSCN7276It is difficult for me to name some of my favorite places along the way but a few rides stand out. The beautiful California road shadowed by colossal redwood trees in Avenue of the Giants was mesmerizing. The steep slopes and mountain ranges that lead to Lake Tahoe, California were exhausting but even more rewarding. The national parks of Zion and Crater Lake offered some of the most beautiful natural scenery of the kind that inspires. The isolated Canadian roads, surrounded with nothing but impeccable mountains and lakes, presented trails of self-discovery on our way to the stunning state of Alaska. One of my favorite moments was reaching the Alaska border sign. There the 2013 Texas 4000 team had left us a letter which said: “They say Alaska is the last frontier, but maybe the last frontier is really the rest of your lives. It starts here.” Those words will forever be carved into my heart.
There is something special about being on a bicycle and seeing the world from its perspective. It was great to see some of the most beautiful parts of the United States and Canada from this very unique point of view. On the bike, we felt in direct contact with everything surrounding us. We felt the heat, the cold, the sun, the rain, the wind and our legs burning on a steep hill. We were flooded with feelings.

Often times we camped outdoors. At other times we had a roof above our heads thanks to the overcoming generosity of strangers and longtime friends of the organization. We slept in homes, churches, gymnasiums, schools, a farm, a police station and even a bowling alley. The people who took us in and hosted us are one of main reasons of why we can do this. My faith in humanity was restored by experiencing firsthand the extent of people’s generosity and by seeing how much people are willing to give and to help. It has been truly special to witness this.

Every day before getting on the bike, we did a ride dedication circle to share our stories and to talk about whom we are riding in honor of and dedicating our ride to for that day. Our hosts often joined the circle and shared their stories with us and who they wanted us to ride for.  Every ride dedication touched each one of us and always reminded us of our purpose while giving us more reasons to keep at it. Their stories become our shared sources of inspiration and motivation. We were able to open up, be ourselves and experience the importance of being vulnerable and of sharing experiences, passions, hopes and dreams.

The difference we made and the impact we on had on people’s lives were becoming more tangible through every story shared and every person met. The people we met along the way introduced us to their lives and helped me form a better idea of how I want to live mine.

I felt so much personal growth and I felt it in each one of my teammates. Many things were put into perspective along the long way and we learned to savor, appreciate and find the joy in the little things. We experienced the importance of living every day with purpose. We felt the joy and satisfaction of pursuing our passions, being open to opportunities and not being afraid to jump at them. A Texas 4000 alumnus once told us: “Don’t let this be the best thing you’ll ever do. Take it and do something bigger with it”. That’s what I’ll do.

That leisurely walk that lead to a purposeful ride across a continent also taught me that every step has the potential to change a life. Where will your leisurely walk take you?



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Free Employment Seminar: September 24, 2014


The University of Texas at Austin has a vibrant and thriving international population of students and scholars, numbering approximately 6,700 individuals. This population hails from all over the globe, representing the diversity of talent and knowledge celebrated by our university. In an effort to provide information and continue to serve our international Longhorns, UT Austin’s International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) Advising Team is offering a FREE Employment Seminar. Yes, FREE! If you are in an F-1, J-1, H-1B, or other visa status, this seminar is for you!

ISSS will be holding the three-part Employment Seminar on September 24, 2014 from 6:00-8:30 p.m. in the Peter O’Donnell, Jr. Building (24th & Speedway). The sessions will focus on post-graduation/completion employment options, will explain work visa types, and will offer knowledge of the permanent residency process. The ISSS Advising team will be speaking specifically about F-1 and J-1 visa types in concurrent sessions, to be followed by a wrap-up information session presented by Maggie Murphy, special guest speaker and immigration attorney at Jackson Lewis P.C.

The Employment Seminar offers a great opportunity for you to ask questions and understand your options better! We’d love to see you at the below sessions:

               6:00 p.m. – F-1 Student Session (Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302)

               6:00 p.m. – J-1 Scholar Session (POB 2.402)

               7:00 p.m. – Immigration Attorney Presentation, followed by a Q & A Session                                                                                                                                                                                                          (Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302)

We look forward to seeing you there!

–Your ISSS Advising Team

Posted in General

International Voices: Feeling at Home in Austin for Undergraduates


Shruti Kota

As the fall semester begins, our International Voices columnists will be sharing their experiences as new UT students. Welcome to Austin, new (and returning) students! We hope your school year is off to a great start.

Exactly a year ago, I had just started my freshman year at UT, and I had no idea what to expect in terms of adjusting to social life in America. I quickly discovered that college is definitely not what you see on TV shows, where the characters always look extremely well put together and you never really see them spending Friday nights at the library. The reality of the situation is that no matter what major you are, college is difficult, and at a great school like UT Austin, the workload is pretty intense. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean you have to shut yourself in your dorm room and pore over your books every waking minute, especially in a vibrant and beautiful city like Austin. Balance is key! Meeting people and making new friends is also a big part of feeling at home in college. I found that joining a First Year Interest Group as a freshman is the best way to make friends since you share some classes with the people in your group.

There are definitely tourist-y things Austin is known for, like watching the bats fly out when the sun sets at South Congress, visiting Barton Creek and posing in front of graffiti decorated walls in Castle Hill. I would recommend doing all these things at least once during your freshman year at UT. Seeing the bats fly out at dusk is extremely exciting to watch, even if it does smell a little funky, and waiting for 45 minutes for a burger at Hopdoddy’s Burger Bar in South Congress is worth it (don’t forget to order a milkshake too!).  Just walking down South Congress on a Friday or Saturday night when the trees are lit up and there are live musicians on the street, is such a great experience – it feels like Christmas every night! However, I would suggest getting to know the bus system quite well before venturing out on journeys across Austin, otherwise you could find yourself hopelessly lost in a sketchy part of Austin (I speak from experience). Downloading the Google Maps and the Cap Metro apps if you have a smart phone is a surefire way to keep track of where you’re going.

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Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Photo by David Ingram

Austin definitely lives up to its reputation as the live music capital of the world. I have discovered fantastic new music in the year that I have lived here, and I have also had the opportunity to see some of my favorite bands live. Even if tickets are a little pricey, I would really urge saving up to go see your favorite artists live because it is an experience you will never regret.

The best way to really feel at home in a new country is to explore it with new friends and make really great memories. The International Office at UT really helps with this by arranging trips to nearby cities like San Antonio and Houston. This way you get to meet other international students whilst visiting exciting places in Texas.

So, whether you decide to spend your weekends strolling down South Congress or checking out the music scene, you will never run out of things to do in Austin. They say home is where the heart is, and after a few months, Austin will absolutely have your heart.



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