Campus welcome weeks daunt incoming students

Nrhari Duran

Some students come to college with their lives planned out through to their senior course schedule. The sane students rely on their first UT experiences to inform their decisions. The problem arises when a Longhorn’s first experiences are a whirlwind of events, coursework and true, existential panic. 

In the first two weeks, students are bombarded with information and opportunities at Longhorn Welcome events, hearing from hundreds of student organizations and tackling new workloads. Amidst all this, incoming students find it difficult to find their passion and avoid unhealthy habits.

Diana Ayoub, an economics and finance junior from Egypt, described how Longhorns can get lost amid all the content.

“There are so many resources that UT wants students to know, yet there are so many that you don’t know which are important,” Ayoub said. “My problem was not deciding. I was so afraid of joining the wrong organizations that I didn’t join any.” 

Life at UT couldn’t be more foreign to the students who come to study from other countries. Erica Sowder, a senior student advisor at the International Office , explained that new Longhorns face a steep learning curve.

“It’s a cultural shift, and you’re gonna get a lot of information. Anyone who is new to UT is overwhelmed by the information,” Sowder said. Like freshmen and transfers, international students often need guidance on where to buy books, navigation, student organizations and so on. The information Sowder mentioned largely comes in the form of notifications, club follow-ups, UT events and automated PSAs.

In contrast, students who take on every interesting opportunity in their first year typically get overwhelmed. Ayoub furthers that these new experiences are stressful, and like most college students, she feels a pressure to have fun at the end of every week. “I had to find ways to release stress on my own. I don’t think that UT does a good job of letting students relieve stress weekly.” 

Like Ayoub, many students feel pressured to be social and unwind on the weekend. However, Benjamin Gregg, a government professor who also instructs freshmen in his UGS course, points out that this need to relax and socialize makes many new Longhorns more susceptible to peer pressure. 

The professor finds that many students who try to spend all of their leisure time going out are often driven to potentially dangerous outlets for stress, most notably alcohol consumption, as opposed to many of the campus’s constructive outlets such as exercise and campus interest groups.

Despite the best efforts of Longhorn Welcome organizers, new students are daunted by the infinite possibilities of a large campus like UT. Consequently, students suffer analysis paralysis and may take to negative stress outlets. 

To improve the new student experience, Gregg suggests that students be less self-conscious with friends and accept that some weekends may be better spent alone with peace and quiet. Sowder advises university departments to better coordinate and consolidate messages to reduce the quantity of information freshman have to process. What is best remains debatable, but the campus’s first impressions clearly need work.

Duran is an international relations and global studies freshman from Spring. Follow him on Twitter @bboydeadfish.