Liberal Arts Council hosts focus group for students from small towns

Tehreem Shahab

Students from small towns shared their experiences such as struggling to break into existing social networks at UT, feeling unprepared for college and wanting to return home at the Liberal Arts Council’s first focus group of the semester on Wednesday evening.

Emily Frazier, a linguistics and Spanish sophomore from Waco, Texas, said during the discussion that it’s harder to get in touch with people in a big city like Austin.

“It’s very easy to feel drawn back to going home a lot, especially if a lot of your friends from high school stayed in your hometown,” Frazier said. “Some of (my friends) are going to Baylor, some of them are going to community college there, and I have guaranteed time to hang out with friends there. Over here people are usually busy and they don’t live near each other.”

Ishaana Talesara, co-chair of the LAC college ambassadors committee, said the Liberal Arts Council wants to use focus groups to hear stories from different students and get ideas of ways the Council can work to improve the college experience.

“The people who ran my committee before me realized that LAC tries to advocate on behalf of students, but there’s a lot of groups we don’t reach because none of us are a part of those groups,” said Talesara, an economics and math junior. “We want to not just send out surveys by email. We wanted to actually hear people’s stories and the ideas that people have.”

Michael Sanchez, a Plan II and history junior from Brownsville, Texas, said it would be helpful to have a program where older college students provide prospective UT students from small-town high schools with connections.

“I’m personally trying to do that right now with students from my high school who are here and saying ‘Hey, I know this person,’ and making introductions that are necessary,” Sanchez said. “You can’t just expect everyone to go out there and put themselves in social situations where a lot of people know each other and they come from the same area.”

Emma Giacomello, an anthropology sophomore from Huntsville, Texas, said she did not feel prepared for college because her school did not offer the same resources as other schools.

“I heard about the classes other kids took in high school and the organizations they were in, and we didn’t have those,” Giacomello said. “You feel less prepared for college because you’re like ‘These kids did way more than I did in high school.’”