Monday, January 12, 2015

EPPS Frosh Reflects on First Semester

By Christina Lanier, Class of 2018

Semester One: Check. 

When I started here at UT Dallas almost five months ago, I wasn't sure what to expect. I had never been to Texas let alone gone to a Texas school. I didn't know what to expect from the school, from the professors, from my peers. Looking back, I think I can say everything couldn't have turned out better. 

Over these last few months, I have met so many students and professors who have fundamentally changed the way I live my life- everyone here has something to offer. Everyday I am reminded that I'm surrounded by some of the brightest students in the nation and that they chose this place for some of the same reasons I did- to learn, to succeed in college and beyond. 

Even if the classes are way more challenging than I expected and the food is sometimes sub-par, I can say with absolute certainty that this school was the right fit for me. 

And that is what college is all about- finding the place and the professors that instill in you the desire to learn beyond what the tests may cover, to learn for the sake of knowing more and to have fun doing that. 

Now that the this first semester has come to a close, and as the class of 2018 begins to reflect upon that semester, I hope we all can say that we have found the right s
chool for us.

Semester One: check. Here's to seven more. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Twas the Night Before Finals

By Hope Steffensen, 
Peer Advisor, EPPS Blogger and Poet

Twas the night before finals, when all through the hall
Not a student was slacking, no shirking at all
The books were spread on the desks with great care
In hopes that Winter Break soon would be there

The students then nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of good grades danced in their heads
The on-call phone was silent, the PA did clap
And then settled down for a long winters nap

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
The PA sprung up to see what was the matter
Away to the window she flew like a saint
Prepared to document a noise complaint

The moon on the breast of dry barren grass
Gave the luster of whiteboard from a government class
When, what to her wondering eyes should appear
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer
With a little old driver, so lively and quick
The PA soon knew, it must be St. Nick

More rapid than electrons his coursers they came
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen!
On COMET (My favorite!!!), The rest of you and Blitzen!

To the top of the door! To the top of the hall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!
As college students to free food quickly swarm,
Even if they dont know what Org. the foods from!

Quickly to the dorm-top the coursers they flew
With a sleigh full of gadgets, and St. Nicholas too
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And the PA laughed when she saw him, in spite of herself!
A wink of his eye and feint of his hand
Soon let her know, no noise complaints were at hand
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
Put gifts in the suite rooms, then turned with a jerk.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a motion
And away they all flew like test inspiration
But the PA heard him say,
ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Finals to all, and to all a good night!"

Monday, November 24, 2014

Cardboard Boat Regatta Captures Comet Spirit

By Hope Steffensen

The atmosphere was electric. The music was blasting. The bass was bumping. People were cheering their hearts out. No, this was not the homecoming basketball game, although the event was in the Activity Center on campus. This crazy event, filled with technique and perseverance, was the annual Homecoming Cardboard Boat Regatta.

For this event, various student organizations build boats out of nothing but cardboard and duct tape, and then race them across the Activity Center Pool. Some designs are elaborate, obviously contending for creativity and spirit awards, complete with colored duct tape hulls and paddles. Others were obviously built for speed—minimalist in nature, resembling a raft more than a boat.

The warmth of the pool deck, along with the excitement of the student organizations, really contributed to the heat of the moment at the Regatta. Shouts and cheers echoed across the water. Finally the winners emerged from the pool, drenched, but with huge smiles of victory decorating their faces. However, the epic moment of the night was not necessarily the winning boat; it was a team who made the crowd laugh.

The CV Honors Program decided to create a twist to the race—while paddling their boat across the pool, the team paused, and made a small hole in the bottom of their boat halfway across the pool. The two competitors then stood at salute in their cardboard boat and went “down with the ship” as a friend in the audience whipped out a trumpet and played Taps. The CV Team may not have won the race, but they won the favor of the crowd.

All in all, the spirit of the Cardboard Boat Regatta was a great representation of what it means to be a Comet. Comets are smart, technical and determined. However, we still find ways to enjoy ourselves in the midst of studying and pursuing success at this fantastic university. It’s great to be a Comet! Whoosh!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Transition from High School to UT Dallas

By Vernicia Griffie

Throughout high school, my classmates and I were told horror stories about the stark contrast between high school and college. We were told that our professors would be hateful and unapproachable, our classes would be so large and rigid that we wouldn’t be able to ask questions, and there would be so many other people on campus that we would simply blend into the crowd. While this may be the case for other college campuses, I have been fortunate enough to have a much different experience here at UT Dallas.
Of course there are some obvious differences between my high school career and my experience here at UT Dallas. Arguably, the biggest difference is that I pay to go here. For most of us, the high tuition rate makes us more accountable for our studies. This means that the “class clowns” and other distractions that were common throughout high school are pretty much nonexistent here. 

Another big difference is the lack of homework assignments. In high school we were given loads of homework along with multiple quizzes and tests so that we would have multiple opportunities to raise our grades. College is the complete opposite of that. In most of my classes, I’m only given two tests that combined are worth nearly half of my grade. This means that as college students, we are expected to study independently and be thoroughly prepared for each of our assignments.

Although there are many differences between the high school and college experiences, in many ways, the two are similar. From the experiences I’ve had so far, I’ve been able to conclude that most of the professors here at UT Dallas are extremely kind and approachable. Those that I’ve had over this first semester have reminded me of my high school teachers in that they are really eager to help their students. 

Also, with the small class sizes, we have the opportunity to be active participants in lectures. We are also able to communicate with both our classmates and our professors on a level in which we probably wouldn’t be able to if we were in a huge class of hundreds of students. This being the case, we aren’t forced to just blend into the crowd.

The experiences I’ve had over these first few months as a college student have proven that the horror stories about college aren’t all so true. At UT Dallas, I have the unique experience of both being regarded as an adult and expected to be responsible, all while being instructed by nurturing faculty that help us easily make the transition from high school to college.

Friday, September 26, 2014

From Newbie Freshman to "Wise" Sophomore

By Hope Steffensen

My friend once said that a sophomore means “wise fool.” Whether he is correct or not doesn’t really concern me right now, but I find it floating in my brain as I begin my sophomore year as a Political Science student here at UT Dallas.

I suppose I am wiser now. I no longer need to ask where to go for free blue books (Student Government Room in the Student Union Building). However, I still have much to learn, like learning how to use Chicago-Style Citations for my Public Policy paper this semester.

The greatest change to my life from freshman year to this year though has been becoming a Peer Advisor in the Social Science Living Learning Community (LLC). I’m in a brand new building, with a brand new LLC. And now, instead of being the student looking for answers, I am the student giving them.

One thing I love about this position is helping people as they try to get plugged in as Comets. I am in a position to help students get involved with the Pre-Law Society, Model United Nations and various other programs that suit their interests. But the best part of my position isn’t being an information source; it’s organizing a community.

I organized a program a few weeks ago where a bunch of residents and I hung out in one of the Residence Hall West Classrooms, played games, had root beer floats and got to ask questions of the UT Dallas Student Body President, Brooke Knudtson. The blending of academic interest, fun and community interaction was a fantastic experience. I am really looking forward to putting together another program for my residents in October.

Being a Peer Advisor is definitely a new experience. It’s interesting being the one giving more answers than I ask, but there is one thing that has stayed true from my freshman year to my sophomore year: it’s great to be a UTD Comet! Whoosh!

Friday, September 19, 2014

How to Survive Your Freshman Year

By Colton Hattersley

I can’t believe that it has been a year.

This time, last year, I was walking around campus freaking out. I came to UT Dallas from a small town in South Texas, so the “college experience” was major culture shock. 

I remember thinking that UT Dallas was not for me. I looked at the feasibility of transferring back to a college closer to home. Now that I’m sitting here, writing this, I’m glad I stuck it out and gave UT Dallas a chance. It might seem scary at first, but this University works hard to make its students feel included, involved, and important.

Here are some tips on how to let UT Dallas help YOU, so that you can survive your Freshman Year:

  • GET INVOLVED. You have probably heard this many times, and will probably continue to hear this many times throughout the next four years. One of the coolest things about UT Dallas is the opportunity presented through extracurricular activities and student organizations. No matter what your interests are, there is probably a club out there for you. If not, you can always create one! The more involved you are during the next four years, the better your college experience will be overall.
  • ACCEPT THAT CHANGE WILL HAPPEN. One of the biggest worries that I had last year involved my thoughts about changing majors. I came to UT Dallas as a Political Science major, Pre-Law, and thought that I couldn’t change. I knew it was possible to change, but I wasn’t going to allow myself to fluctuate from, what I thought was the perfect plan. The moment that I did change my major, to Sociology, the world became a little brighter. Everything WILL be okay if you decide to change your major, change your friends, change your hair, or change what you eat for breakfast
  • DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP. The great thing about UT Dallas is that, in being a smaller University, there are many people willing to help you out. Want to learn more about a subject? Most professors, in my experiences, have been more than willing to meet with me to discuss various topics. Feeling alone in your dorm? Knock on your neighbors’ doors – many times they’ll end up becoming some of your closest friends. There are multiple avenues for help, from faculty and students, covering a variety of topics and needs. Ask, and you shall receive.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Summer in Oman Leads to Knowledge and Adventure

Addison Larson, a junior International Political Economy major, was awarded a Critical Language Scholarship by the U.S. State Department for the summer of 2014. In this blog post, she recounts her experience in  Ibri, Oman, where she was immersed in Arabic language studies

This April, on my daily DART commute from downtown, I received a huge surprise in my email. I was one of twenty students to receive the Critical Language Scholarship to study Arabic in Ibri, Oman. I'm sure I got a lot of confused stares as I laughed uncontrollably in the packed stairwell of the train.

Less than two months later, I was on an airplane to Oman. My exposure to Arabic was minimal, and I had never been anywhere outside of North America or Europe. I had no idea what to expect, and I was afraid! But I shouldn't have been, because my summer in Oman was an amazing experience.

Everything about Oman seemed new and different. Goats wandered the city streets like stray dogs, and I saw a number of families transporting baby camels in their truck beds. At sunset, the sound of the call to prayer rose up from the mosques and echoed off the mountains. Cups of tea at local caf├ęs cost only 13 cents, and dates and coffee were a daily ritual. Most rooms were cloudy with the perfumed smoke of burning frankincense. Every day afforded new traditions and surprises.

Our group of American students planned a number of adventures throughout the country. We camped under the stars in the Wahiba Sands, watching the sun set in the distance over mountains of rich red-orange sand. We hiked to the beach at Ras Al Jinz in pitch darkness to see giant turtles laying their eggs. Later, we tumbled around in the pristine turquoise waves of the Indian Ocean and played soccer on the beach with the local youth. At Wadi Shab, we waded through a series of mountain lakes, climbing higher and higher until we reached a waterfall at the top. I spent my afternoon cliff diving. To top off my Omani experience, a goat proceeded to take my lunch from me while I was drinking my mango juice.

This is not to say that my experience in Oman was all gain and no pain. Our town of Ibri was near the Rub al Khali desert, which separates Oman from Saudi Arabia. The temperature reached 120 degrees each day, and I fainted in the oppressive heat the first day I was in Ibri. Compounding the problem, the local area’s conservative culture required that women wear the hijab and abaya (a full-length, full-sleeve black gown) over their clothing. Over time, I became accustomed to the sensation of being entirely soaked in sweat.

The temporary discomfort was a small sacrifice compared to the gains I made in linguistic knowledge and cultural understanding. Before the program, I had a phone interview in which I forgot how to say “I don’t know.” At the end of the program, I conversed in Arabic with my tester about ISIS and the impact of technology on children’s education. In sum, I am so grateful that my time in Oman put my language learning on the fast track. Oman often felt like a different world, but it’s a world that I would gladly return to.