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.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Freshman DJ Takes Radio UTD for a Spin

By Yusof Nazari

When entering college, we all look for freedom from the cliques and niche groups that we clung on to in high school. Funny enough, we usually fall back into this same pattern, joining a frat, sorority, or a club that we spend all our time on. 

For a music lover like me, I found Radio UTD,"the student-run radio station streaming live from the Student Union at the University of Texas at Dallas". Or at least that's how the disclaimer goes. 

When I was finally picked to be a DJ this semester for Track Genius, I had already dabbled with the people of Radio UTD ---music aficionados, aspiring writers, and concert rats that knew the live sets of all of my favorite artists. It was a whirlwind of fun, and not to mention I got to get creative and make themes and pick all the songs I would play on my show. 

That isn't to say it's all fun and games. The pure focus and creative input that goes into each and every show is equally exciting as it is exhausting. But for EPPS students, who love to speak publicly and broaden their experiences while learning about the world, there's not many better places on campus to do it than Radio UTD. 

Whether you participate or just listen, you'll always take something away from it. It's one of the most close-knit and knowledgeable communities on campus, and I wouldn't trade my experience here for anything else.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

To Whoosh, or Not to Whoosh? That is the Question

By Colton Hattersley, EPPS Blogger

If you spent even part of your high school career in Texas, you know that our schools take great pride in one thing – the football team. From August to December, nothing else seems to matter as the entire school comes together in support of the team. School spirit becomes a requirement of sorts, allowing for fun during a school week.

If you haven’t noticed yet, UT Dallas does not have a football team. Our big sports are soccer and basketball, and our pride and joy is the UT Dallas Chess Team. If you look around campus though, there is a general lack of school spirit that is tragic when you look to other universities. 

“Hook ‘Em Horns” and “Gig ‘Em” are battle cries and mottos of two of the most well known Texas universities in the nation, but they serve a much larger purpose. These phrases, as well as other forms of school spirit, unify both current students and alumni into a family of sorts. People say that an Aggie will go out of their way to help any person who wears their Aggie class ring. This important bonding begs the question of why UT Dallas doesn’t exhibit a similar level of spirit.

Our trademark celebratory gesture isn’t a thumbs-up or a Longhorn hand sign, it is so much better. The WHOOSH is by far superior to any sort of gesture that other universities have, so why don’t we use it more? 

In my first semester here at UT Dallas, I found myself WHOOSH-ing to everything – getting an A+ on my Rhetoric Essay, Chicken Fried Steak day at the Dining Hall, and, most importantly, celebrating the successes of my friends and classmates. 

I quickly found that, at least among my friends, WHOOSH-ing was almost taboo. Nobody could understand or fathom why I enjoyed it, and would groan in protest any time I WHOOSH-ed outside of the confines of our dorm.

As the Class of 2017, I think it should be our mission to WHOOSH more. It doesn’t take much effort, is a great way to congratulate others, and is generally fun to do. 

Since we don’t have pep rallies celebrating our non-existent football team, we must ensure that we don’t lose out on the fantastic opportunities to show school spirit and bond as a community. We are no longer individuals, or classes, or schools of study. We are UT Dallas, and we are one. 

Next time you are unsure, and ask yourself “To WHOOSH or not to WHOOSH?” There is a very clear answer. Always whoosh, because you never know who might appreciate you and who might recognize you ten years from now. Allow the school pride to take over every once in awhile and let our bond as a UT Dallas family grow. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

First Spring Break, Then Spring-a-Palooza!

By Vinni Anandham

Finally Spring Break is next week! But while most students dread going back to school once it's over, our UT Dallas Comets are always excited to come back to campus because the Student Affair department has a tradition of hosting a week of fun called Spring-a-Palooza right after Spring Break 

UT Dallas’ Student Union & Activities Advisory Board or SUAAB leads the week’s events in partnership with the various other departments such as Student Media, Meteor Theater, Student Organization Forum, and many more.

The events will kick off on March 17 with the tradition of having the Epic Cones food truck on campus serving students ice cream made of tortilla dough and cheese…yes, that’s right I said cheese! I’ve personally never had any myself, but I am looking forward to trying it this year.
Then later that night they will have their annual Splatter Dance where students will get covered in paint head to toe!! Last year this was one of the best events of the week. Unfortunately I couldn’t get there till 8 p.m. when all the paint ran out…so this year I plan to be there ahead of time and so should you!

The next day the SU Mall will be transformed and will feature nearly 50 student organizations fundraising at the Spring “Fun” Raiser where SOC will be giving out t-shirts and other fun prizes for those who support our student organizations. This is the event I am looking most forward to because not only is the office I work in helping host it, but there will be live performances of UT Dallas students!!

On Wednesday, March 19,  the 27th annual Casino Night will be held in an “Oceans 11” theme. And just when you didn’t expect it to get any better, the next day SNL’s Kenan Thompson and Dallas comedian Paul Varghese are coming for the Big Bad Comedy Show!!

Unfortunately I will not be on campus Friday for the very famous Comet-CON event but you ALL have to go and take picture because they will be featuring various movie screenings, gaming, and the voice actress who plays the voice of Ash Ketchum in Pokemon, Veronica Taylor here at UT Dallas!!!

By the way, I didn’t even mention all of the events, these are just a few that I highlighted! For the entire Sprinapalooza schedule and details, check out SUAAB’s website or FB page.

And don’t worry about the fun coming to an end after Spring Break, because at UT Dallas, the fun continues even after the break is over!!   

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Up Close and Personal with a State Lawmaker

By Hope Steffensen

I recently participated in something new at the UT Dallas. In my Honors State and Local Government, we held the inaugural session of “Meet Your Lawmakers,” a class session completely dedicated to being up close and personal with the people crafting the legislation in the political culture we are studying.

Our guest was Texas State Representative Van Taylor. He has served two terms as a state representative for Plano, and he is currently running unopposed for State Senate Seat 8. UT Dallas is well within District 8, so we had a wonderful opportunity to talk to our future state senator.

I was curious about how the session would go. Rep. Taylor is a Tea Party favorite, and he has a reputation for being difficult and “stand-offish” in congressional sessions. However, I doubted he would come across as disagreeable in a presentation to college students, so I literally had no idea what to expect.

When Rep. Taylor began to talk to us, I was not the only one who was somewhat surprised. As one of my classmates put it later, “Representative Taylor was quite soft-spoken.” He gave us a brief three minute introduction about himself, outlining his overseas service in the Marines, his Harvard Business Degrees, and his legislative success in making it easier for overseas military members to vote. Then, he opened up the floor for the rest of the class for an extended question and answer session.

It was definitely a treat. My professor, Dr. Dow, asserted later that it isn’t often that politicians allow so much freedom of discussion. They don’t want to risk being “caught off guard” by a random question.
I especially appreciated his candor in answering my question. I inquired about the importance of personal interaction between legislators. I was curious how a man with a reputation for not being a “team player” would answer that. How he answered, was interesting and insightful to the entire class, my professor included.

He responded with a theory of governance referred to as the “Independence Mandate Theory of Representation.” In this theory, voters select a person based on their ideology. The political actor acts independently, believing his constituents tacitly support it since they elected him. And if constituents don’t support his legislative action, as Rep. Taylor put it, “Vote me out.” For Rep. Taylor, the most important personal interaction is with the constituents and representing them in the Texas Legislature.

It was a breath of fresh air in the realm of politics to engage in such candid conversation with a politician. Even though Rep. Taylor has ideals that are largely divergent from the more liberal, traditional college student, the conversation we had with him as a class was marked with both civility and honesty. That’s definitely unique in modern political conversation.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Do’s and Don’ts of a Successful Freshman Year

By Josh Baltzell, EPPS Freshman

One might ask coming into their first year of college how they are going to manage their time? Incoming freshman might even wonder how to balance classes and extracurricular activates. As a collegiate athlete and a once undeclared major I can offer a few bits of information to the incoming class of freshman.

First off, if you are coming into college as an undeclared major don’t stress about it too much! My best piece of advice is focus on your core classes. Regardless of what major you decide on and what school within UT Dallas you are in, everyone has the same 42 hours of core classes. A freshman in college can NOT go wrong trying to finish these classes first.

Second, if you, like me, are going to participate in extracurricular activities, find out ahead of time when they are going to meet when you are planning your schedule. For example, I have golf workouts in the early mornings; therefore I cannot take 8 a.m. classes. However, since I am already up, it is very easy for me make it to an 8:30 or 9 a.m. class. 

When you are signing up for classes realistically evaluate yourself. Are you really a morning person or do you just wish they you were? If you are bad at time management and tend to procrastinate a lot, don’t take an online class. Make sure to plan your schedule according to your personality.

Lastly, learn a valuable real life skill your freshman year --- good organizational skills. As a golfer for the UT Dallas team, I know that I am going to have extra commitments. Frequently, this semester I found myself having to miss classes because I was away at a golf tournament or was going to need time to practice. Whatever activity you choose to partake in, make sure you keep a list of the things you need to accomplish that week. Have an outline of your assignments, meetings, practices, and tests. You’ll find yourself less stressed because you know what the week has in store. 

Also, in my case, having to travel for golf provided me with a way to get to know my professors outside the classroom setting. For example, I had to talk to my CRIM professor about missing class on multiple occasions because attendance was required. When explaining that it was for golf, he learned my name and was later able to remember me specifically and ask me about the golf team.

College is a completely different experience from high school. As long as you are able to come in with an open mind of what you want to accomplish and are able to set realistic goals for yourself, you should be able to make the most of your next four years at the university

Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Life as a UT Dallas Commuter

By Thuy Trinh, Guest Blogger

When I was in high school, I always thought my life in college would be easy and fun. I would live in a dorm with my best friends and easily walk across campus to go to my classes every day. I would have water fights with the students in my dorm building and have the perfect college experience. So you must understand my surprise when I discovered that I had to commute since the school I chose to attend  (UT Dallas obviously) was too close to home to live on campus, and it would save my parents and me a lot of money.

As I commute to UT Dallas this semester, I have learned that along with some benefits there were many challenges that a commuter must face. Parking for one is such a pain! I usually arrive at school around 9:45 a.m. and the best parking that I can get is around the Clark Center, but every time I get to school, it is always taken. Every single slot! So I have to park all the way in the back next to the soccer fields, and the walk to my class is about 15 minutes if I speed walk. I have to arrive before nine just to get  decent parking.

The next challenge is traffic, which is partially my fault. My first class is at 10 a.m., and as we all know the traffic on I-635 is chaotic. It usually takes me 30 minutes to get to school and only 15 to 20 minutes to get home. I now know to choose my class times wisely where there won’t be as much traffic on I-635.

The biggest obstacle I face as a commuter is that I don’t get to participate in as many school events as students who live on campus. I usually don’t feel like driving so far just for an event whereas if I were living on campus, I could just walk across the street. I feel like I am missing out on the college experience.

With all my complaining about the difficulty of being a commuter, you probably think that it is the worst thing in the world, and you’re glad to be living on campus. But there are actually a lot of benefits as well.

I never, and I repeat never, have to cook. I always have a good home-cooked meal. My parents fill my gas for me. I’m not in any college debt. And the best thing about commuting is that I never get home sick. I know that once college is over, I have to venture out into the world and make my own living, so I actually am not in a rush to move out yet.

I appreciate the time I have at home with my parents for I know that many kids are in a rush to move out without knowing that in the future they won’t get the opportunity to spend more time with their family. In my EPPS class, I have learned that a lot of students miss being at home and get taken care of by their parents, which makes me even more appreciative of the time I have with them.