By: Yu-Sheng (Roger) Wu
Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.
– Otto Van Bismarck
Hello, and thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. I understand in a competitive economy today, time is a precious resource, and the fact that you are spending a sliver of your finite time in this world is something that I am eternally grateful for.
As one of the international students in the MSTC program, I thought I’d offer my 2 cents about what an international student might want to know if they are planning to join the program (or might want to know BEFORE they start the program). While I can’t offer a holistic review of the program yet*, I feel like I am still able to offer some slivers of knowledge and firsthand experience about what incoming students could expect.
Also, as per the Bismarck quote above, think of this blog post as an opportunity to learn from MY mistakes. I’ve made a handful of them since my matriculation, and reflecting on them in a public forum is probably the best way to ensure that future students do not make these mistakes.
*I’ve only been here for one semester
1. A few things regarding the F1 Visa
The visa application process takes time, so start it ASAP.
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? It’s smart to follow up with the program staff if you have not received information about this process from the international office. They should contact you directly to kickstart the visa application process, and while I did end up getting my visa before the program started, I would advise keeping in mind that the process could take at least 2 months.
Let’s put it this way:
- Even with FedEx Express mail and the wonders of the internet, it takes approximately 1 week ~ 10 days for the UT International office to process all of your paperwork and send you your I-20.
- Filling out the DS-2019 might be a one-day affair, but depending on how backlogged your local US embassy is, your visa interview could be pushed back to a date that is over one month later than the day you filled out your DS-2019. If you’re also accounting for the amount of time that the US Embassy takes to process checks and money orders, it may take even longer for your visa interview to be scheduled.
- After you pass your visa interview, it could also take up to 10 days for you to receive your actual visa.
So even though you could TECHNICALLY get your visa in a month (I mean, that’s how long it took to get mine), I would take some extra time to go through the visa application process. The month to which I applied for my visa was one of the most stressful months in recent memory.
Check for misprints on your I20
It happens! And yes, it happened to me. A misprinted I20 could mean a stunted visa application process or even a denial of entry into the country. You must make sure that the following things in your I20 are printed correctly:
- Your name
- Your program start date
- Your earliest entry date (the date you receive your visa is dependent on this date)
Call the UT International Office after 10 AM CST
While the International Office is open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM CST, the staff may be busy starting their tasks for the day in the early morning hours 8:00 AM to 10 AM. You may be better off calling them after 10 AM CST.
2. A few things regarding “Financing New Ventures”
Finish all of the launch week readings before launch week
Another no brainer. But seriously, Professor Badolato might only assign the readings for his first 2 launch week classes, but you’ll want to read them all. You’ll be too jet-lagged and tired during launch week to read all of the daily readings.
Audit Professor Badolato’s FSA class
During the middle of the summer semester, Professor Badolato will offer students the opportunity to audit his FSA class. Aside from being a good class to sit in, you should know that in other semesters, this class has a waitlist of up to 40 students. So get in there if you can.
Attend the excel boot camp
To put it frankly, If you’re not great with excel, you will be pulling your hair out in the accounting sections of the first semester. With that in mind, I would advise every student to attend the excel boot camp during orientation to save yourself from future hair-pulling sessions.
Sit in the “splash zone”
For the uninitiated, the splash zone is the first 2 rows of the classroom. Prof. Alexander’s lectures are akin to performances, and you’ll get the most out of them if you sit in the front row.
The Stat Apps server is your best friend
You will need to run a Monte Carlo simulation later on in the first semester. This means that you’ll need to install a software called RISK that eats up your computer RAM like I eat tacos. If you’re a Mac user or if you’re running a not-so-high-end PC, might I suggest running RISK on the Stat Apps server via remote desktop? It’s much easier on your computer.
Information on how to do so can be found in this link:
Barring that, you can always visit the library and run the software there.
3. McCombs and another miscellany
McCombs offers discounts for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other publications for students. You can also grab a hard copy from McCombs to take home. So, consider ditching your newspaper subscription if you have one.
Your UT EID gives you access to Kanopy if you log into it via the UT Library website. Sure, it’s not a free Netflix or a free HBO subscription, but I think it’s worth perusing, if not to check out their extensive access into the Criterion Collection.
Live too far away from the library to visit often? UT Austin offers a VPN service for anybody that needs access to a school resource remotely. Just keep in mind that you need to login once every hour…but it can be useful if you live far away from campus.
More info about the UT VPN can be found here:
Visit the LBJ Presidential Library
It’s on-campus, admission is free, and it’s got some cool stuff inside.
4. Living in Austin
The Austin Stone
If you are looking for a Church to attend mass at, might I recommend the Austin Stone? They are a non-denominational group that meets at Austin High, and they offer morning, afternoon and evening mass services on Sundays. Attendance is free, and there is always free coffee before any mass event.
You can learn more about them at www.austinstone.org
Unionpay is useless:
If you’re a Chinese student or a student who has a bank account in China, please be aware of the fact that Unionpay is useless in Austin (I have yet to find a vendor that accepts Unionpay in the city). If you are going to use a credit card tethered to a Chinese bank account in Austin, please be 100 percent sure that the card also comes with Visa or Mastercard payment capabilities.
Don’t buy a bus pass:
Your UT ID grants you free rides on public transport around the city.
The Lucky Lab Coffee Co. has the best cold brew in Austin
…that I’ve had so far.
No seriously. It’s great.
So that’s it I guess? If you have any lingering questions (or if you just want to chat), feel free to hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org. I check my email every hour (sans sleeping hours of course), and I usually reply within the day.
Yu-Sheng (Roger) Wu