The vast campus, large buildings, and sprawling landscape at The University of Texas at Austin can be overwhelming. Learning to navigate the Forty Acres and memorizing the acronyms and building names is hard enough. Imagine tackling all the normal and expected challenges of being a college student in addition to everything else that comes with being an international student in the United States for the first time.
That’s why the International Office introduced Passport to UT in 2016. Passport to UT is a weeklong orientation program offered exclusively to international students. Composed of cultural excursions and city tours, information sessions, and social activities, the program is designed to help international students build a network of support and hit the ground running so they can focus on their studies as soon as classes start.
International graduate student Kareem Mostafa says that’s exactly why he decided to participate in Passport to UT.
“It seemed like a good way to explore UT and the American culture in general, as well as getting prepared for the ‘adventure’ ahead of me,” he described. “Especially taking into account the fact that this is my first time coming to the U.S.”
Mostafa was part of the inaugural cohort of Passport to UT, comprised only of international graduate students. The program grew dramatically and in 2017 welcomed 46 undergraduate and graduate students from all over the world.
Originally from Cairo, Egypt, Mostafa is in the Civil Engineering Master’s program and specializing in Construction Engineering and Project Management. Thanks to Passport to UT, he was able to figure out his way around campus, sort out his housing, and learn about the numerous resources available to him and all international students.
“Passport to UT benefited me by building friendships as well as understanding more about the ‘logistics’ of getting myself through graduate school, as well as living in the U.S in general,” he explained.
Mostafa’s experience during Passport to UT was one of the reasons he decided to get involved in the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA), the official representative body for graduate students. He decided to run for office and was elected as President of the GSA.
“I believe that students would be more engaged if they knew more about what GSA does and what it has to offer,” he described. “I hope to give graduate students the opportunity to build a community outside their cohort, understand and utilize the resources UT has to offer in both academic and non-academic domains, as well as voice their opinions about graduate school life, UT in general, and how the university can provide a better experience to its stakeholders.”
It can be easy to get lost at a large public institution, but there are so many resources available to students in addition to those provided by the International Office. Sometimes you just have to know where to look to find your way. Our international community is an important and valued part of our university, and the International Office is excited to provide programming like Passport to UT to prepare students like Mostafa for their journey at UT and help set up them for success on campus and beyond.