Tag Archives: college

How the Web Cookie Crumbles

Have you ever wondered how Instagram knew you were talking about that one shirt from Urban Outfitters and put an ad in your feed? Do you click “Accept all cookies” just to get that annoying pop-up out of the way?

While the media is highlighting internet privacy issues, like on Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma,” they don’t address what tools are available for websites to legally breach users’ information nor how users can protect themselves. Most importantly, they don’t discuss the benefits of these same tools.

One of these tools is a cookie. Website cookies are one of the most popular data mining tools that allow various sites to track users’ activity while surfing the web.

After collecting some survey results from a small group of 42 UT students, we found that 14.3% of those students hadn’t even heard of website cookies, 64.3% had heard of the term but didn’t know what they were, and only a measly 21.4% knew what they were.

So, What are Web Cookies?

Web cookies are pieces of data that were initially created to help websites become commercial enterprises. In other words, cookies allow users and websites to exchange information in small text files to customize users’ experiences. Web sites cannot store information, making their functionality limited. This means that your login information is not stored within the website itself, it’s stored in website cookies. They allow for convenient experiences, like remembering language, login and display preferences. In short, cookies are the bridge between personalization and functionality.

What are Some Concerns About Web Cookies?

Privacy issues and targeted advertisements are most users’ concerns. Cookies can be used to watch the pages people browse between sites. When one site is used, the cookie embedded in that site tracks activity when users move to another. An accumulation of user information gives sites a scarily accurate picture of who their audience is and tailors ads to their interests. This concerns many people because, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product,” as discussed in Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma. Currently, there are no cookie laws in the U.S., but internet users in the UK have spurred their government to enforce transparency between users and websites.

What has the UK Done About Web Cookies?

The “Cookie Law”, which is composed of four different privacy and communication laws, forces website owners to explain to users what cookies are being set and what they do. It also requires the site to gain consent to store cookies on the user’s device. These individual laws are nothing new and have been in place as early as 2002 and as late as 2018. They protect against non consensual data harvesting by third parties, unsolicited marketing tactics and personal profiling.

How do I Protect Myself?

Website cookies themselves are not malicious. However, the intentions behind the people controlling and collecting cookies may not be in users’ best interests. To protect yourself from giving any more information, look for an “adjust cookie preferences” option the next time you visit a website and adjust what cookies you are comfortable with. Beware that some sites may have cookies that are required as they help the functionality of the website, but you should feel free to reject all others. If you are concerned about the data that has already been collected, you can clear the browsing data through your phone or browser settings. Be careful to specify if you want to only clear cookie data as you may accidentally clear your browsing history. You can also block cookies in your browser’s general settings, but as mentioned before, most cookies are there to improve your browsing experience.

Remember that cookies are not bad, they are just small files with bits of information, and you can control what you want to share and with who. You can now go out into the web with a new understanding of how data is collected, what risks and benefits are implicated and share this information with family members who think Facebook is listening to their conversations through their phones.

10 Secret Study Spots at UT

If you’re a student at the University of Texas at Austin, then you know all of the hotspots for studying around campus: Perry-Castaneda Library, The Union, Medici Roasting, Flawn Academic Center, etc. There’s only one problem—  you’re never the only one planning to spend your Monday morning at the PCL or a couple of hours at a coffee shop after classes. These places get crowded fast, and it can be difficult to find an open spot and get work done with all the extra noise. 

I asked around and did some branching out this week to compose a list of some underrated study nooks on campus. Here’s my top 10 picks for the best “secret” study spots at UT.

1. Life Sciences Library

Photo by Nicholas Muniz

Let’s start with the libraries. The Perry-Castaneda Library is the largest and most visited library on campus. With six floors, you would think you wouldn’t have any trouble finding a place to sit on a weekday afternoon… wrong. There are lots of other great libraries on the UT campus, such as the Life Sciences Library. One of my friends described this space as having a “Hogwartsy vibe” and after visiting, I can confirm that is 100% true. Located on the second floor of the Main Building, this library is open most days until 5pm and usually has plenty of available seats.

2. Architecture and Planning Library

Photo by Nicholas Muniz

Another location is the Architecture and Planning Library in Battle Hall. This historic building has several long tables and excellent lighting, making it a great late-night study spot.

3. PCL 3rd and 4th Floors

Photo by Nicholas Muniz

The third and fourth floors of the Perry-Castaneda Library are actually pretty great if you’re trying to get some independent studying done. Most people crowd on the fifth and sixth floors, so it can get pretty tricky to find seating up there, but if you don’t mind working in silence, the lower floors are perfect for distraction-free zones.

4. Major Building

Photo by Nicholas Muniz

Did you know that UT students have 24/7 access to their major’s building? All you have to do is enter through the building’s “celebrated entrance” using your UT ID. This ensures that only students have access in order to enhance the safety of studying after hours. These buildings are a great place to study in the evenings, especially since you’ll find that many students are at the PCL, Union and other popular study places late at night.

5. Lucky Lab

Photo by Tara Phipps

I’m a heavy coffee drinker, so I’ve already tried most of the coffee shops on the drag and on campus. Although Medici Roasting might be my favorite place to get coffee, it certainly gets tough to find somewhere to sit. The coffee at Lucky Lab is great as well, and for an added bonus, there are several tables outside to sit and study. 

6. Engineering and Education Research Center

Photo by Nicholas Muniz

I’ve heard good things about studying at the Engineering and Education Research Center. This building is stunning and has big, beautiful windows that let in plenty of natural light. The facility has study rooms, project labs, and multiple tables, desks and comfy couches to use.

7. Welch Hall

Photo by Nicholas Muniz

Welch Hall is right off of Speedway and has both indoor and outdoor study spots. Once the weather cools down a bit more, there are plenty of covered tables in the courtyard that are great. If you prefer studying indoors, however, there are options for that as well.

8. Norman Hackerman Building

Photo by Nicholas Muniz

The Norman Hackerman Building has lots of open tables and lots of windows overlooking campus. This location is a lovely place to study and isn’t too packed. 

9. Empty Classrooms

Photo by Nicholas Muniz

Many people don’t think to study in empty classrooms. If you’re doing late-night or weekend studying, most classrooms are unlocked and unoccupied. As long as you are courteous and leave the room in the condition you found it, empty classrooms are a great place to study.

10. Dorm Study Rooms

Photo by Nicholas Muniz

For those of you living on campus, take advantage of the study lounges in your dorm! If you’re like me and have trouble studying inside of your dorm room, study lounges are a convenient place to camp out. My dorm has a study lounge on each floor, which is awesome for nights I don’t want to leave the building. The study lounge on my floor isn’t too crowded and usually pretty quiet, so I am able to get a lot done when I’m there.

If you plan to study anywhere on or off campus in the evenings, be sure to bring a study buddy living in or around your building, or take advantage of the safety resources offered at UT. SURE Walk and UT Night Rides are great resources that provide ways for you to get back to your home— on or off campus— as safely as possible.

Happy studying!

Featured image by Nicholas Muniz

Rhea Bhat: Taking on TikTok as @texasbrownie

We all know the “that girl” TikTok genre that showcases a day-in-the-life of “that girl” who seems to have her whole life together, broadcasted in all it’s perfection in a one-minute time frame. At first, the “that girl” genre was merely a highlight-reel, but now, moving into Fall 2021, it’s shifted to show a day in the life of “that girl” in a more realistic light. Someone who is taking on this trend is Rhea Bhat, also known as @texasbrownie on TikTok, a junior engineering major at The University of Texas at Austin.

During the fourth week of school, I caught up with Rhea over the phone to find out more about her experience as a TikToker.

@texasbrownie

This week was a record high of me feeling mentally drained @The Coldest Water #thecoldest

♬ Surrender – Natalie Taylor

Q: What made you start posting on TikTok, and why did you choose to begin making a-day-in-my-life themed posts?

A: When I was little, I had this dream to have a YouTube channel, which did not work out. So, I started posting on TikTok the summer before my freshman year of college because I was bored and wanted to be a more outgoing person. My friend at UT told me that the amount of work I did was crazy and that filming my college experience for 6k followers (at the time) might be fun. I had no expectations of anyone seeing my videos.

Q: I am sure you receive many comments asking how you juggle it all, but genuinely, what motivates you to accomplish your goals throughout your day?

A: While planners, calendars and a strict schedule got me through my day, it was something that my mom used to say to me that really motivated me. She told me that while I was young, I should work as hard as I could and that the harder I worked now, the more I would enjoy it when I am older. I don’t know why, but something about what she said just really resonated with my seven-year-old self.”

Q: Do you ever have off days when you do not feel like posting or are in a slump? How do you handle these type of days?

A: I usually have a list of TikTok ideas that I want to film on my phone’s note app. Whenever I have free time, I put a few minutes into filming and editing these videos that I draft and post during my busy days. For my vlogs, if I wake up feeling in a slump, I still record as a way to show everyone that not everything in my life is perfect.

Q: How do you respond to negative feedback when people say what you do in your day-to-day life is impossible?

A: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I knew what I was signing up for— not all of my comments are going to be positive. I try to explain any wrongful assumptions people make about me.  I also push the message that everyone is different and what works for me and my day might not work for everyone, and that’s okay. There are definitely people out there whose lives look nothing like mine, and they still perform at the same level as me, if not better.

Q: What is one thing you have learned from the productive lifestyle you live?

A: I have learned that if I have a task written down in my planner, I’m much more motivated to do it and feel more accomplished when I finish it.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to others that want to have more productive days but don’t know where to start?

A: One piece of advice I’d give is to wake up earlier! It sounds cliche but waking up early— especially in college— gives you more hours in a day to complete tasks with a fresh mind and without distractions. 

Q: How do you make it look so easy?

A: A few TikTok video edits here and there let me edit my whole day into 60 seconds of seamless events, but the true answer to how I make it look so easy is simple… I don’t! From all the fun I have with friends tomy stressful breakdowns, I try to capture everything because I don’t want people to think college is a perfect balance; sometimes, it gets hard, and that’s totally okay.”

Rhea started posting day-in-the-life-themed posts a year after she made her first TikTok.Her first day-in-the-life vlog followed her first day of her sophomore year at UT. Rhea continues to post day-in-the-life themed TikTok’s to spread positivity through her videos. You can find Rhea on TikTok @texasbrownie and on Instagram @rheebeee.

Featured image by Morgan Scruggs

The Power of Music: The Impact of K-Pop on UT Students

K-pop, also known as Korean pop, has been increasing in popularity in the United States over the past decade. However, it wasn’t until 2017, when the boy group BTS was nominated for an award at the BBMAs, that more K-pop groups and idols started to gain fanbases and recognition within the US. With the increasing interest in K-pop, UT Korean language professor, Eun Joo Kim, noticed that more of her students were coming to class already familiar with the language due to their fascination with Korean music.

“When I first started teaching there weren’t that many students who actually knew (the) Korean language. They just took the classes for other reasons, or absolutely no reason,” Kim said. “But this semester is actually different in that the students already know how to read letters and  how to count numbers.” It wasn’t until this semester that Professor Kim started using Korean music in her classes. 

“I thought that this semester is pretty tough for everybody, even tougher than the previous one,” Kim said. “The music works well to motivate them, especially those who’ve never known any Korean songs.”

Professor Kim added that K-pop has influenced students in the US by teaching them Korean culture. “Students are getting more curious about Korean culture and more open toward it even though there are many differences—they are not afraid,” Kim said. “I think it’s due to the power of music. It naturally opens peoples’ hearts so it can overcome many obstacles easily.”

Professor Kim even had her own experience with K-pop impacting her life. “Before BTS, I actually thought K-pop was not my genre. For me, K-pop is more like an entertainment industry where they want to sell songs, make it look good so it can become consumed— BTS changed my mind,” Kim said. “They just really make me feel it. No barrier in language; no barrier in age.”

Despite being a second generation immigrant, I did not grow up speaking or learning Korean. When I first started listening to BTS in middle school, I didn’t understand much of the Korean language other than what my parents would often say to me (we communicated mostly in a mixture of Korean and English (Konglish), but I would always speak to them in English). One day, when listening to the song “Butterfly,” I started to cry despite not understanding the lyrics. I felt the music more than understanding it.

After sharing my own experience with Professor Kim, she mentioned her students felt similar comfort listening to Korean songs.

“It’s more personal and deep than I thought,” she said. “It’s becoming their part of life.”

Professor Kim said these comments touched her heart, knowing that despite being in a foreign language, the music speaks to her students. She mentioned how happy she felt learning more about her students, and how asking these questions to her students deepened her understanding of them.

“Language doesn’t have to be verbal. It can be melody, it can be numbers, it can be anything,” Kim said. “Whatever touches our heart becomes a powerful language, and I think that music is one of them.”

Big Brother Season 23 Review and Finale Prediction

Season 23 of CBS’s “Big Brother” has been the most extraordinary season yet. With so many twists, an amazing cast and historic game play, this season was definitely worth the watch.   

What is Big Brother?

“Big Brother” is a social experiment and strategic game, where 16 houseguests are trapped in a house for 85 days without any access to the outside world. Each week, the houseguests compete in competitions to determine who has power in the house.

The first competition of each week is the HOH, or Head of Household competition. The HOH is responsible for nominating two other houseguests for eviction at the end of the week, but the nominated house guests have the chance to save themselves with the Power of Veto, or POV.

The POV competition is played by the head of household, the two nominees and three other houseguests selected by random draw. The power of veto winner can either keep the HOH’s nominations the same or take one of the nominees down and force the HOH to put up a replacement nominee.

Then, on Thursday nights, a live vote and eviction takes place, where one of the nominees is sent home. This pattern continues each week until two houseguests are left, and a jury of the nine previous evicted houseguests vote on a winner, who will receive a $750,000 cash prize!  

A Historic Season

A typical season of “Big Brother” consists of a majority white cast, with little diversity. “Big Brother” has a history of only casting one or two people of color, who are normally the first to be targeted and evicted. However, in November 2020, CBS promised their viewers that their reality shows like, “Big Brother,” “Survivor,” and “Love Island,” will have casts that are 50% Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) starting in their 2021 seasons. “Big Brother” certainly kept that promise, with season 23 having the most diverse cast in the history of the show.

“You can tell that the people who come into the bubble don’t have diverse communities around them, so they continue to act that way in the “Big Brother” house,” Alexis Hansen, sophomore aerospace engineering student, said. “But I really like how they showed more representation and diversity this season… I think it’s important that what we have on our TV is representing how the world is.”  

The Cookout

Season 23 of “Big Brother” had eight cast members that were BIPOC, with six of them being from African American descent. Those six cast members came together on the first day of the show, and formed a secret alliance called The Cookout.

The Cookout consisted of Azah Awasum, Derek Frazier, Hannah Chaddha, Kyland Young, Tiffany Mitchell and Xavier Prather. Each member of the alliance had the same mission; to ensure “Big Brother” crowned its first African American winner. The six members of The Cookout protected each other throughout the game thanks to their masterplan, created by Tiffany.

Each member of the alliance had a side ally that was not a part of The Cookout to disguise the fact that the six black contestants were working together. Each week, a member of The Cookout or their side ally took power and nominated another member of The Cookout and that person’s side ally. Being a six-person alliance, The Cookout always had a majority of the vote, and voted out the person on the block who was not in their alliance.

Their plan worked, and The Cookout made history in two different ways. Since they all protected each other until the final six players, they made history by ensuring an African American contestant would win. Secondly, they are the biggest alliance to make it to the end of “Big Brother” without falling apart. 

UT on BB

This season of “Big Brother” was extra special for us Longhorns because McCombs alum, Travis Long, was cast for the show. Long graduated from UT in 2020, moved to Honolulu, Hawaii to start his own business, and then auditioned for “Big Brother.” Long made sure to flex that he was a UT grad in his introduction tape for the show, shown on episode one when the houseguests were moving in. However, Travis’ time on “Big Brother” was short-lived, since he was the first one to be evicted. 

“I expected (Travis) to do better,” Julia Mahavier, sophomore journalism student, said. “I was honestly pretty let down because I feel like he came on too strong. Maybe that was from coming from a great environment like UT, and he thought everyone would be as open and welcoming as him.”  

Winner Prediction

The final three houseguests are Xavier, Derek F. and Azah, all members of The Cookout alliance. The winner of “Big Brother” will be chosen by a jury vote. The jury normally votes for the person who has the most competition wins but is also in good standing socially with most of the jury members.

Based on the above stats, I predict that Xavier will be the winner of “Big Brother” season 23. After winning part one of the HOH competition Sept. 26, he is likely to win the final part, as well as the entire game. No matter who he sits next to on finale night, Sept. 29, his resume speaks for itself. His many competition wins and outstanding social game is what will ultimately lead to his victory.