I am not from Austin, Texas. In fact, I am from the opposite of Austin, Texas— a small, country town with only a school and a gas station to its name. During my first few days living in the city, I experienced mixed feelings about my new home. I despised waiting for 20 minutes just to cross the street and having to walk a mile to Target to get an overpriced toothbrush. But I loved the bustling energy of The Drag and the millions of lights that shone throughout the city at night. After my experience, I wanted to talk to some other first year students who aren’t originally from Austin to see how their first impression of Austin compared to mine.
Leonel Castillo is an aerospace engineering major from San Antonio, Texas. He also participates in the engineering student organization Longhorn Racing.
What is the biggest difference between Austin and your hometown?
San Antonio is significantly more sprawled, meaning less people packed together and better traffic, but you need a car to get everywhere. San Antonio also is rich in Mexican heritage, and as a Mexican, it makes me feel right at home. Austin doesn’t have any of that cultural spice, so I have yet to find that sense of being at home.
What was your first day living in Austin like?
It was overwhelming, because of the new city-scape and the whole not knowing anybody thing.
What do you like about Austin?
The food, the people, urban planning, the emphasis on transit (busses, rails, bike lanes) and the capitol building.
What do you dislike about Austin?
The hills. It’s difficult to ride my bike. Campus is very hilly, and so is much of downtown. I also dislike how unsafe it feels after 8 p.m. off-campus.
If there was one thing you would change about the city to make it more accommodating for you as a student/resident, what would it be?
I’d increase the number of buses that go around campus and take students directly to shopping centers and such. Or maybe even open more supermarkets closer to campus.
Before you arrived at Austin, what initial expectations did you have for your new life here?
I expected to travel wherever I wanted without a car because of the great urban planning, but also was aware of the homeless people and tents creeping near campus that could offer some trouble.
In your first few weeks in Austin, if you have shared Leo’s concerns about safety, consider traveling with a friend or using transportation services such as UT Night Rides or SureWalk. If you’ve found yourself struggling to bike up a formidable hill or missing a hometown that is rich with your cultural heritage— you’re not alone. Austin is an extremely diverse city, so the various cultures tend to blur together— it can be overwhelming. Go out and explore the city. I promise that you will find the “cultural spice” you’re looking for.
Featured image by Tara Phipps