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The University of Texas at Austin

Photo of Sofia Avila

Truly Bicultural

I was born in El Paso, Texas but I didn’t live there for very long. I spent some of my childhood years in San Antonio, Texas but I grew up mostly in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to live in two different countries; not only because of the language abilities I acquired, but also because I have a deep appreciation for what it means to be truly bicultural.

Making a Smooth Transition into UT

UT’s combination of academic excellence and the laid-back atmosphere of Austin had always appealed to me. Austin Community College gave me a solid foundation to make a smooth transition to UT, and I will always value my time there. Attending UT Austin had been a longtime dream of mine…sometimes it’s hard to believe I’m actually here!

Choosing Majors Based on Academic Excellence and the Future

I chose Plan II due to the program’s academic excellence and prestige. I decided to also major in Chinese because I am convinced that Chinese is the language of the future. With China’s accelerated growth, Chinese language skills will definitely give you an advantage in almost any area.

Sofia's personal photos

The Best of Both Worlds

I liked the idea of a small class environment within a large university, as well as the opportunity to take classes in which you learn as much from the classmates themselves as from the professors. I attended a very small private high school in Mexico and I knew that at UT I could have the best of both worlds: the experience of a large university while at the same time a small community within the Plan II Honors program.

Learning from Your Professors and Peers

Someone once told me that you obtain 50% of your education from the professors and the class material, while the other 50% you learn from your peers. That is absolutely true. Plan II gives you the opportunity to have smaller classes that encourage discussion and group activities. The professors in Plan II are among the most distinguished faculty in the university, and it goes without saying that I have learned a great deal just by attending their lectures. Nevertheless, I have also learned so much just by listening to my classmates, and that is something very unique to the Plan II program.

Sofia’s Advice

On studying

Always go to your professors’ office hours. Besides doing better in class, you get to know them on a more personal level, and they have a wealth of experience and interesting stories to share.

On making friends

Talk to your classmates and form study groups. I have found this to be the best way to meet people…and do better in class!

On what to wear/not to wear

Always wear comfortable shoes! The distances between classes can be pretty big, and when you only have 15 minutes, your feet will thank you if you are wearing comfortable shoes.

Central Texas Model United Nations Day

I was part of a student organization called Central Texas Model United Nations since my first semester at UT. We organized Model UN conferences for high school students from all over central Texas. In 2005, I was in charge of overseeing the opening and closing ceremonies. I invited the Consul General of Mexico as our keynote speaker, and Mayor Will Wynn proclaimed January 14th as “Central Texas Model United Nations Day” in the City of Austin. As far as I know, we are the only student organization with its own day! That conference was great, and a lot of fun.

Another Way to Enrich Your UT Experience

Sofia's personal photo

I worked part-time in the admissions office for about two years. Not only did I gain valuable work experience, but I also learned so much about the University because my job involved giving campus tours. As a tour guide, I had the opportunity to meet fascinating people that visit our campus. I’ve given tours to Chinese diplomats visiting Austin through the Department of State, and to Maria Shriver and her daughter when she was visiting different college campuses, among others. Working there has greatly enriched my UT experience and I would highly recommend working on campus to anyone.

A Familiar Face in an Unexpected Place

My first semester at UT, I ran into a friend that I had not seen since 4th grade. We were in the same US history class, and we had not realized it until halfway through the semester. For someone who grew up in a different country to come here and run into a childhood friend was definitely unexpected, and a wonderful surprise.

Sofia’s Favorites

Class

  • Chinese 506 with Professor Jeannette Chen
  • Shakespeare and Leadership with Senator Bob Kruger

Study location

The Architecture and Planning Library. Of the 14 libraries we have on campus, this is by far the most beautiful. It has gorgeous high ceilings and wood-paneled walls. Plus the desks next to the huge windows offer a great view of the South Mall, and it is very quiet – a perfect place to study for finals. Cool fact: some scenes from the movie Patch Adams were filmed there!

Place to eat near campus

Sao Paulo’s on Duval, just a few blocks north of campus. Wonderful Brazilian food. Everything on the menu is fantastic.

Book

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

Movies

  • What Dreams May Come by Vincent Ward
  • Scent of a Woman by Martin Brest

Thing about Austin

Austin is a great city, but what makes it outstanding are the people. Everyone here is so easygoing. People are very welcoming and kind to those from out of town, and go out of their way to make you feel at home. This particular quality has become famous, and anyone who is lucky enough to experience this is said to have had an “Austinite experience”.

Send Sofia an e-mail at sofia.avila@gmail.com

Visit Sofia’s floral company at mandarinflower.com

Updated Tue, 2011-04-12 14:42 | Top

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