Learning to love UT

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“Anywhere but Texas!” There it was in black and white, taunting me. I wrote the goal in my “freshman letter,” a note my freshman-self wrote for my senior-self to read four years later. There I was, a senior in high school who, because of financial constraints, really had no say in her college decision. I had lived in Texas all my life, and I was stuck here for at least another four years.

I was actually embarrassed to wear burnt orange on college T-shirt day at my preppy private school. My friends got to put their college attendance pins all over the big map of the United States in my school’s cafeteria, and mine had to be stuck within the borders of Texas.

I winced when I read “Erin O’Malley Gleim will be attending The University of Texas at Austin in the fall” on my graduation announcements. Seeing our names together in the graduation program was even worse.

I despised that stupid Longhorn bumper sticker on my mom’s minivan. I got mad when my dad, a proud Texas Ex, started wearing all of his UT paraphernalia around the house. It made me sick to hear all of the wonderful stuff complete strangers had to say about a school I wanted nothing to do with.

But staying in denial about going to UT proved harder and harder as more and more burnt orange appeared in my wardrobe and among my things. Suddenly I found myself in Austin doing typical freshman things: getting lost, actually stopping to talk with the Greenpeace reps and buying everything at the Co-op because I didn’t know any better.

“Gone to Texas” completely changed my attitude toward UT — well, not completely, but it did start to make me realize just how excited everyone else was to be a Longhorn. Classes started the next day, and I honestly liked all of them. I continued to go through the motions: class, parties, treating Bevo bucks like Monopoly money, and I kept noticing little things helped me feel more at peace with my situation.

My college, the College of Communication, has a dean who won a Pulitzer Prize and a counseling department that’s ranked best in the country. Our academic environment is just as serious and competitive as our athletics programs — a rare combination to be sure. A big university really just means more potential friends and a louder fight song at games (even sans yell leaders).

So now, a few weeks into my college experience, I can honestly say that I love being here at UT. I’ve realized that I didn’t settle or get trapped into going to college here. I mean, how can you really settle for going to a school with top-ranked programs and professors? I know now just how lucky I am to be at UT.