The University of Texas at Austin is in the heart of the city. While standing in the courtyard under the main building’s clock tower, one can see the rose-coloured capitol building dome in the distance at the end of the street. Austin felt like a conglomerate of different cities I’ve traveled to — the weather reminded me of Los Angeles, the hipsterism reminded me of Portland and the college-town/state capitol aspects reminded me of Washington D.C.
When my family decided to go visit the university during our stay in the Lone Star State, I was apprehensive. The university has a policy that allows guns on campus, which I found particularly off-putting. The real sentiments of the student body, however, were displayed when one of the first things we saw on campus were handmade paper signs reading “GUN FREE UT” plastered in the windows of academic buildings. The idea of allowing guns on this campus is especially controversial, as the school was the scene of a tragic mass shooting in 1966.
The university is home to the Johnson Presidential Library, which features hundreds of thousands of artifacts and documents relating to the Johnson administration and the 36th US president’s life. Perhaps a little more in-your-face is the overwhelmingly massive football stadium. That was a key difference present amongst our student bodies. There was a constant wave of students wearing their burnt orange Longhorns t-shirts, cementing the school's presence as a sports giant. Their football stadium can hold over 100,000 people, and has its own hall of fame containing wall-to-wall cases of different football trophies and posters of iconic alumni.
The UT campus is massive. I don’t mean UBC massive — I mean Texas massive. Its size is further emphasized by its seamless integration into the city. Its main student commercial location is on a street called Guadalupe, nicknamed “The Drag.” It’s technically off-campus, but serves as a major student hub, lined with restaurants, bookstores, clothing stores and a Scientology centre.
I was surprised by how familiar the university was. Its presence in a completely alternate political and cultural climate to my own was soon forgotten. The only stereotype present at the seventh-largest university in the United States was the shared love of football.