When I told people back home that I was going on exchange to Texas I was met with a mixture of responses. Firstly, as a vegetarian, many thought that my choice of location was somewhat foolish, a view propagated by my overly concerned mother. Others questioned why, out of fifty states, Texas was the most enticing when places like San Francisco and Florida were potential destinations. In response I answered, “I may be going to Texas but, more importantly, I am staying in Austin”.
Austin is by far one of the most amazing and diversified places on earth, even adopting the slogan ‘Keep Austin Weird’. Contrary to the Texan / Republican stigma that seems to be associated with the Southern parts of the US, the capital of Texas is far more liberal and progressivist and exudes what I would call a ‘Newtown-like vibe’ in that Austinites don’t shy away from individuality, instead they wear it on their sleeve (quite literally – tattoos are super common here!). And my Mum needn’t had worried because Austin caters to basically every single dietary requirement imaginable, including what I like to call the ‘American’ diet. Said diet essentially includes the culinary method of deep frying, experimenting with acceptable and digestible portion sizing as well as simply using excessive amounts of butter, cheese or peanut butter to make everything significantly more caloric laden. Case in point: the new Chocolate Chop Cookie Pizza available now at Papa John’s. In saying that though, staying active in Austin is no problem at all, which, as a bit of a health nut, is something I am super thankful for. There are plenty of outdoorsy type activities to be done, not to mention the plentiful amount of walking required to get from campus to class.
Where Austin may stray from the wider Texan views it does maintain certain mindsets of the wider state – including the use of guns. While I may not agree with the whole legalisation of firearms I must say going to a shooting range was super fun!
Overall the highlight of my trip so far would have to be SXSW, an annual film, music and interactive conference and festival held in Austin each year. As a massive music enthusiast this was like a concert-goers mecca! Despite the fact that I had to work over 60 hours in order to get a music badge (which allows entry into music venues) it was totally worth it! Not only did I get to see some of my favourite bands live in very cool intimate venues, but I also got to hang with them as well! (Examples: Chet Faker, Vance Joy, Boy and Bear, Glass Towers, Owl Eyes, Chela, Rufus Du Sol, The Neighbourhood, The 1975, Childish Gambino, Kanye West, Jay-Z, The Icarus Account, Hozier, London Grammar, Sam Smith, Wild Cub ect)
So to finish up, after having had the best most rewarding experiences of my life whilst in Austin I think it’s safe to say that my choice of coming to Texas was the right one! Irrespective of where you go though, the most important thing to remember is to keep an open mind and try new things. If it’s one thing Austin has taught me it is that the weird is often the most wonderful!