Campus Hacks: University of Texas

Surprisingly, hook 'em isn't the only thing you need to know

Welcome to the “Forty Acres,” incoming Longhorns. You have much to learn about life on the actually-434-acres of the UT Austin campus, so here are some lists and tips, from one Longhorn to another.

The Main Tower at the University of Texas

Campus Overview

To begin navigating life at UT, you must first master the distinct language of Longhorns. First, you will encounter terms such as “West Campus” and “West Mall,” which may make you question your directional skills, so here’s a map and quick rundown of campus geography.

West Campus is actually a student housing neighborhood, west of Guadalupe, and not an official part of the university campus. As one of the closest off-campus housing options, West Campus is notorious for its vibrant and loud student life and various fraternity and sorority houses.

Similar to West Campus, the North Campus neighborhood also houses UT students but is known for housing mostly graduate students. Just wait – the concoction of thin walls and your neighbor’s weeknight parties will make this quiet area the living space of your undergraduate dreams.

West Mall not to be confused with West Campus, consists of the campus section west of the Main Tower. The Main Mall lies in front of the Tower main entrance. Lots of people in Nike shorts and oversized t-shirts take selfies here. Will you avoid eye contact and scuttle past or attempt an epic photo bomb? Choose wisely.

Below the Main Mall, the large lawn and Littlefield fountain facing the Texas Capitol, is called the South Mall. UT’s student activity of choice could probably be narrowed down to napping on the lawn. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

The East Mall, you guessed it, is east of the Tower, located next to the Student Activity Center.

One of the lesser charming acronyms of campus buildings belongs to the Student Activity Center or SAC. UT and lists building abbreviations on every building and maps them online, but if you prefer using Google Maps to find your way around campus, type the full building name.

Now that you have terminology and navigation down, you can take advantage of the campus resources that your tuition pays for, such as the libraries, career services, gyms (yes, there are more gyms than Gregory Gym), and UT Health Services. Even better, you can explore Longhorn culture through worthwhile sights.

After viewing the many museums on campus, such as the Blanton Museum of Art, the Harry Ransom Center, and the LBJ Presidential Library, head down to the Anthropology advising offices to view a part of recent UT history. In a glass case rests a a dildo (yes, a dildo), from the 2016 “Cocks not Glocks” protests against the statewide campus-carry law.

The 2016 "Cocks Not Glocks" demonstration on campus (photo by John Anderson)

Though these student protests did not achieve policy change, they made national headlines and showed UT students’ active engagement in politics. From campus carry, to affirmative action, Trump’s election, SB4, and, most recently, Tex-Mex food, UT students have lots say and will often organize in a couple of hours to make sure people know it. Stay on the look-out for passionate students and spontaneous protests at UT.

Stay Alert

As you continue to get familiar with UT, here are some other things to be aware of:

The eternal construction at UT

It’ll eventually get in the way of parking or your routes to class, and let’s be honest, in the way of life.

The ever-growing food desert you are in

Seriously, don’t get too attached to any food joints on Guadalupe, officially known as “The Drag.” Many beloved restaurants are slowly disappearing thanks to downtown Austin’s expensive real estate. But look out for UT Farm Stand, where once a month you can get fresh, local fruits and vegetables on campus without going to the nearest HEB.

The squirrels

Yes, they’re cute, but they are also domesticated savages that will try to steal your food. Trust me on this one, I once saved a girl from a squirrel ambush by hurling a Taco Cabana tortilla torpedo at the pack of tree dwellers.

Finals floods (Do you even go here?)

Students miraculously flock to classes and campus during finals. They will overcrowd libraries and nearby coffee shops, and make you trek to the most remote places on campus just to find an outlet and place to sit while studying.

Student Life Hacks

Capital Metro's MetroRapid bus (photo by John Anderson)

Capital Metro and transportation

Most of the time, walking, biking, or skateboarding through campus will do just fine. But when your commute is farther or at night, ride-hailing services, Capital Metro buses, and UT’s services are great transportation options.

Capitol Metro’s bus fare is paid for UT students through their tuition, so you just need to swipe or show your student ID to use all of Capital Metro’s services:

• UT shuttles to get to campus (routes 600s)
• Metro Rapid buses (801, 803)
• Regular city-wide buses
• Night Owl route buses that go to 6th street and student neighborhoods until 3am, Monday through Saturday nights • Metro Rail

Additionally, SureWalk, a UT student government service, uses golf carts to safely drive students to their residence on or near campus.

UT’s Police Department also drives students home from campus from 8pm to 2am. Call 512/471-4441 and press nine to request a ride.

Bevo Bucks

If you don’t live in a dorm and don’t have a meal plan, put Bevo Bucks (UT’s electronic currency) on your student ID here. You’ll need Bevo Bucks to use campus printers, and if you ever buy food from a cafeteria or dining hall, prices are lower with Bevo Bucks than with cash or credit cards.

Memes and Facebook

Got a sweet tooth for memes and dorky humor? If so, join the Facebook page, UT LONGmemes for HORNsy teens page, to get your fix of random and weird. It’s pretty funny and will make the college hustle relatable and more enjoyable. Facebook pages for graduation classes, colleges, and student organizations are also generally great for crowdsourcing information and finding campus events.

Cafes for cozy, caffeinated studying

Caffe Medici on Guadalupe (right next to UT)
Starbucks on 24th street (in West Campus, about 12 minutes of walking distance)
Monkey’s Nest (about 28 minute bus ride using 803)
Vintage Heart Coffee in East Austin (33 minutes bus route with buses 171, 4, 3)

Food truck havens

When you’re feeling indecisive or want a variety of food, these spots are home to food trucks near campus.

Gourdough's (photo by John Anderson)
Speedway Mall
The new Speedway Mall, near Gregory Gym, features outdoor seating and a different food truck on campus every day. Find the rotating food truck schedule here.
University Co-op Food Court
The back lot of the Co-op store on Guadalupe features eight regular food trucks, including Taqueria Jefe’s for tacos and Song La for Taiwanese street food. The food truck court is open Monday through Friday from 9am-7pm and Saturday from 11am-5pm.
Space 24 Twenty
Also located on Guadalupe, this Urban Outfitters retail and event space features a burger stand and the following food trucks: Four Brothers Venezuelan food, acai bowls and smoothies from Austin Acai Company, and drinks from Lucky Lab Coffee Co.
Once you try the food trucks close to campus and want to venture into Austin, head over to the famous South Congress Avenue food and shopping district. On the first Thursday of every month – dubbed First Thursdays – stores stay open late and restaurants sometimes offer special deals and entertainment. A 20 to 30 minute bus ride on Metro Rapid 801 will take you to a variety of scenic restaurants and food trucks. Look out for Burro Cheese Kitchen and Hey Cupcake!, and on nearby S. 1st, Mellizoz Tacos and Gourdough’s Donuts.

Want more tips about life on and off the quad? Visit The Austin Chronicle’s Guide to Campus Life.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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