Picture your first day at UT.
You don't know many people, you don't know where your classes are, and on top of that, you have to walk uphill wherever you go.
Now picture your first day at UT if you were from an entirely different country.
The International House, a campus organization that aims to ease the transition for international students, works to promote cultural awareness on campus through endeavors such as the Friendship Program.
The Friendship Program pairs same-gender students, one from a foreign country and one or more from the U.S., in order to develop friendships and make everyone feel at home at UT.
The program will be accepting applications for the spring semester's Friendship Program until Friday.
The Friendship Program allows students to broaden their knowledge about other cultures while making new friends.
Brandon Cartagena, sophomore in Spanish, was in the Friendship Program last fall.
"It's a great way to meet new people and it's a great way to learn about another culture," Cartagena said, "and that's important."
Cultural mixing is one of the primary focuses of the program, which plans various "friendship mixers" throughout the semester so the pairs can interact with each other and with other groups in the program.
"Our goal for the American side -- the students that are already here -- is to get them to have a better understanding of the culture knowledge outside of America," Thuy Pham, a graduate teaching assistant for the I-House, said. "For the international students, it's for them to acclimate and adjust here by befriending someone here in the States and kind of learning the customs and just getting that experience of having that friendship."
Pham noted that the students are paired based off their interests and hobbies, which leads to better chances of real friendships forming from these "friendship blind-dates."
"I got along really well with my student," Cartagena said. "There was one day where I was in the library studying ... and my buddy from the Friendship Program saw me there, and he just went to the POD market and bought me some snacks for me to eat when I was studying."
According to Pham, friendship programs are popular on campuses all over the U.S. and remain one of the I-House's most popular, long-standing programs.
"I think it was just established because international students wanted to get to know students here on campus and vice versa," Pham said. "It just comes about naturally and it's just something we decided to facilitate."
While Cartagena made a point to students that nothing is promised, he said the overall experience can still be advantageous.
"The friendship program doesn't necessarily guarantee that you'll become 'best friends' with this person," Cartagena said, "but regardless it'll be a great opportunity for you to meet someone new and have some fun."
Pham admitted she was also glad UT students can appreciate their cross-cultural connections.
"The biggest feedback we get is from the (American) students here," Pham said. "I think that just shows a lot of really great qualities that students at UT have, wanting to go out and befriend people that don't know this area that well or this country that well."
For more information on the Friendship Program, contact Thuy Pham at email@example.com.