Josianne Alwardi 

Plan II/International Relations & Government

My freshman year at UT was a year of firsts. When I first arrived to campus, I eagerly embraced my first dorm room, first meal in the dining halls, and first Plan II class, then my second and third, until I fell into the easy rhythm of a UT student and no longer relied on Google Maps to navigate around campus.

During my freshman year, I had the pleasure of celebrating many momentous firsts as a college student. I got my first internship with the office of Representative Terry Canales during the 87th Texas Legislature, where I seized the opportunity to expand my legal knowledge by conducting legislative research on bills pertaining to topics such as deferred adjudication and court-appointed attorneys.

As a new member of UT’s competitive Mock Trial team, I celebrated my first, then second witness awards at competitions across the country and expanded my advocacy skills as an attorney. I attended my first Arab Student Association meeting, and planned and moderated a law student panel, my first major event for the International Relations Council. For my favorite class, Pathways to Civic Engagement with Professor Walker, I gave my first major college presentation to a group of peers and community members, which examined whether voter suppression occurred in Travis County during the 2020 presidential election. I spent countless hours in the Dedman suite, where I studied for my first college exams and met the members of my cohort for the first time.

Though once strangers, I now consider the members of my cohort as some of the best friends I made in my freshman year. For every difficulty we shared at our cohort meetings, from homesickness to challenging coursework, to the difficulties of living alone for the first time, our mentor Dr. Pikus offered excellent guidance and unconditional compassion. Beyond the group setting, I knew I could always turn to Dr. Pikus for academic guidance and personal advice to combat the challenges I faced in my freshman year. Combine these positive experiences with the fact that my freshman (and current!) roommate is a member of my cohort, and it becomes evident that the Dedman community is an integral part of my support system at UT.

With the knowledge and experiences from my first college year under my belt, I’m spending the summer before my sophomore year interning with two Austin-based criminal defense law offices, for which I conduct legal research, examine the penal codes and case law, and review evidence and discovery. I’m also baking all types of bread, preparing for this year’s Mock Trial season, reading up on Middle Eastern politics, and tutoring high-schoolers in Biology and Chemistry. As the summer days trickle by, I can’t help but look forward to my first day back on campus, and the many more firsts I’ll experience as a sophomore.