On the evening before fall classes begin, a special ceremony takes place in the heart of campus, right in front of the Tower on the Main Mall. Arriving with upper-division students and staff and faculty from their respective colleges and schools, thousands of new students -- both undergraduate and graduate -- make their way toward central campus, ready to embark on their college journey.
Welcome to Gone to Texas, a rite of passage for all new students.
As the sun sets on the Forty Acres, students take in the many sights and sounds of the vibrant campus community. Dozens of colorful beach balls are volleyed through the crowd of seated students, and alternating chants of "Texas!" and "Fight!" can be heard around the plaza.
Suddenly, the sounds of the Innervisions Gospel Choir's unique rendition of "The Eyes of Texas" fill the air, and all attention focuses in as the evening's programming begins.
As the ceremony continues, new students receive warm welcomes from student leaders and President William Powers Jr., followed by more student performances, an introduction to the university's honor code, and a brief history of university traditions such as the "Hook 'em, Horns" hand sign and the ringing of the Tower bells.
The program comes to a close in a characteristically "Texas" way -- loud and proud. Several thousand students swivel around in their seats as a drum cadence starts and the Longhorn Band marches up the center aisle toward the Main Building. As the now-familiar beginning of "The Eyes of Texas" resonates through the Main Mall, the new "Hook 'em, Horns" hand signs shoot up and voices join in.
"It was fun to see how much pride and school spirit exists at UT," said Gabi Swider, a first-year graduate student at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. "I got to see what's going on here beyond my program."