Despite chilling winds, dozens gathered at the UTB-TSC Student Union veranda Monday afternoon to welcome and celebrate the cultures and customs of international students on campus.
International Education Week opened Monday at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College. Throughout the week, students can expect presentations about Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia.
“International Education Week is not just to celebrate the diversity brought to campus by international students, but also the diversity brought by students who have been international students in other countries,” Alla Paroiatnikova told the crowd.
At the university, there are 478 international students from 43 different countries, according to Paroiatnikova, executive director of the Office of Global Engagement at UTB-TSC. This semester, eight local students are studying in France, Spain, Austria and other countries.
“I didn’t know there were so many international students,” said Berenice Sainz, a freshman. “They’re from everywhere.”
The 18-year-old said she would like to spend a semester studying in France.
“I went to South Texas High School and when I went there, I met a lot of different cultures like Filipinos and Muslims,” Sainz said. “It opens you up to many cultures.”
Junior student Omar Torres was able to experience the cultural exchange firsthand when he spent a semester in France.
Torres said that studying at ISC Paris School of Management enabled him to interact with the business community of Paris while enjoying French culture.
His favorite part?
“Getting along with the city, like being in the museums and going to the Eiffel Tower,” Torres said.
Not only do UTB-TSC students travel abroad, but the campus plays host to a wide array of foreign-exchange students.
Nikolaus Stieldorf, from Austria, has been at UTB-TSC since September. He was considering different countries to study in, but his interest in “American football” made the U.S. his top choice.
“I like it a lot, weather-wise and the whole campus scene; you don’t have that back home,” Stieldorf said.
“I love South Padre Island because I’m from the middle of the Alps. Today is the first day I’m wearing pants,” said Stieldorf, 23, on a 68-degree day in Brownsville.
Austrian foreign-exchange student Peter Pick, 29, sporting lederhosen, or traditional Austrian leather pants, was satisfied with his choice to study at UTB-TSC.
“It is unique; you get a bit of the U.S. and Mexico,” Pick said. “It’s really interesting, the culture, you get the best of both worlds.”
Although some students come from far and wide, others are from places just a few hours away.
Iyris Porras, a sophomore from Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, decided to study at UTB-TSC because she thought the opportunities here were greater.
“Even though it’s near, it’s different,” Porras said. “You meet people from different places and you learn to be independent.”