The lure of a border town and its proximity to Mexico brought Antoine Berger, a native of France, to the University of Texas at Brownsville.
Although he was supposed to study at UTB for a semester, he’s prolonged his stay to play on the newly formed Brownsville-based basketball team, the South Texas Stingrays.
But Berger doesn’t mind.
“I like the experience,” he said.
Berger added that he wanted to see something different. It still surprises him that 15 minutes from his doorstep, there’s an entirely different country.
“I was kind of excited because it was my first time in the U.S.,” said Berger, who is from Lyon, a city in east-central France.
The 20-year-old French man said he didn’t have any expectations about what it would be like to live in the U.S., but the only thing he did know about was the American Dream.
“That’s what European people learn from America,” the international business student said. “The American Dream — I wanted to see how it is.”
To acquaint some of its international students with American customs, UTB will host a Thanksgiving dinner on Monday, according to a spokeswoman. The university has more than 400 international students. Some come from as far as China, while most come from across the Rio Grande.
Berger hasn’t found many differences between the culture in Brownsville and his home in France, he said. He’s only had a few minor awkward moments because of certain customs.
“The first thing that I realized is when a friend introduces you to a woman here, you shake their hand,” Berger said, “In Europe, you give a kiss to her two cheeks.”
After a few introductory encounters, Berger said he explained this cultural tradition to people he met and they understood.
Though Berger said he misses his home, he’s happy to be in Brownsville.
“Honestly, I miss France for two things: my mom’s food and some of my friends,” he said.
“I can miss it for one year and then go back, but I can have this experience,” Berger added.
Volleyball player Katarina Bursa, originally from Belgrade, Serbia, attends UTB on an athletic scholarship.
Bursa, a computer science student, first came to Brownsville in 2012.
Initially, she said, it was difficult for her because her English proficiency wasn’t that great.
“I couldn’t speak English that well,” Bursa said. “But now, it’s much better and I got used to everything here.”
Like Berger, Bursa said she’s here for the experience.
“I just knew it is going to be maybe a little bit different way of life,” Bursa said. “Of course it’s another part of the world.”