Exchange students honored at reception

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State officials and UT administrators recognized 70 Mexican and Spanish international students as part of a reception at the Texas Capitol on Wednesday.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa hosted the 10th annual event. President William Powers Jr. is normally a host but could not attend because he was still at home recovering from surgery after being hospitalized for a pulmonary embolism last week.

Dewhurst said he is expecting great things from international students at UT. He also praised UT officials for working tirelessly to get scholarships for exchange students.

There are more than 4,000 international students currently enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs at UT. Among them, 479 are from Mexico and 32 are from Spain, Zaffirini said.

“These multicultural and multiliterate students not only are expanding their own horizons by [being] at UT Austin but they are also enriching our University and our great state,” Zaffirini said.

She said the idea of an annual reception to recognize international college students originated from a personal experience 10 years ago. Zaffirini’s son went to study in Mexico through a UT exchange program but had no opportunity to interact with elected officials outside of the classroom, so the experience was limiting, she said. Zaffirini realized that students studying in Austin had no opportunity to network with University or state officials.

“I think this is the very least we can do for them because we are their host,” Zaffirini said.

State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, spoke about the importance of global exchange programs and how they help us participate as citizens of a globally interlinked world.

“What better ambassadors could we have [when they] go back to their countries and talk about the experiences and the quality of life they saw here?” she said.

Cigarroa said these kinds of programs also help the institution with regard to globalization. The ability to communicate with students from different countries and different points of view is extremely important for harmony among nations.

“The experiences that our students have on our respective campuses will last for a lifetime and hopefully will be carried down to future generations as well,” Cigarroa said.

Law student Daniela Tijerina, an international student from Spain, said, aside from her classes, she loves the culture and feels at home with the Mexican students with whom she shares many cultural similarities.

“This is my second semester here, and I must say that this has been such an amazing experience,” she said.

Having an international study experience is valuable and it helps students establish contacts all around the world, said Jesus Rojas, an exchange student from Mexico.

“[UT] has one of the top accounting programs in the country, and as my major is accounting, I believe I will develop very good skills,” he said.