International Students Get a Texas Welcome

International Students Get a Texas Welcome
While a student at UT, Carlos Zaffirini Jr., BBA ’03, JD ’06, Life Member, studied abroad in Monterrey, Mexico. Like most international students, he enjoyed his time there, but according to his mother, state Senator Judith Zaffirini, the Mexican university did little to make foreign students feel welcome. When Carlos returned, an idea was born.

That idea—to make international students feel welcome at UT—was put into action for the 13th time Tuesday, as more than 130 students from Spain and Mexico crowded into the lieutenant governor’s reception room in the Texas State Capitol. Circulating around the richly appointed room, the students sipped drinks, snacked on seemingly endless hors d’oeuvres (“You can eat healthy, or not,” Zaffirini noted), and most importantly got up close and personal with UT leaders, state policymakers, and Texas Exes.

The bilingual event brought together groups with historical ties—Spain and Mexico being two of the six flags over Texas—and united them with Longhorn pride.

Senator Zaffirini, BS ’67, MA ’70, PhD ’78, Life Member, Distinguished Alumna, opened the reception by welcoming the students to the capitol and to Texas, and she encouraged them to get face-to-face with the Texas Exes in attendance, like Joe Long, BA ’51, LLB ’58, Life Member, Distinguished Alumnus, as well as university leaders like UT-Austin president Bill Powers and UT System chancellor Francisco Cigarroa. Two international students, one each from Spain and Mexico, received honorary proclamations from the Texas Senate and spoke to their experience at UT and their gratitude to UT, the Senate, and Spanish-owned BBVA Compass Bank, which sponsored the event.

“I cannot imagine being in a more diverse, empowering, or welcoming environment,” said finance graduate student Alba Vicente, who hails from Spain. “The experience has been nothing but positive.”

Powers encouraged students not only to take in all the University has to offer, but also to enjoy their time in the Lone Star State. “Focus on your studies,” he urged, “but get out and see Texas.”

Zaffirini, the first Hispanic woman to serve in the Texas Senate, and Cigarroa, the first Hispanic leader of the UT System, both greeted the group in Spanish. To round out the event, Zaffirini closed with a story. Suitably, it was about a motivated mother, in this case Mother Mouse, who had just led her children on the perilous journey across IH-35. Finally on the other side, they were stopped by an imposing cat. Mother Mouse reared back, opened her tiny snout, and barked like a dog.

“See?” she asked. “It pays to be bilingual.”

Photo courtesy the Office of State Senator Judith Zaffirini.


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