As an international student, making the choice to travel thousands of miles to a new country and a new culture while trying to earn an engineering degree can be daunting. The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) does its best to ensure that you’ll receive the support you need to succeed and thrive.
Last fall, 36% of its engineering enrollment was international students who came from 74 countries. In all, students from more than 180 countries have studied engineering at UTA.
UTA’s international students bring fresh perspectives to campus. They have also created networks to help each other and build a strong sense of community that makes Arlington, Texas, seem a little less far away from home.
The College of Engineering supports dozens of student organizations, from honor societies to major-specific groups, professional societies and groups such as the Fine Arts Society of India, the Bangladesh Student Organization and the Nepalese Students’ Association. Many of the nationality-based organizations host cultural showcases and meals, assist with airport pickups and drop-offs, and help students find housing. All student organizations provide opportunities to make friends, get help with schoolwork and take advantage of leadership opportunities.
Sylvine Ineza, a bioengineering major from Rwanda, struggled at first but found her way after getting involved with student organizations. She says UTA is a place that challenges you to set your goals high and then surpass them, just because you can.
“When I first got here my freshman year, I was really reserved. One of my biggest insecurities was the language barrier, because I could speak English, but I was afraid I might butcher it if I started talking. So, I just kept quiet for a whole semester. I was homesick and I just wanted to go back home because I didn’t have people or a community,” she said.
“That’s when I decided to get a little bit out of my comfort zone and start getting involved. I slowly started grabbing the opportunities presented to me. I went from being a passive member of UTA Volunteers to being the president of the Engineering Student Council. There are so many things, activities and classes that helped me along the way, but one thing that stands out is the meaningful relationships that I made. Friends, mentors and advisors are of tremendous help and support in this journey. They help you make the right decisions as a leader, and keep you accountable as you work smart, play hard and live well. They are the networks that you can always call on later in life whenever necessary.”
Office of International Education
There’s a lot of paperwork involved in becoming an international student at UTA, but you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. The Office of International Education (OIE) assists with information about immigration, healthcare, housing, employment, and travel that help make students’ experience at UTA as wonderful as possible.
“We want international students to know that they’re welcome and that we want them to succeed. Our programs and services are a small way to help them get settled and adjust to their surroundings,” said Jay Horn, executive director of the Office of International Education.
OIE offers online pre-orientation modules that students can take from home to understand processes, get immigration information and learn about employment possibilities. This gives students a head start on orientation and could speed registration for courses if College requirements are met.
Prior to each fall and spring semester, OIE hosts an international welcome center where new students can meet and talk to experienced students about housing and how to connect with academic departments or student organizations. It’s a place where new students can find a friendly face who’s been through the process and understands how the new student is feeling.
Also in the Office of International Education, the Global Engagement Department provides intercultural programs that connect UTA’s diverse US and international student populations, trainings and assessments that enhance cultural understanding for all members of the UTA community, ongoing support for international students in a variety of areas, and global education opportunities. It helps students connect across cultures and prepare for the global workforce.
Programs such as Global Grounds, a series of casual events each Thursday, and the Language Exchange Program, where domestic students and native speakers meet and speak to each other, help international students create connections. There are also many other social and cultural programs and organizations for students to explore.
Perhaps most exciting is Interstride, an interactive portal which OIE purchased in partnership with the UTA Career Development Center. Interstride contains a listing of vetted and registered companies that will hire international students and assist with visas, which lessens the workload and worry for students who wish to remain in the US to begin their careers.
Choosing to attend UTA is exciting for international students, but it’s also exciting for the College of Engineering, says Lin Larson, the College’s director of student recruitment.
“You might ask why we recruit international students. There are many reasons, beginning with diversification. International students bring a new and different perspective to the classroom. They offer new and varied ideas in an academic discussion. They offer insights to problems, issues and solutions that American students have not been exposed to. They offer a depth of knowledge about their homes and lives that are so different than our own. In this internet world where we are virtually connected, having the opportunity to learn first-hand from another student from outside the US is invaluable.