HOMETOWN: MONTERREY, MEXICO
GRADUATE STUDENT, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT ARLINGTON
STUDYING: SOCIAL WORK
Why did you come to the U.S. to study?
I studied my bachelor’s (degree) in Economics and my master’s in Economics and Public Policy in Mexico. I decided to come to the U.S. to study my Ph.D because I knew that the U.S. could bring me a global vision of social problems by interacting with students and professors from many countries.
How did you choose the University of Texas at Arlington?
When I chose a university, I focused on the program and cultural diversity. The University of Texas at Arlington is one of the most diverse universities in the U.S. The wide range of multicultural interactions that you can have on campus is impressive. Also, I was looking for a program with a strong emphasis on research and one that could bring me a global and multidisciplinary vision.
What’s your major? How did you choose it?
I’m studying for a Ph.D in Social Work. I chose this program because I consider that its strong academic rigor will let me have a diversity of tools to approach different economic and social problems.
Do you live on or off campus?
Last semester I lived off campus with a roommate from Bulgaria, but this semester I moved to campus. I love living on campus because you are close to all facilities and it is very safe. The residence organizes different activities where you can meet students with different majors and nationalities. Also, you find a complete academic environment.
What’s your favorite place on campus?
The gym. I do yoga, and they offer daily (fitness) classes. But you can spend all day there. Many students meet there because there are couches, televisions and computers. So you can work, exercise and have fun.
The activities Center offers fitness classes and more. (Courtesy University of Texas at Arlington)
Do you ever feel homesick? How do you deal with it?
Yes, the first months were difficult. I missed my family, friends, places and food. However, I receive strong support from my family to deal with it. They try to visit me every time it is possible. And technology makes it easier. I can talk with them every time I need to. Also, when I miss Mexican food, I try to cook my favorite food.
How often do you go home?
I go every semester. I am lucky because my country is next to the U.S.
What do you think of American food?
It was not difficult to get used to American food, but it is not very diverse. If you are a foreigner, it is difficult to eat it every day. My favorite American food is burgers.
Are most of your friends American or other nationalities? What’s your advice on the best way to make friends in the U.S.?
Most of my friends are from other countries, but I have some American friends. They are very kind, respectful and charming. I think you just need to act naturally and be respectful and open to new cultures.
Who on campus has been most helpful to you since you enrolled in college?
The (Ph.D) program has an assistant that supports student with all administrative issues. However, she always tries to help us with all type of problems.
College Park Center is the home of the Mavericks athletics teams. (Courtesy University of Texas at Arlington)
What surprised or disappointed you the most about the U.S.?
The most amazing surprise was the wide range of diversity that you can find and the respect that people have for other cultures. I cannot say I have had disappointments. This has been an experience full of challenges, but with no disappointments.
Can you explain some of the challenges you’ve faced?
One of the main challenges was academic writing. As a Ph.D student, you need to write papers and reports every day. Academic writing in English has a structure and a different logic from Spanish. It is a skill that you may improve.
The university has so many resources that you can take advantage of. At the library there is a writing center where you can go for quick questions. They also offer workshops and courses every week. These resources have helped me overcome that challenge.
What do you know now that you wish you had known before you came to America to study?
Now I know that studying in U.S. is not very difficult if you have the capabilities and skills to complete a program. I thought the process was almost impossible. But now I realize that if you meet the requirements and follow the process, it is not very difficult.
What are the 3 best pieces of advice you would give to students from your home country about studying in America and choosing a school?
First, you should focus on your professional interests. Based on that, look for the most appropriate program for you. Second, contact a professor at the university that you are interested in. Most of them are willing to help and listen to students. They can direct you better before and during your program. And finally, enjoy the experience. The experience is very challenging but also very rewarding and unique.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I plan to go back to Mexico and work at a university. I think that part of this experience is to share with others the knowledge that you gain. So I plan to work as a researcher and teacher. In this way, many other students can use my experience for their professional development.