Exchange program benefits Australian UTEP student
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
Nadia Kapri, a 21 year-old psychology major, has found a way to know the cultures of both Mexico and the United States through her stay in El Paso.
The Australia native student came to the city as part of the students exchange division of the Study Abroad Program at UTEP.
“I am very culturally orientated myself and I really enjoy seeing other cultures so El Paso is great for that,” said Kapri, a student from Victoria University in Australia. “I get to see the U.S. and Mexican culture together, I think that’s what makes it so unique.”
There are currently 50 participating countries in the Study Abroad Program, said Niahm Minion, study abroad coordinator. The top countries that participated in the exchange program this year are Australia, France and the Czech Republic, but the numbers change every year.
According to Minion exchange students have to be enthusiastic about the program and need to have a sense of adventure in order to be eager to explore and learn from the experience.
“Exchange students are looking to learn what the American culture means, and having Mexican influence—which is not very well known—makes their experience in El Paso so unique,” Minion said.
Kapri is taking a psychology and a photography class. She is an intern at Greek life and is currently working at the Student Development Center.
She said that even though El Paso is limited on things to do, it is a good spot for staying and traveling.
“When I first heard the program was in America I thought about how there is not as much culture. I was also scared of traveling to Mexico,” Kapri said. “Where I come from we have heat, but we have water, Australia is humid. El Paso doesn’t have any water.”
The countries that UTEP students travel to the most are Spain, Italy, Australia and the Czech Republic.
“It is important that students are independent, which is a skill gained, and are okay with the idea of traveling,” Minion said.
To study abroad, UTEP students are required to have at least 36 hours of upper division credits in order to be ready for the experience.
“Studying abroad stretches you outside your comfort zone and students must be able to handle that in order to flourish and do well academically,” Minion said.
The program takes charge of the students visiting UTEP by giving them a new student orientation tour, basic information about how classes operate on campus, helping them with their immigration status, and giving tips on what there is to do in El Paso.
“Exchange students are usually very interested in attending football games since where they come from they don’t have mascots or school spirit, which is something very traditional from America,” Minion said.
“UTEP (students) don’t realize there are international students on campus and we need to encourage them to meet the students and share their culture and learn from the students as well,” Minion said.
The Study Abroad Program offers weekly on-campus information sessions for students interested in participating.
In November, the Study Abroad Program will host the International Education Week in collaboration with International Programs.
“The events in the past have been at a very small scale. This is the first year we make the effort to join the two offices and create an event at a larger scale,” Minion said.
Even though the agenda is still in progress, Minion said the event will promote international programs across UTEP. All UTEP students, faculty and staff are invited, as well as the larger El Paso community.
The event will take place on campus Nov. 12-16.
Meanwhile, Kapri has already made plans for when she leaves El Paso in December.
“At the end of the year I am going to other parts of America and also the south of Mexico on a tour and Guatemala on a volunteer program to teach English in an orphanage,” Kapri said.
She said the experience of being in America has been interesting and she has learned a lot being on her own.
“I will definitely miss the people here. I have made some amazing friends that have been very helpful in taking me grocery shopping and showing me around El Paso; they will be friends for life,” Kapri said. “I am also really pleased with all my teachers at UTEP, they have been more than accommodating. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming. I feel privileged when an older lady calls me ‘mija’ now.”
Vianey Alederete may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.