The Graduating International Student Reception is one of my favorite days of the year because our office recognizes international students that are graduating this Spring. The Graduating International Student Reception was held on May 15 and the value and impact that our international students bring to our campus community was highlighted by those that spoke. We had two student speakers and one student alumni speaker.
Our Essay Contest Winner
Geun Heui Lee, a non-traditional student and cancer survivor from South Korea.
Despite being told by her colleagues that quitting her job in Korea and pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the U.S. after already holding a Ph.D. was not a wise idea, she came to study at UT Austin and has learned new skills of thinking critically and creatively. Geun Heui is graduating with a Bachelor’s in American Studies and was accompanied at the reception by her parents and her husband who all currently reside in Korea. As a result of what she has learned at UT, Geun Heui has founded a non-profit agency to help people in need.
An excerpt from her essay: “I have developed a selflessness and passion for giving back… The University of Texas’ motto might be ‘What Starts Here Changes the World” but I have learned that the people who graduate from [this] school are the ones who change the world”
Our Photo Contest Winner
Tatya Widjaja, an undergraduate student from Indonesia studying actuarial science.
Tatya was accompanied at the reception by her very proud parents who were last in the U.S. when they brought her here as a freshman. Tatya’s photograph was a picture of when she attended President Obama’s speech on campus. Being in the same room as the current U.S. president, had a significant impact on her, as she shared:
“This was the moment I first realized how significant this university, my university, is.”
Our Keynote Speaker
John Kidenda, UT alumni in business administration (engineering route) from Kenya.
John graduated in 2009 and attributes his success to the way in which UT Austin transformed his life. He spoke about arriving to Austin in January to begin his studies in the spring semester, assigned to a room in Dobie, spending his first night without any furniture or bedding, “woefully unprepared for the Texas winter…an inauspicious beginning”, to a transformation that happened to him at UT.
John was very involved in student organizations and the Texas Exes and at times, didn’t know how he would pay for the upcoming semester. But through the solid support of the Austin community, he was the first recipient of the African Leadership Bridge (ALB) Scholarship. He now serves on the Advisory Board of ALB, and through this work is helping to bring more young African leaders to the U.S. on scholarships to pursue their undergraduate studies.
When you think about the fact that these are just three of the stories of the over 4,800 international students that we have on campus, it is really clear the contributions made by the international student population at UT Austin is truly amazing!