Home is where the heart is for international grads

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    They crossed their borders for an educational purpose. They landed at TCU, making the campus their academic abode and home away from home. They took off on a journey to live their dreams.

    International alumni are on a quest to forge a professional identity inside and outside the “land of the free.”

    Peruvian native Jose Velasquez Castro began his journey when he crossed the international border to gain new experiences.

    Theclass of ’02 alumnus said he is glad he had the opportunity to study abroad and considered himself lucky to study in the U.S. because few have the opportunity.

    Studying in the states earned Castro a job as a consultant for KPMG, a multinational accounting firm in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

    John Singleton, director of international student services, said according to national statistics, 70 percent of international students will stay in the U.S. ­- most of them forever.

    “I think in general, large parts of our international students do go back home,” Singleton said. “Many TCU students feel that the economic opportunities are better in their home countries than in the U.S.”

    Singleton said the international students spend the most important time of their lives in the U.S., and it is interesting how they become capable of translating the U.S. economic culture into a local culture on their return home.

    Post-TCU

    After graduating, Sandhya Klein, class of ’04, wanted to stay in the U.S. and work with the international community.

    Before landing at Harvard, she worked as a marketing coordinator for the Spanish version of the Star-Telegram and program coordinator for Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services.

    The work opportunities and graduate programs the country offers for international students after graduation influenced Klein’s decision to stay.

    “I thought it would be nice to continue my life here,” Klein said.

    Klein serves as the Latin America Project Manager for International Education Initiative, WIDE World, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

    Klein came as an exchange student from Autonoma University, Colombia, and loved the radio-TV-film department so much she transferred.

    “It sparked my creativity and passion for communication,” Klein said. “All the experience I had with my professors was a great influence for my professional development.”

    But not all international students plan to pursue their careers in the U.S.

    Castro, a marketing and e-business major, graduated in the wake of Sept. 11 when the U.S. economy was hit hard. Because he had a hard time finding a job, Castro continued his master’s degree at TCU.

    After graduating, Arturo Clark, an ’04 alumnus, worked for the Guatemalan mission at the United Nations in New York City.

    “It gave me a good chance to explore, in practical terms, the field that I had studied at TCU,” he said. “It also gave me the chance of living in a really big city and all its implications.”

    But Clark decided to return to Guatemala.

    “I felt like it was the right time to leave,” he said. “I felt like I had a good opportunity waiting for me back home. I’ve had hard times and good times, but ultimately it was my decision, and I’m content with it,” he said.

    Although jobs in her native land are not as highly paid as in the U.S., Sayuri Tamura, class of ’03, decided to leave, knowing that a good job awaited her in Colombia.

    “The jobs that I was being offered in the U.S. were not very appealing, which became a strong factor when I made the decision to go back to my country,” she said.

    Clark now works as a writer and project manager for a bimonthly magazine, El Ferretero, in Guatemala.

    Tamura lends her expertise as a business intelligence consultant for Carvajal S.A., a Colombian multinational company in Cali, Colombia.

    Nostalgia

    TCU might be in the past, but the memories are fresh for some international alumni.

    Castro had no idea what a fraternity was, but joined Pi Kappa Phi. He laughed as he relived his TCU days. He was also involved with the Student Foundation, Student Government Association and International Student Association.

    Klein said the education she received helped her professionally.

    “Having the opportunity to interact with people from U.S. and all over the world at TCU gave me a great awareness and skills to be a team player,” Klein said. “I’m happy to connect the knowledge and experiences I got at TCU and apply them in my everyday professional life.”

    Clark credited TCU for making him who he is today and acknowledged the professors and people who made a difference.

    “Being an international student is a great experience. When you are outside your home country you start seeing all these great things about it that before you wouldn’t really appreciate,” he said. “You really discover your own culture by being outside of it. Now, I feel the same way about TCU. I identify with it. I even watch their football games on TV when I get the chance, and I’m not even a football fan.”

    Klein also said she has a wonderful friendship with TCU and frequently visits the campus Web site and reads TCU Magazine.

    “TCU is definitely in my heart,” she said.

    What Next?

    They’ve been here, done that, but the question that lingers is what the future holds for current undergraduates.

    Michelle Fabrega, a senior advertising/public relations and psychology major, plans to stay in the U.S. to continue her master’s degree and gain professional expertise.

    “I can gain experience with more vision and understanding of the industry,” she said. “When I’ll go back to my country, I’ll have a different view of the industries and its trends.”

    Peruvian native Karen Estrada, a senior economics and finance major, has already secured a job with American Airlines and plans to go to graduate school after two years.

    “It’s way ahead of my time to plan to settle in Peru,” Estrada said. “But I’m open to going back and living.”

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