EDINBURG - For many South Texas natives, warm winter temperatures and sunshine are often taken for granted and even occasionally seen as a nuisance, but according to 22-year-old Matthias Kolling of Luneburg Germany, that could never be the case for him.
For three consecutive weeks in February, the German native could often be found basking in the warm South Texas sun before attending his lecture classes at The University of Texas-Pan American.
"Some people might find it strange, but the weather is just so wonderful here, I just can't help myself," Kolling said. "I just enjoy standing outside and soaking up the sun's rays."
But Kolling didn't travel all the way from his native homeland only to soak up the South Texas rays. He is participating in a three-week foreign exchange program between UTPA and the Luneburg Business Law School.
The student exchange program was put together by Dr. David Neipert, assistant professor of management and international business at UTPA, who at one time attended the German school as a foreign exchange student himself.
"We have an international business degree here at UTPA, which mainly focuses on Latin America and not really on Europe," Neipert said. "This program gives a great opportunity for European students to interact with our students in which they both benefit from the exchange of ideas."
The program hosted 21 German students who throughout their three-week stay toured a maqiladora in Reynosa, Mexico.
"It was very interesting seeing how a partnership between these two countries (U.S. and Mexico) works," Kolling said. "I love the United States and the way of life here. It's always been a passion of mine to one day come here and now I'm here."
The students also attended lectures at UTPA dealing with such topics as the buying patterns of the Rio Grande Valley, U.S. educational programs, and small businesses in South Texas.
"The students were very interested in how small businesses are started here in the Rio Grande Valley," Neipert said. "It is very difficult for someone to start a small business in Germany as compared to here."
According to Neipert, the German students stayed with UTPA students while they were in the Rio Grande Valley.
"We have the program worked out where the students help each other out," Neipert said. "When our students go to Germany, they will be staying with the German students they housed here."
Kolling said after the exchange program, he is hoping to transfer to UTPA as an undergraduate student.
"I'm already getting started on my paperwork," Kolling said. "The culture, the weather, the education, everything is so wonderful here, I'm hoping I'll be able to start a new life here."