For Crystal Flores, this summer will be spent unlike any other. Flores has chosen to participate in one of The University of Texas-Pan American College of Business Administration (COBA) Study Abroad Programs at the University of Leuphana in Lüneberg, Germany.
Flores will attend the International Issues in European Business class taught by UTPA COBA lecturer Joe Garza who will be returning for his fourth summer in Germany. COBA study abroad offers programs in Germany, Spain, Mexico, Peru and most recent additions, Thailand and Panama.
"We know that students from South Texas travel very little," Garza said. "Most of the students going with me have never traveled out of Texas. It's an opportunity for them to be exposed to other cultures, mindsets, other political orientations and understand what the world economy is about and what globalization is all about, which is impacting us in every sort of way."
Garza said UTPA's study abroad program is a safe way to travel for students and encourages all students to experience studying in a different country. He said within the COBA study abroad program, students are given the opportunity to learn about globalization and international business.
"By having them go in groups as we are doing it's a friendlier environment. It's an environment of safety. Parents in South Texas are concerned about their children studying abroad, and this puts them at ease that their children are safe as they travel," Garza said.
As a part of the COBA student exchange program, students from other countries are also encouraged to visit and study at UTPA. Eleven business law majors from The University of Leuphana attended management, business law and marketing classes Feb. 24-March 3 at UTPA. Exchange program students were housed by UTPA students, and Garza said that Leuphana students have a choice to study at various universities throughout the world including New Zealand, Australia, Greenland and the United States. The majority of the students choose UTPA for their study abroad experience because of a 10-year partnership between the two universities.
"I think the German students gain an understanding of a whole different culture that they are not exposed to as well. I know that five students have expressed an interest to stay in the United States and to stay in South Texas. They feel comfortable. They feel the warmth of what this environment has to offer, and I mean it not only by the sun's rays, but also by the people that inhabit the Rio Grande Valley," Garza said.
Currently, the College of Business Administration has 17 students from Germany enrolled in the spring semester, who decided to stay a semester after visiting the University in the past.
"I like the study abroad program a lot because I was here at UTPA last year for this short-term exchange program, and I loved it so I came back this year for a whole semester to study here for spring. The people are open here so you don't have any difficulties getting in touch with them, and it's great," said Jakob Braun, student coordinator for The University of Leuphana study abroad program at UTPA.
While studying at UTPA, German students interacted with UTPA students in class discussions about global issues and economics including their stands on the oil industry.
"I took over in 1996 and since then I've been coming to the Valley and to UTPA every year which is quite a long time now, and I think the advantage of this cooperation is that students can see the world from another perspective," said Thomas Schomerus, University of Leuphana professor.
This summer's mini-term COBA study abroad program will include universities in Thailand May 11-26 taught by instructor Victor Huerta; Panama, May 15-26, taught by Dr. Robert Morrison; and Germany, May 18-30, taught by Garza.
For more information about UTPA's study abroad programs, visit the Office of International Programs Web site at www.utpa.edu/internationalprograms, or call 956/381-3572.