Once upon a time, I went to UT. At the time, I was an athiest, a complete "b", and also a sorority girl (laugh all you want, I am laughing right along side you). While I was at UT studying journalism my entire life was consumed with class, studying, and partying. I had no idea of all that campus life had to offer. Never heard of a single student organization. Never noticed any other ethnicity while I was in class. Never paid attention to ways I could get involved in serving my local community. What a loss!
This fall, I have had reason to be back on UT's campus several times since the semester kicked off, and my perspective is soooo different. I look at everything, and everyone, so differently. And I am lamenting all the missed opportunities that passed me by when I was a student.
Tonight, I went to a volunteer orientation for Refugee Services of Texas that was held on campus. 90% of the attendees were students who learned about the opportunity through various campus emails & groups. These students had a heart to serve refugees from some of the most war-devastated regions on the world. They were passionate and empathetic... anxious to get involved and make a difference!
Monday night, I went to a facilitator orientation for the International Office's Language Circle program. 99% of the attendees were students who were excited to take advantage of the opportunity to meet international students and help them practice English. There were also Language Circles for American students to learn/practice a second language-- like Turkish, Portuguese, Arabic, Korean-- led by native speakers from those places. I had no idea this was ever an option when I was in school. But what an creative avenue for culture & language sharing right there on campus!
Last week, I heard about a group that serves lunch, for free, every Wednesday to international students just to show them hospitality and be available to help them navigate Austin, UT, and life. Over the semester, they build relationships and encourage (often times) lonely, homesick students.
And this coming weekend, I am attending a "Backyard Barbecue" held on campus by one of the schools there to welcome international students. It is hosted by a program where local Austinites & UT students can be paired up with an international student (or student & their family) to be their "friend" for the semester... helping them to learn about Austin, America, and local family life. Its a chance to give them a feeling of home away from home just by having someone they can call or reach out to when they have questions, need to talk, and just want to have some fun.
My personal tilt (now, as opposed to back when I was a student) is that I LOVE internationals! I love learning about other cultures, I love traveling to other cultures, and I love welcoming other cultures to my hometown Austin. I am so impressed by all the chances current UT students have to meet & befriend & learn from other students who are here from foreign lands... what truly broad opportunities UT offers now. They probably offered all this back when I was a student too-- but I was to self-absorbed to notice, much less get involved. What a shame!
Tonight, I am sad to have missed all this back then... but I am praising God and thanking Him profusely for opening my eyes to these things now (and for letting me still be involved, even though I haven't been a student in more than a decade!).