Culture & Society

International Aggies Get A Taste Of Life As A Cowboy

Nora Janjan '06 was definitely thinking “Aggie Big” when she decided to host 160 international students as a way to introduce them to Texas history, culture and traditions.
By Tura King and Angelina Fonseca, Texas A&M Marketing & Communications November 13, 2008

Nora Janjan of Navasota, a 2006 Texas A&M University master’s degree recipient with a global perspective, was definitely thinking “Aggie Big” when she decided to host some international students – 160 of them – as a way to introduce them to Texas history, culture and traditions.

“We share our home, food, future for our children, hospitality, international experiences and a bond of being one people of the world,” said Janjan, who serves as a member of Texas A&M’s International Board, the 43-member group that provides advice and support for the institutions international initiatives. “Hospitality has been extended to me during my international travels, a home away from home, and this event reaffirms the same values we share. It is wonderful to get so much back from what you give.”

The students laughed at dogs swimming in the pond, took photos and joked about their friends riding horses for the first time, relaxed on the dock, fished in the pond, and shared stories about their journey and transition to the United States.

Krishna Patwari of India, an industrial and systems engineering student studying for a master’s degree, researched national rankings and blogs before choosing Texas A&M for its top engineering program.

“I knew about the hot weather in Texas and strong cowboys from Clint Eastwood films I watched in India,” Patwari said. “I like the tradition of being an Aggie, and the life balance of studies and student activities.”

Yi-Chun Chen of Taiwan, a second year student pursuing a master’s in educational technology, shared her thoughts of Aggieland before she arrived.

“My impression was that if you did not have a car, you were in trouble and it would be very hot weather,” Yi-Chun said. “I did not know students wear maroon shirts every day, and that they love football so much. The transportation service and Rec Center are great, Aggie Nights are fun, and the College Station drivers are good and respect pedestrians. In Taiwan, cars are first.”

The chuck wagon cowboy chef showed students how to make homemade biscuits, smoked barbeque, coffee on a fire, baked peach cobbler from a large pot and shared the history of how the Texas cowboy used the land to live.

Gwendoline Nyambi of Cameroon, a first year PhD. student in agricultural education, said she learned about the culture of Texas cowboys and how they still value traditions in modern times.

“My favorite part of Texas A&M is the supportive faculty,” Nyambi said. “They are smart and give encouragement. The Aggie culture is helpful, warm, respectful and you can ask anything from anyone.”

Yu Hong Ping of Beijing, China, an M.B.A. student from Peking University, reflected on the day at the ranch and his Texas experience so far.

“Here it is peaceful and quiet, and in College Station, I have access to the world through the Internet and can talk with my family in Beijing,” Ping said. “Knowledge of a place is different from experiencing the place; it is more powerful to live the culture instead of just reading about the culture.”

To show their appreciation, students presented Janjan with a grand map of the world, each signing their name and writing thank you over their country. Janjan said she would frame the map and hang it in her home to remember the occasion and everyone she met.

Pablo Marvin, another international board member and a member of Texas A&M’s Class of 1966, was also on hand to thank the students for making an effort to learn more about Texas.

Both Janjan and Marvin encourage all Aggies to take advantage of the opportunity presented by having international students on campus.

“Texas A&M is a reflection of the world, and college is here to prepare you for the workplace,” Janjan said. “Students will be going all over the world for their jobs, and even if they do not leave Texas, they will be working with international colleagues. So ask your fellow international classmates about their country, issues, or relations, invite them to dinner or your student organization meetings. Texas A&M is a welcoming place to learn; in fact that is what AGGIES stands for, Aggies Gaining & Giving International Experience & Service.”

Anyone interested in hosting an international student for dinner can contact the International Student Services Office at (979) 845-1824.

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