Texas from a Different Point of View
Femke, with the flag of the Netherlands painted on her face; and host sister Jade, with the flag of Texas. Femke's eyes are closed - her life in the Netherlands is on pause as she experiences life in Texas.
Texas from a Different Point of View
International students share their perspectives at the ITC
(SAN ANTONIO) – For the last five years, the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures has given a voice to exchange students from around the globe making Texas their home for the school year. The AYUSA international student organization often collaborated with the museum for Free Second Sunday programming. This year, the relationship expands, as students from the Ayusa Global Youth Exchange program prepare an exhibit on their perceptions of Texas, before and after arriving.
"Perceptions of Texas: Our State through the Eyes of International Students" will run Feb. 24 through May 28, with artwork, video, writing and more, detailing the culture shock, and adaptation, and Texas customs they have come to enjoy in their time here.
"Spending an academic year in the U.S. always has a tremendous impact on the students," said Connie Coutu, Ayusa regional manager. "There are pre-conceived ideas of what life will be like here from either movies they may have seen, TV, or even just stereotypes of what they might imagine. When a student actually comes, they then experience life in Texas in reality as it really is. They become a part of the community they reside in and part of the school they attend."
For Femke Weijman of the Netherlands, living with a host family in Fort Worth, life in Texas has meant first encounters with Homecoming, the Texan love of sports, the Thanksgiving holiday and other customs. The common ground between Femke, her host sister Jade, and Jade’s family comes from the personal touches: personal interests, humor, hobbies and personality traits. While religious holidays also bridged some of the gaps, there are still a few Texan quirks that stand out:
"I'd always thought of Texas as a very religious and old-fashioned state," Femke said. "I thought I wouldn't fit in very well because the Netherlands is such a liberal country, but I changed my mindset to 'just go with it' and it's been an amazing experience so far. A lot of things are still really old fashioned, like the roads and the little shops and some ideas that people have about certain more liberal topics. But, this gives Texas its own look and style that I've learned to love."
As a counterpoint, the Ayusa students received partners from their schools, to offer their perceptions of foreign nations and citizens before their classmates arrived, and now, after spending a semester living and learning with international students.
"This sort of exchange is tremendously beneficial to the students and the host families and institutions," said Christian Clark, the institute’s interim director of education and interpretation. "At this age, high school students are starting to expand their perceptions of the world around them. With international students a part of everyday life, our local students, host parents and community can form deep, personal bonds and develop an almost ingrained appreciation for that student and his or her culture. This is a perfect match for our mission at the institute."
"Perceptions of Texas" runs Feb. 24 to May 28. The Institute of Texan Cultures is located on the UTSA Hemisfair Campus, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Regular hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults (12-64); $8 for seniors (ages 65+) and children (6-11); children 5 and under free; free with membership, UTSA or Alamo Colleges identification. For more information, call 210-458-2300 or visit TexanCultures.com.