UW-Whitewater: not just for Wisconsin residents

Senior David Quintero-Rojas is one of 207 international students enrolled at UW-Whitewater this semester. Originally from Colombia, Quintero-Rojas moved to North Carolina three years ago with his family.

Photo by Ryan Kolter

UW-Whitewater homes more international students every year, with a large number of them coming from Europe.

Erika Cuevas, associate outreach specialist for the Center for Global Education, said the 207 international students include students here on a Visa and also those who have moved here permanently and are first-generation students.

“We have a lot of students [who] are here from Saudi Arabia,” Cuevas said. “A lot of our M.B.A. international students are from there.”

Cuevas also said a lot of exchange students come from Europe in general. England, Italy and Germany are just a few of the home countries of the international students on campus.

Quintero-Rojas looked at many different schools around the United States, but decided on Whitewater because of it’s size.

“I don’t like big places,” Quintero-Rojas said. “My family from Colombia is from a small city where everybody knows each other and that’s kind of what I was looking for.”

Quintero-Rojas came to the states not knowing how to speak English, but quickly learned.

After learning the language, he began to meet more people and reach out.

“I was just sitting in my classroom and I’d just look at people not understanding what was going on,” Quintero-Rojas said.

Quintero-Rojas said he often gets homesick and that it was a culture shock to move here.

“My family is really important  to me,” Quintero-Rojas said. “My grandparents, my sister, the food. I just miss hanging out with my family.”

He copes with his homesickness by staying involved with organizations, such as the International Student Association.

ISA has given him friends to keep him from getting lonley. He said he surrounds himself with people who are happy and outgoing.

“If you isolate yourself, then you start thinking about things like: what am I doing here? Why am I here by myself?” Quintero-Rojas said.

Cuevas said the Center for Global Education helps international students by giving them ways to transition.

International students undergo a three-day orientation before classes begin to help them “get to know the campus and get to know the United States before being bombarded with school,” Cuevas said.

International students pay the same as out-of-state residents— $14,768 a year. This does not include housing or meal plans.

Cuevas said approximately 99 percent of international students live on campus in the residence halls.

For those who may have moved here permanently, they tend to act like every other student in terms of where they live, Cuevas said.

They might start out living in the residence halls and move off campus when they are eligible.

Cuevas thinks the unique programs that UW-Whitewater has to offer is what brings international students to campus.

“We also have a very cost-effective university,” Cuevas said. “We’re still relatively cheap and not as expensive as what some other institutions are.”

Cuevas said most international students get involved with ISA and also other organizations on campus.

The Center for Global Education helps advise the ISA group by helping them organize events.

Cuevas said there are also American students that sit on the board of the organization too, helping the international students reach out and meet new people.

The most popular event held by ISA is the International Dinner, which is held every spring in the Hamilton Center.

It typically gets sold out every year, Cuevas said.

The dinner is an opportunity for the international students to showcase their culture by submitting recipes to Chartwells and putting together a buffet-style meal.

Each year, the organization of the events at the dinner change. Last year, the group got an international presenter and a music group to perform during dinner.

After dinner, students performed their regional dances, songs and dress attire.

“Last year we had students make videos of their hometowns and we showed those at the dinner event,” Cuevas said.

ISA students also present International Education Week every November to help promote cultural awareness around campus.

“ISA really helps international students meet American students and other internationals,” Cuevas said.

Quintero-Rojas thinks the people are what really makes UW-Whitewater.

“Everybody’s really friendly and willing to help,” Quintero-Rojas said. “You always find good people to hang out with. It doesn’t matter if there’s a lot of things to do. There’s one thing the internationals always say before they go and that’s they always want to come back because they love the people they find out here.”

Quintero-Rojas also said the teachers are what really make the learning experience at UW-W essential.

“They’re really personal and they’re willing to help you,” Quintero-Rojas said. “They understand that you’re from a different country and you might have different needs. I’ve had excellent teachers.”

Quintero-Rojas has not returned to Colombia in almost four years, but he continues to enjoy his time here as an international studies major.