Fulbright exchange students brighten up campus

Foreign exchange students from Germany spend four weeks at Trinity and explore Texas


Photo provided by Gina Pham

Fulbright German exchange students pose in front of the Alamo.

They’ve been let loose. A group of nineteen German exchange students is running wild in Buc-ee’s, grabbing as much venison jerky and beaver nuggets as they can. Trinity is well known for the number of students it sends abroad, but few students know that Trinity also hosts foreign exchange students. In the first month of school, a group of foreign exchange students came to Trinity from Germany under the Fulbright program. They attended classes, participated in events and made excursions across South Texas to learn about the culture here.

Students got the opportunity to immerse themselves in American culture from August 19 to September 18. Most weekends, they went out of town on excursions to experience life in South Texas. They floated the Guadalupe River outside of New Braunfels, shopped at Buc-ee’s, attended a rodeo, explored Austin and visited the Mexico-U.S. border.

Some of the classes that Fulbright students attended include Intercultural Competence, Social Justice (FYE) and La Experiencia Latina En Los Estados Unidos. The goal of the program was to encourage the students to broaden their worldview through inclusive practices and education. In order to do this, the

Originally, the students were supposed to travel to a different city. However, Peter O’Brien, a political science professor and Trinity’s chief liaison between the school and the Fulbright Program, persuaded the Fulbright Commission otherwise.

“San Antonio is a better place. It’s two-thirds of the population, it’s Latinx …. They agreed.” O’Brien said.

Fulbright students come from multicultural backgrounds themselves. One of the requirements for the program is that students have at least one parent who immigrated to Germany. One student, Sofia Esperanza Rothenberg, completed the migrant requirement by being an immigrant herself. Originally from Chile, she chose to study abroad in Germany and took it a step further by studying abroad from her study abroad with Fulbright.

In total, Trinity hosted nineteen Fulbright scholars. In order to help them acclimate to life at an American university, Trinity also hired seven interns from among students who already attend the school to guide them. Selected between April and May 2022, they were key connectors and guides for the exchange students. Gina Pham, program director for the Fulbright Diversity Initiative elaborates.

“They help orient these students, drive them in Trinity vans to off-campus excursions, and are available to answer any questions the Fulbrighters have like what’s the number for TUPD, what time does Mabee close, what fun social events are happening at night, etc.” she said.

Living in San Antonio for a month certainly answered a lot of questions for the scholars but also created new ones. Rothenberg said the biggest culture shock in the United States was plastic. She mentioned how frequently plastic use (plates, boxes, bags, etc.) is banned in her home country.

“I feel like that’s such a big shock for me because I know in so many other parts of the world people [are] fighting so much against the use of plastic … I feel like why do I even bother to bring my forks everywhere and stuff when people here use three forks a day?” Rothenberg said.

Rothenberg said she loved the small community and how friendly and welcoming everyone was. She also mentioned her love for having restaurants on campus, likening it to a small city.

“You have everything together and it’s like a whole bubble life,” Rothenberg said.

However, a month abroad is just the beginning.

“The idea is that you give the students the opportunity to see what it’s like to study at a university in the United States, in hopes that they will apply for our longer program.” O’Brien said.

There’s a semester-long program available to students as well. And since it’s a foreign exchange student program, there’s also the opportunity for American students to go abroad with Fulbright. If traveling isn’t your cup of tea, students can intern with Fulbright to guide exchange students around campus. Finally, if you’d like to know more, you can check out the exchange students’ Instagram @FulbrightTrinity2022.