The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley welcomed its international students back to the Brownsville campus Thursday with a bang. Or rather, a band.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley welcomed its international students back to the Brownsville campus Thursday with a bang. Or rather, a band.

The Office of Global Engagement invited the marching band and drill team of Preparatoria Ricardo Flores Mason in Matamoros to help kick off the International Meet and Greet, a decision that Director Samantha Lopez said demonstrates the friendship with Brownsville’s sister city. The university will serve 750 international students from 69 countries during the fall semester, she added, with 75 percent of them coming from Mexico.

“It’s the signature event of the Best Week Ever, which is a week full of events for our incoming students, new and returning ones,” Lopez said. “We want to make them feel like they’re home.”

She said the university hosts international student outings, provides specialized advising and annually holds over 20 cultural events. Those include celebrations for International Education Week in November, Thanksgiving and Lunar New Year.

Staff at the International Meet and Greet also hosted games and provided information about study abroad programs.

Attracting international students benefits not only those who come from abroad to attend UTRGV, Lopez said, but domestic students, as well.

“We want our domestic students to learn from other cultures, and the international students enrich the student population with their customs, their food and their culture,” she said.

Guldauren Bissenbayeva, 21, came to Brownsville from Kazakhstan to work on her master’s degree in science. She was interested in the research of a UTRGV professor, and a professor in her undergraduate physics program recommended she study at the campus.

So far, Bissenbayeva said, the people she has met have been nice and helpful. She was surprised to learn how many people at the university speak Spanish.

“I really like the palms,” she said of the campus. “I feel like I’m on vacation. Maybe I will feel more like a student when the classes start tomorrow.”

Jing Luo, who recently graduated with his PhD in physics, came to the university from China eight years ago when it was still the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College. He was interested in the research of a professor he met while still in China and figured he could collaborate via email. Luo said the professor encouraged him to apply to the university.

One of the biggest impacts in time in Brownsville was speaking English, he said, because learning a new language also taught him a new, Western way of thinking. Lou said he had to adjust to the city’s reliance on cars and found there was plenty to explore for people who had the willingness to find local events.

“I think it’s the most important eight years of my life,” he said. “I came (as) an immature undergraduate student, and I became a very mature adult. Maybe I can say I became part of Texas. I like eating barbecue and fixing cars like a Texan.”