The University of Puerto Rico (UPR) was the place where I achieved my first degree in Civil Engineering and also my Master degree in Transportation Engineering. This University, which primary language is Spanish, have an interesting mission in terms of what they want for their students. It seems that they want to “train soldiers to fight their own war”, what I mean by that can be seen in the following mission statement of my Alma mater:

Within the philosophical framework established by the University of Puerto Rico Act, the Mayagüez campus directs its efforts towards the development of educated, cultured citizens, capable of critical thinking, and professionally qualified in the fields of agricultural, social and natural sciences, engineering, humanities and business administration. They should be able to contribute in an efficient manner to the cultural, social, and economic development of the Puerto Rican and international communities. This process is aimed at endowing our alumni with a strong technical and professional background and instill a strong commitment to Puerto Rico and our hemisphere.

Our alumni should have the necessary skills and knowledge to participate effectively in the search of solutions to the problems facing us, to promote the enrichment of the arts and culture, the development and transfer of technology as well to uphold the essential attitudes and values of a democratic society.

…”train soldiers to fight their own war”. It sounds as if UPR always wants to make a contribution first for Puerto Rico and then for everybody else, but without applying their own mission: “directs its efforts toward…cultured citizens, capable of critical thinking”. During my years studying at UPR it was hard for me to experience or actually feel that the faculty believe in their own mission. As many other Universities around the world, the professors in this University don’t understand the real meaning of critical thinking, instead they want every student to do the “critical thinking” but based in their own believes and ideas. It is hard for a student to adapt to a system and on top of that they want students to adapt to their own system. I met several internationals students from South America that had several challenges when they started graduate school with me. I noticed the problems that they had due to the language limitation since they only knew Spanish and our books were in english. Also there were cultural confrontations because they put their believe in front of everything and students in Puerto Rico didn’t understand the real meaning of that. At the end they had to confront the challenges by themselves, even though the mission of the University is to “directs its efforts towards the development of educated, cultured citizens, capable of critical thinking”  

On the other hand, I started experiencing different aspects of my new place here in Virginia Tech while doing the PhD. Aspects that can not be experienced in my country due to the low probability of  socializing with a student from a different culture, at least not as an undergrad student. Virginia Tech has a wider view of the situation, were they believe that students will benefit society no matter where they are from, which can be seen at their mission statement:

“Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) is a public land-grant university serving the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world community. The discovery and dissemination of new knowledge are central to its mission. Through its focus on teaching and learning, research and discovery, and outreach and engagement, the university creates, conveys, and applies knowledge to expand personal growth and opportunity, advance social and community development, foster economic competitiveness, and improve the quality of life.”

I have seen how much effort they are putting into helping international student that comes from different parts of the world. Students that will encounter cultural, economical and social challenges since the beginning of their journey here at Virginia Tech. I can’t tell much because I’m a new graduate student, but so far I have seen how every culture is working as one when it comes to their education and their professional growth. I have seen how two people can talk to each other without thinking about the other person believes or culture, but the question will be, did you experience something here that made you believe that the mission of Virginia Tech is been conducted, in terms of creating a diversified society where everybody can have the same opportunities? As a student here , how would you compare your experience in your country vs Virginia Tech in terms of adaptation, cultural confrontations or languages limitations? Is Virginia Tech helping you with these challenges or do you feel you are on your own?