Engineering transfer student Masaki Takahashi, from Japan, zig-zags through a maze while running into dead ends and fake shortcuts. Somewhere in the large wooden maze, he lost his new friend he met three hours before, electrical engineering freshman Rashdan Ahmed, from Bangladesh, Saturday in the Fort Worth Stockyards.
In a group of 27, the students and their coordinators from the Office of International Education rounded up and headed to the stockyards for fun and a history lesson.
“I felt more confident about talking to people I haven’t met before from a different culture from my own,” Ahmed said.
During a four-hour tour, students from Spain, Thailand, Austria, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, India, Bangladesh, Mexico and China explored the historical sites at the stockyards.
"What we try to do is expose them to more of the culture and help them enjoy their overall university experience,” said Ariella Chi, program coordinator for the Office of International Education. “Not just studying and going to class, but doing extra-curriculars too.”
It was 8:30 a.m. in 45 degree weather with chilling winds when students like Takahashi and Ahmed started gathering at the corner of UTA Boulevard and Summit Avenue near the Swift Center. While waiting on the shuttle to arrive, the students spoke to one another with a mix of languages.
A short ride later, the international students walked into the Fort Worth Stockyards Visitor Center where they were greeted by friendly workers handing out straw cowboy hats.
The students took pictures and received red Fort Worth Stockyard bandanas and small Marshal badges as keepsakes.
The group learned about Texas and Fort Worth history, watched a gun fight, saw how cowboys wrangled cattle and walked through a museum featuring authentic carriages and items that belonged to Antonio López De Santa Anna, a Mexican president and military leader.
“I learned a lot about Texas that I did not know about. I did not know about the six flags and how Texas was ruled by different countries,” said Charles Nottage, a mathematics graduate student from the Bahamas.
With time ticking away for a prize, international students rushed to find their way through a 5,400-square-foot wooden maze. After about 20 minutes, the last student made it through.
Nottage said the maze was his favorite part.
“Even though it was annoying, I had fun," he said.
The Office of International Education, located in the Swift Center, holds on- and off-campus activities for international students every semester to help them get used to their new environment.
“Just join this event,” Takahashi said. “When a person joins this event, they could make friends, I think.”
Their next event will be Global Grounds, an event that features snacks, hot tea and coffee and showcases a cultural club each week. The first Global Grounds of the spring semester will be at 4 p.m. Thursday.