A mere glance at the webpage of UNT international reveals the vast scope of our University’s engagement on the international scene. For the past few decades, UNT has been deeply involved in global academic and cultural exchanges and has been committed to providing a wealth of opportunities and services for American students who wish to study abroad and to facilitate their exposure to international organizations and businesses. Equally important for this international engagement is the recruitment of international students and scholars, and the securing of the environment in which they can feel at home and successfully carry out their academic plans. That means assisting prospective international students with applications, helping them with living arrangements, offering programs to improve their English and to hone their study skills, and providing them with information about on-campus employment and future job opportunities abroad. It also means counseling the students, sponsoring their extra-curricular activities, exposing them to American culture on and off-campus, and making them feel part of the campus community. The result of these efforts is clear: with over 3,000 international students from over 120 countries currently enrolled at UNT, and 20 very active student organizations of international interest, international student life at UNT is rich and vibrant.
But what was it like forty, fifty years ago, in the pre-Internet age, when North Texas was still a local rather than a regional and national academic institution?
Today, it is hard to believe that in the 1960s the international student population at North Texas stood at only 100. At that time, all international student affairs were handled by the Office of the Dean of Students. To alleviate their feelings of isolation, international students created the International Club, which in 1966 was approved by the administration as an official campus club. The Club, membership of which was open to all NT students, was established to promote a closer relationship among international students, but also to encourage relations with American students as well as with the Denton community. With these goals in mind, the International Club organized social events on campus and launched a talent show, which featured club’s eighty members, and which initially showcased music, dance, and martial arts performances. The talent show was a fundraiser and was advertised in the Denton Record Chronicle: all Dentonites were invited. A decade later, a newly established International Student Council took over and significantly expanded international students’ participation in Denton community activities. These included presentations for schools, civic organizations, and community fairs. On campus, the Council organized an increasing number of social events. The talent show evolved to eventually become International Student Week.
Between 1966 and 1977, the number of international students at UNT increased, reaching 800 in 1978, with projections of dramatic growth in the following years. In this situation, the decision was made to establish The Office of International Programs, which would handle international student affairs. The Office expanded its operations to other areas of student life, providing more comprehensive services for the international student population. It also tightened its cooperation with Intensive English Language Institute, with International Student Council, and with several international groups registered at North Texas. At the same time, in view of the growing interest in study abroad programs, Dr. Thomas H. Hoemeke, the newly hired Director of the Office on International Programs, began to work with the University Committee on International Education to develop faculty and student exchange programs for American students.
In that era before the Internet, an important communication channel between the administrators and the international student body was the international student newsletter. Published twice a semester, International Student News provided important information and gave the students a sense of community. It kept them up-to-date on a wide range of topics from visa and graduation requirements to scholarships, on-campus student employment, opportunities for involvement in campus and off-campus life, as well as information about campus organizations, services, and events.
Here is a sampling of “Opportunities ‘four’ [sic!] you” from International Student News, February 1979:
-International Student Week: An exhibition, food fair, and national dances are some of the activities planned for next week;
-Let’s kick the ball: how about an international soccer tournament?
-Travel exchange: How would you like to see another part of the world this summer?
-Need help in Economics? …..Mehmet Unal is available in Wooten Hall, 323…
This from the issue of November 1, 1978: “Things for you”:
Arts and crafts center …free to all students, faculty, and staff..
Wives of International Students meet every Thursday morning at Grace Temple Baptist Church;
Vocabulary improvement for international students …offered Mondays and Fridays …in Union 321
In turn, the November 1, 1978 issue of NTSU International Student News lists activities for Christmas Holidays:
Christmas International House (Dec. 18-Jan. 2)
Friendship International House at Christmas (Dec. 21- Jan. 1)
To enhance a sense of international community, the newsletter also regularly listed dates of national holidays, and published student articles about their home countries as well as some entertaining international quizzes. Here are some examples:
From one of the quizzes (International Student Week, February 1979):
1. CAPSAH is the national dish of …
2. What is a “tortilla” in Spain?
3. Montevideo is the capital of….
From “What “in the world” is going on?: seven of the twenty-eight holidays listed for the month of April:
April Fool’s Day, U.S.
International Children’s Book Day
National Holiday, Hungary, Senegal
Ch’ing Ming Festival, China
Chakri Day, Thailand
World Health Day
Buddha’s Birthday, Japan
Is the present international scene at UNT so different from what it was decades ago? While technology, globalization, and a broader opening to the world have contributed to a significant expansion of international student services and events, at its core, international student life today has very recognizable similarities with the lives of those first groups of international students who arrived on the campus of North Texas many decades ago. It may be richer now than it was in the 1960s, but its essence remains virtually the same.
If you would like to know more about the international student life at North Texas in the late 1970s, please come to UNT Special Collections and request issues of the International Student News. We hold several issues published between 1977 and 1980. They are stored off-site and will take at least 24 hours to recall. There are also photographs of several international student organizations in the North Texas yearbooks from the 1980s.
You may also want to consult The North Texas Daily. The newspaper has been digitized and can be found in a text searchable format in The Portal to Texas History.
For more information, visit the UNT International Facebook page.
— by Marta Hoffman-Wodnicka, Special Collections Cataloger
Marsha Landers Houchin Jack
I would like to catch up with George Hable. We attended school there in around 1974. I’m unsure about the spelling of his last name. He was a math major. We commuted from Dallas together. Can you help me?