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International Student Accepted to Dental School

2010 Roger Sessions Memorial Composition Award winner, Relix Peņa

Despite the challenges of moving to a new country and learning a new language, University of St. Thomas international student Yari Yarzagaray has found help, encouragement and success at UST.

Yarzagaray will graduate in May 2011, and has been accepted to both Baylor College of Dentistry and the University of Texas Dental Branch in Houston.  She will be attending UTDB in August.

“I want to be a maxillofacial surgeon,”  Yarzagaray said. “It is because of the University of St. Thomas that I will soon be a dental student in one of the most recognized dental schools in the country.”

Yarzagaray came to Houston from Colombia to learn English at the ELS Language Center in 2006.

 “I came to Houston with no knowledge of English,” Yarzagaray said. “For a year, I took intensive conversational and grammar courses, I didn’t talk to my family or friends, I only watched television in English.  It was hard, but now it is so worth it.”

The ELS Center, located across the street from the UST Office of Admissions, enjoys a strong relationship with the University, allowing international students an easy transition into American college life. Yarzagaray credits her exposure to the UST campus for her decision to remain in Houston.

“I went to a  class  on the UST campus, and there were only 20 people and the professor knew every person’s name,” Yarzagaray said. “I knew I wanted to go to a school where  the professors knew me and wanted to help me succeed.”

In the fall of 2007, Yarzagaray began pursuing a degree in biology with an emphasis in pre-dentistry.  The UST Pre-Dental Program is a rigorous science and math-based program designed to prepare students for entry into dental school. It can be combined with any major.  Over the past five years, approximately 81 percent of St. Thomas applicants were granted an interview and 56 percent were accepted into dental school.   Other Pre-Professional Programs including Pre-Law, Pre-Medical, Pre-Optometry and Pre-Pharmacy are also available at UST.

“I wouldn’t have been accepted to dental school if Dr. (Larry) Nordyke hadn’t pushed me to apply,” Yarzagaray said.  “All of the professors here helped me and they gave me so many tools to use.  I used tutors all the time.”

While pursuing her studies, Yarzagaray got married and now has a 14-month-old daughter.

“I wouldn’t be able to come to school if my daughter wasn’t so well-behaved,” Yarzagaray said. “The only way I can study is to sit her next to me and read my biology to her as if it was a night story.  She just sits there and she loves the attention.”

Dr. Larry Nordyke, professor of biology, applauds Yarzagaray’s successes.

“Yari is an outstanding biology major,” Nordyke said.  “Her acceptance into dental school this year is even more meaningful because she has accomplished it while raising a family.  We are very proud of her.”

More information about admission for international students, the UST Biology Department and the UST Tutorial Services Center are available on the UST website.

To learn more about English language courses, visit the ELS Web site at