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Student Embraces USTís International Community

Taking the time to strengthen her English skills at ELS Language Center, Louanne Honrado, an international student from Venezuela, was poised to begin her education at the University of St. Thomas.

ELS, located across the street from the University of St. Thomas Office of Admissions, enjoys a strong relationship with the University. International students benefit from collaboration between the University and ELS, resulting in easy transitions into American college life.

“My studies at ELS gave me the confidence in my English conversational and writing skills to make the transition to St. Thomas,” Honrado said. “Both organizations work hand-in-hand to facilitate the educational experience for international students. The UST Admissions and Registrar’s staff understood my needs as an international student, and they were helpful and patient with me, and made sure I had everything I needed to study in the United States.”

The University of St. Thomas welcomes diversity and provides a warm and supportive atmosphere for international students. UST students represent 40 states and 58 countries, making UST's student body one of the most multi-cultural in Texas and in the Southwest.  Around eight percent of students hold foreign citizenship, though many others have international backgrounds. In 2008, UST was home to 237 international students and three international student clubs.

While at ELS, Honrado met a number of international UST students, who encouraged her to become active in UST’s international student community activities. Combined with the University’s Catholic identity, small class sizes and high acceptance rate for medical school, Honrado looked no further in her college search.

Currently a sophomore biology major, Honrado, resides with her mother who has lived and worked in the United States for 13 years. Though she feels fortunate to have family in Houston, Honrado also takes comfort in the shared experience found amidst the UST international student community.

“UST has a very vibrant international student community. There are a lot of different opportunities for international students to get involved at St. Thomas including clubs, events, campus employment and volunteering,” Honrado said. “I have found so many people from different countries and cultures integrated in one campus. I think I probably have at least one international student in every one of my classes. The professors are so open and willing to help you.”

Honrado has also made her mark academically at UST. Honrado has become involved in the UST chapter of the American Chemical Society and Tri Beta, the biology honor society. In spring 2009, Honrado was selected by fellow Venezuelan, Dr. Alexandra Simmons, to participate in Simmons’  biology research team. The team is currently conducting genetic research on a metabolic disorder called Fatty Liver Disease, which adversely affects the health, milk productivity and reproductive performance of cows.

Last spring, Simmons selected a team of five UST freshmen biology students – Honrado, Jonathan Zalmea, Adriana Pozo and Steven Konstantin - to work with healthy dairy cow blood samples to become competent in basic molecular and genomics such as DNA extraction, DNA sequencing and Gel Electrophoresis. In the future, the students will work with blood samples from cows with the metabolic disorder, so the group can establish a relationship between the genotype and the incidence of Fatty Liver Disease.

“In the era of genomics, it is of major importance that biology and medical students learn how to apply the techniques that are currently being used in the field of genetic diagnostics,” Simmons said. “We are learning universal techniques, so what we are learning may also be applied to processing human DNA and for most organisms. This research will be good experience for whatever these students wish to pursue in the future.”

Honrado said she feels blessed to have the opportunity to work on Simmons’ research team.

“At first, taking on a genetic research project as a freshman was kind of intimidating, because we had only taken general biology,” Honrado said. “But Dr. Simmons has such faith in us, and she explains everything with clarity and patience. We are learning lab skills that will serve me in my goal to become a doctor.”

UST is a perfect fit for Honrado, an aspiring scientist who also embraces her Catholic faith, she said.

“St. Thomas has given me many  tools to help me better understand, and strengthen my faith,  and further my pursuit of science,” she said.

To learn more about admissions for international students, visit the international students admissions page.

To learn more about the UST biology department, visit

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