International Student Spotlight: Pablo Hernandez Borges – Venezuela
Doctorate of Political Science
After being approached by a professor at Texas Tech, Pablo Hernandez Borges, a native of Venezuela, decided to take a leap of faith and come to Lubbock to pursue his doctorate in Political Science. Pablo attributes the success of his numerous achievements to many factors. He cites the support of the Political Science faculty and advisors, his active participation in a variety of organizations, his network of friends and colleagues and, it goes without saying, hard work and perseverance. Pablo's time at Texas Tech has helped increase his knowledge and appreciation of many different cultures and gain the skills to succeed with his ultimate goal of “improving the lives of my compatriots” in Venezuela.
Tell us about growing up in Venezuela and what brought you to Texas Tech?
“I am from Lecheria, a city on the eastern coast of Venezuela, a country in South America. I grew up near the beach where I always enjoyed going with family and friends. Venezuela has all kinds of landscapes, from beautiful beaches to big plains, vast dunes, rain forests, and the beginning of a big mountain rage called the Andeans. Apart from my family and friends, food is one of the things I miss so much. One of the most famous dishes is the Arepas, but I also like cachapas (an indigenous pancake made of corn), tequeños (cheese sticks), and pabellón (shredded meat, white rice, black beans, and fried plantain). Before coming to Texas Tech, I was living in Caracas working on a Master's degree in Political Science and Dr. Iñaki Sagarzazu contacted me and invited me to apply to the PhD program at Texas Tech. He thought I would be a good fit and I could continue my research in Latin American politics and other topics. At the beginning of my time here in Lubbock, it was a little challenging since I came from a big city but soon I started creating a network within the campus and the community.”
What has been your favorite experience at Texas Tech so far?
“There are so many excellent and cheerful experiences I have had at Texas Tech so far, but one of the most gratifying has been getting the education required to help the people in need in Venezuela. As a result of the training I received here, I'm now able to advise politicians and organizations back home that are looking to improve the quality of democracy and advance the defense of human rights of Venezuelans living within and outside of our borders. I want to take this moment to thank the faculty and staff of the Department of Political Science for all their hard work and ensuring that our education experience here at Texas Tech is the best. I want to give special thanks my advisor, Dr. Alissandra Stoyan, for being a fair and understanding mentor and an excellent scholar who I can rely on when it comes to my research. She always has the best disposition to provide meaningful insight.”
Talk about your involvement with organizations and events on the TTU campus.
“During my time at Texas Tech, I have been involved in organizations that mainly advocate for the wellness of the Hispanic/Latino student body and the international student communities. First, I joined the Global Guides program coordinated by International Student Life (ISL) under Beth Mora. That gave me the opportunity to engage and increase my knowledge of so many different cultures around the world. I engaged in different professional student organizations like the Society of Oil and Gas Contractors and the Society of Petroleum Engineers since my home country has large oil reserves. Also, both of my parents are petroleum engineers and worked in the oil industry back home. As soon as I arrived in Lubbock, I also participated in the Sigma Delta Pi meetings since they are a society that promotes the use of Spanish and the culture of the Hispanic world that includes Spain, countries in Latin America, and other parts of the world. More recently, I joined the Student Government Association (SGA) as a Graduate Senator, where I got the chance to advocate for my graduate student peers and represent their interests before the administration. Finally, but not the least, I co- founded and became the treasurer of the Venezuelan Student Association, a student organization that promotes and shares Venezuelan culture on campus. In the past, we have made dinners with traditional food and participated at Culture Fest selling arepas and Venezuelan hot dogs to expose the Lubbock community to a little taste of our cuisine.”
Tell us about your studies in Political Science and your plans for the future.
“In Political Science, I have two majors (Comparative Politics and International Relations) and a minor (Methods). Within Comparative Politics, I focus mostly in Legislative Studies, Executive-Legislative Relations, Gender Representation, and Democratic Backsliding, mostly in Latin America but I am also taking cases of study in other regions of the world. For International Relations, I study refugee and migration crises, taking special interest in the Venezuelan Migrants and Refugee Crisis that has been ongoing since 2015 and represents one of the largest in the Western Hemisphere. I support my research using different statistical methods (statistical regression analysis, network analysis, causal inference modeling) thanks to my background as a Computer Engineer and training I received here. During my tenure, I also completed a graduate certificate in Geographic Information Science and Technology, which will provide the necessary knowledge to tackle a dimension of the refugee and migration crisis research agenda. Finally, after finishing my degree I aim to return to my home country to put all these abilities towards improving the lives of my compatriots.”
Talk about the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a degree abroad.
“There has been many challenges to doing a degree abroad, especially a doctoral one. One of the advantages of being in a country like the United States is that you get a training that includes the latest developments in the field. Also, you get the opportunity to travel both domestically and internationally to meet with researchers from around the world. In this sense, the networking opportunities are incredible when doing a degree abroad. An obvious disadvantage would be being away from home and in my particular case, not being able to return for any holiday or break due to the current political situation that imposes extra difficulties for me to return for a short period of time. Despite this, TTU International Affairs and other departments at Texas Tech University offer a variety of services that helped me navigate the challenges of being far away from home. Those services in conjunction with the network of friends, colleagues, and compatriots living here in Lubbock has been instrumental in helping me reach my goals as a graduate student here at Texas Tech.”
What advice can you give to other international students?
“The best advice I can give to incoming and current international students is to take advantage of a unique opportunity to study abroad at one of the best facilities in the US. Also, I would suggest being open to meeting and interacting with other cultures as we gain tremendous and valuable experience by interacting with people from different backgrounds. This will help us gain abilities that will be later be used in our professional lives. Take the time to learn and to get to know the people in your cohort, your place of living, and your community as each one of them will surely provide you with some new experience or knowledge that you didn't know.”
As you think about your accomplishments, what are you most proud of?
“I always like to participate and interact with people. In my first year as a graduate student, thanks to my research poster about cabinet rotation and corruption in Venezuela, I was the first runner-up for the Student International Research Award at the 2019 TTU International Affairs Global Vision Awards. As I continued participating in the poster competition in the subsequent years, I won first place in the Social Science category last year (my fourth year of participation). I believed through hard work and determination I could improve myself. Finally, the Department of Political Science generously awarded me the Best Graduate Student for the 2021-2022 academic year. This felt like an excellent culmination for my run here as a graduate student at Texas Tech. I believe that after my time here ends, I will leave with good memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life and I'm grateful for that.”