UIW Homecoming: Alumnus Reflects on His Time at UIW

October 27, 2023

Choosing to study abroad can be difficult. From moving away from one’s home country, learning new languages, adjusting to other cultures, and navigating an entirely new environment, the journey of an international student is full of challenges. Despite the trials, UIW alumnus Cedric Szymczak, traveled the distance to become a part of the Nest.

Szymczak, a soccer player who finished his undergraduate degree in his home country of Germany and was a member of the U20 National Team of Poland in 2016, knew that UIW was the school for him after talking with UIW Men’s Soccer Coach Kiki Lara, an alumnus of UIW himself.

“After a few great conversations he convinced me very fast that UIW was the right school for me,” remembered Szymczak.

In addition to having the opportunity to continue playing the sport he loved, UIW would allow him to earn a Master of Business Administration degree at the same time. The combination of pursuing both of his passions inspired him to come to the United States as a UIW student.

Though being in a new place full of unfamiliar people was an adjustment, Szymczak admired the positive environment the University had to offer him during his two years at the Nest. His professors, coaches, teammates, classmates, and the community itself offered him the support system he needed to thrive. From the International Office helping him to obtain his visa, his coach and teammates helping to find and move into an apartment, and professors being accommodating with his busy athletics schedule, from the moment he stepped on campus, he knew he wasn’t alone.

“The opportunity to combine soccer and a graduate degree made me come to the U.S.,” Szymczak shared. “But the great environment and friendliness at UIW and in San Antonio made me stay.”

Over the months, his teammates, friends and coaches became a second family. When other students traveled short distances to visit loved ones, he stayed on campus, connecting with fellow international students and other members of the community. UIW and San Antonio quickly began to feel like a “home away from home.”

“I always had the feeling that the people at UIW take extra care of international students, since they know that is it not easy to be so far away from home,” he explained. “A lot of international students do not have the opportunity to go home over the weekend or during Thanksgiving and holidays. Because of that we spend a lot of time on and around campus. But I always enjoyed it. Having the soccer team and a lot of other international students around me was always a great support. And then I met my wonderful girlfriend here. For all these reasons, UIW and San Antonio feel like a second home to me.”

As much as he felt he received from UIW and the people who make up its community, those who mentored him also felt that he was an exemplary presence to have on campus. “He left his heart and soul on the field both in training and matches and that is a big part of who we are here in our program. He is an excellent example of what talent and industry can do in an environment,” Coach Lara shared.

In addition to being a role model on and off the field, Szymczak also felt called to pay it forward by providing some of the same aid he had received as an international student to other students in his shoes. He took a job in UIW’s Office of International Student and Scholar Services, a move that allowed him to give back and prepare him for the workforce.

“Throughout my work, I met and connected with people from all over the world,” he recalled. “Getting to know all these different people and their cultures was a great experience. I also really enjoyed helping other international students since I knew that it is not easy to be so far away from home without the support of your family.”

San Antonio felt so much like a second home to him, that upon graduation he decided to stay, applying his talents and education to a role with the City of San Antonio’s finance department. As a debt officer, Szymczak conducts cash flow analyses of the City’s debt, monitors outstanding debt, and more. He knows his work – both as a debt office for the city he loves, and as a public servant who gives back to the community – is meaningful.

“The thing I enjoy most about my work is that I am serving the community and that I can see direct results from the work that I do, such as financing of the new airport terminal project,” he shared.

When reflecting on his time at UIW, Szymczak recognized just how much the school helped him to develop skills needed to flourish in his current role and to grow into his own person. He cherishes the memories he made on campus.

“My time at UIW helped me to develop my language and business skills, preparing me for my current job,” he added. “I grew a lot during my time at UIW. I had a great time with so many fantastic memories that I am very thankful for.”