Cockrell School of Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin

Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

Hildebrand Department of Petroleum of Geosystems Engineering undergraduate student and president of UT Austin’s Planet Longhorn Arjun Sangwan is committed to helping students on the Forty Acres understand the traditions of different cultures from around the world.  

According to its website, Planet Longhorn is a student-run organization built to welcome, acclimate, and ultimately improve the exchange experience of international students. The group’s overall purpose is to provide incoming international study abroad and exchange students with the opportunity to network with each other as well as UT Austin students.

“My role is to help enhance the cultural diversity on campus,” said Sangwan. “We encourage international students and American students, who want to meet people from around the world, to foster connections with each other.”

Arjun Photo web

UT PGE junior Arjun Sangwan

Sangwan, an international student who moved from Indonesia, grew up as a global citizen living in four countries and two continents before the age of 20.

“My parents are entrepreneurs, so we went where their businesses took them,” said Sangwan. “From China to India, I had to constantly move around giving me an appreciation for different cultures. The exposure to all different types of people has taught me how to be open-minded.”

Despite coming from a business family, Sangwan has always had a passion for science and energy.

“I decided to enroll specifically in UT PGE as it was the No. 1 program in the U.S.,” said Sangwan. “I wanted to be a part of a leading department as I thought it would give me the best chance to secure a job in industry and receive mentorship.”

One of Sangwan’s key goals is to implement rewarding social programs for students, including tailgates and an international trivia contest. His aspiration is to create a welcoming environment where students feel content enough to build authentic relationships.

“I have seen a lot of international students struggle to integrate with students from the U.S.,” said Sangwan. “My hope is to eliminate this issue.”

A recent Columbia Business School research paper found empirical evidence on the benefits of exposure to multiple cultures: "Overall, the authors found that extensiveness of multicultural experiences was positively related to both creative performance (insight learning, remote association, and idea generation) and creativity-supporting cognitive processes (retrieval of unconventional knowledge and recruitment of ideas from unfamiliar cultures for creative idea expansion)."

One avenue for better incorporating the international students in the organization, who represent more than 90 countries, is to create a platform where the students can serve as a resource for the 3,000 Longhorn students who are planning to study abroad. Every year, UT Austin students study abroad in 80 different countries, so Sangwan believes this is a great opportunity for the students to learn about the country before they leave for the program.

Sangwan is thankful for the opportunity to serve as the president of Planet Longhorn as he believes it is preparing him for his future career in petroleum engineering.

“This organization has provided me the tools to understand and lead people more effectively,” said Sangwan. “The oil and gas industry is definitely a global field, so I feel ready to work in a diverse environment.”