When Brano Djenic and his parents arrived in San Antonio in the summer of 1999, to say he was unfamiliar with South Texas is an understatement. Born and raised in Bosnia (then known as Yugoslavia), all Brano knew of San Antonio was what he saw on a map. “Although my parents had heard of this place before – evidently from watching John Wayne movies – I saw it in the world atlas as a flat, southern city that seemed to be close to Los Angeles” he said.
No one in the Djenic family spoke English when they arrived, but now they all consider themselves Texans. “My father grills fajitas and my mother loves salsa. My sister wants a Quinceanera for her 15th birthday, and I finally learned the rules of baseball!”
Both of Brano’s parents were educated as civil engineers before war forced them to leave their homeland. But in their new lives in the United States, they faced big adjustments. The first step for Brano was learning English. As a middle school student that fall of 1999, Brano enrolled in English as a second language classes. Although most of his classmates knew Spanish, not his native tongue, Brano quickly caught on.
Within a year he was progressing well in school, and within five years, he started his studies at St. Mary’s, ultimately graduating in just three and a half years. Next he attended medical school at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
It’s a long way for him to come in a short time – geographically, academically and personally. And Brano credits his St. Mary’s experience with preparing him for his coming academic challenges. While he had his pick of several colleges, Brano felt like St. Mary’s combined solid academics with keeping him close to his family. Today he can’t imagine going anywhere else.
“I have grown up to be an international, multicultural and multilingual adult. St. Mary’s has been a warm home, a protecting guardian, and an extraordinary mentor,” he said. Brano has many fond memories – studying for complicated endocrinology exams, playing soccer and Frisbee on Chaminade Field, and cooking the food of his native Bosnia for International Student Services Day.
“I am proud to wear a T-shirt that says St. Mary’s University. It is these experiences that have shaped my beliefs, shown me which values are truly meaningful to me, and allowed me to meet those I will be influenced by the rest of my life,” Brano said.