By DANYELLE KHMARA
Students come from all over the world to attend Pima Community College, and the International Student Services Office caters to the needs those students.
“We have applicants who email us, call us from every country across the world,” Student Services Coordinator David Arellano says.
He says the ISSO supports and advises international students coming into Pima. Primarily, the international students that have a student visa—the F1 visa. That enables them to come here temporarily and return to their country of birth when they’re done with their studies.
“The U.S. looks at it as—we’re gonna help people come in, get an education, a trade, a skill and return home and be successful in their home country,” Arellano says.
International students meet with the ISSO throughout their time at PCC for advising on various issues such as academics and employment opportunities that may be available to them.
The three countries where the largest number of PCC international students hail from are China, Mexico and South Korea.
“Nationally, you’re going to see China as being number one for international students,” Arellano says. “In their culture, they think really highly of a U.S. education.”
He adds that employers in China are choosing applicants with a U.S. education over a Chinese education.
Arellano says the ISSO can also offer assistance to undocumented students.
“We don’t turn anyone away,” Arellano says. “They would follow the same admissions policy as a domestic student would.”
According to Arellano, the main reason international students choose PCC is because they have family or friends already here in Tucson or because they plan on transferring to the University of Arizona.
“The UA is a big draw,” Arellano says. “We’re lucky that they’re just down the road.”
He adds that the UA, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University all have great international programs. Arellano says it’s easy for international students to transfer to the UA or another university.
Arellano suggests that international students also choose colleges in Arizona because the California colleges are well known throughout the world yet more expensive and harder to get into, and Arizona is right next door.
Arellano says it’s also common for the ISSO to issues visas strictly for students to go through PCC’s English as a Second Language program.
“Whether it be just because they wanted to learn English or their job required it back home,” Arellano says.
He adds that some students opt to do ESL to get a good grasp on English and then transfer to an academic program.
“We see higher math levels and lower reading and writing levels,” Arellano says.
International students are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language, one of the main English proficiency tests used throughout the world, before they enter an academic program.
There are some requirements international students must meet in order to get the F-1 visa, explains Arellano. They need to prove they’ve completed high school or their country’s equivalent, and they need to show how they are going to support themselves while they’re here.
“The school works on a cost of attendance budget, and you have to prove that you have that money,” he says. “Whether it be through family or friends, sponsor, government sponsor.”
He explains that Homeland Security wants to see that they’re not going to become a public charge or nuisance on tax-payer-funded benefits here in the United States.
“You can be accepted by a school and still not get a visa,” Arellano says. He explains the primary reason for being denied is not having enough proof of intent to return to their home country once they’re done with their studies.
Arellano says there are cultural immersion benefits from having international students at PCC, for the international students and for U.S. citizens who get to learn from them about their culture.
There’s also an International Student Club at PCC.
“It’s a resource and somewhere for international students who come to Pima to make friends, make connections, network, get resources and just be part of the college experience or student life here at Pima,” Arellano says.
Last semester, the majority of the club’s members were in Arizona through the SEP-Bécalos-Santander Universidades partnership program, which brought 49 students to Pima from technical universities in Mexico.
Rose Bolz, the club advisor, says that the club meets once a week and that anybody can join.
Last semester the club went on a two-day road trip with 43 students to California. They went to the Bowers Museum in Santa Anna, Disneyland, Downtown Hollywood and the beach.
Bolz says they became great friends. “The trip brought them closer together,” she says.
Arellano says he thinks there are great benefits to international education.
“Sometimes we just don’t realize how much it benefits people here in the U.S.—culturally,” he says.
“Knowing about someone else and how they lived, what they’re doing there and what’s going on in their home country is enlightening to us.”
The ISSO is at the PCC West Campus Student Service Center. For de call (520) 206-6732 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.