By DANYELLE KHMARA
The Pima Community College International Student Club is a place where international students can get to know each other and participate in fundraisers, class trips and community service.
Club president Alejandra Fraijo moved from Sonora, Mexico, to Tucson six months ago for a better education and because Pima is close to her hometown.
She is in her second semester at Pima as a nutritional science major and says living in Tucson is a new life for her.
Club vice president Alma Gonzales, a psychology major, is also originally from Sonora. She moved to the United States when she was 5 years old.
Gonzales and Fraijo hope to transfer to the University of Arizona after Pima.
Both women are personable and well-spoken, each with a unique air of inviting confidence.
Students are drawn to the International Student Club for a sense of community.
“They want to get to know people, have a better experience and feel welcome,” Gonzales says.
Fraijo adds that international students want to talk to people who can empathize with what they’re feeling.
“They want to feel at home,” she says.
When Fraijo started at Pima, she went to the international student orientation.
“They told me about this club, and I was so interested,” she says.
She joined the club last semester and has made many friends.
Last semester she went to Disneyland on a club trip, and says the trip was a great experience. They traveled in four vans with around 43 students. Many of them were at Pima from Aguascalientes, Mexico, through the Bécalos student-exchange program.
“It was my first time going there,” she says. “I felt like a little kid.”
Gonzales got involved in the club last year, during her first semester at Pima.
“The past president was a really good friend of mine,” she says.
Her friend told her being involved in the club was a great way to get to know people, be more involved in the community and do community service.
Gonzales also went on the Disneyland trip last fall. Before the trip, she knew the Bécalos students a little but during the trip got to know them really well.
“I feel that we bonded,” she says. “It was a good time to actually get to know people.”
Gonzales and Fraijo really got to know each other for the first time on that trip as well.
The club looks for projects to help the community.
Gonzales says this helps club members have a resume that’s well-rounded and to be considered for scholarships.
“And it’s good for them to go out and experience,” she adds.
She has noticed that many community college students get into a routine where they go to class and then just go home—watch a movie, maybe. “In the club, we’re guiding them to do a little bit more,” she says.
Getting more involved in the community helps them form good habits, Gonzales says. Many of the club’s members find it rewarding, and some continue to do community service on their own, outside of the club.
Currently, 22 club members meet every Wednesday afternoon. There is a student from Germany, one from Puerto Rico, one from Japan and one from Argentina. Most of the other club members are from Mexico.
Some are first-generation born in the United States, raised in families with various cultural traditions. One student who was born in the U.S. has parents from Argentina and has lived there. Another grew up in a military family and traveled a lot as a child.
During meetings, club members discuss future projects, plan club fundraisers and discuss the community service projects they’re interested in taking on.
Last semester club members conducted a sock drive for Casa de los Niños and Casa de los Inmigrantes, and they hope to volunteer at a local food bank soon.
Because not all the club members are from Spanish-speaking countries, they mostly speak English during meetings.
“We try,” Gonzales says, laughing. “But sometimes it slips out—we speak in Spanish.” She adds that it helps non-Spanish-speaking club members learn Spanish.
Club members are planning a trip to the Grand Canyon this semester and are holding lots of fundraisers to attain that goal. They already have seven fundraisers planned before mid-April.
On March 5, the club sold nachos and quesadillas outside the West Campus bookstore. Joking and chatting happily with customers, club members took turns making sales, cooking quesadillas and stirring melted cheese.
Earlier this semester, club members went on an outing to Buffalo Wild Wings to get to know each other better.
Fraijo and Gonzales agree it was a great experience for everyone. “Taking it outside of school—so again, you get to know more people, more deeply,” Gonzales says.