By ARMANDO HARMON
In May, Pima Community College submitted a proposal for the Secretariat of Education SEP-Belcalos-Santander Universidades International Program.
Otherwise known as the Becalos grant, this grant allows students from Mexico to have the opportunity to enroll and take courses at PCC.
At the start of the semester, 75 students were enrolled at the West, Downtown and Northwest campuses. This is the fourth year Pima has hosted student from the Belcalos grant.
The cost to each student will be $7,500. This is a group-based package only for the Mexican SEP Belcalos-Santander Universidades scholarship holders.
The cost of the programs includes tuition, books, health insurance and food. The housing cost includes four months of rent. It also includes four 30-day bus passes that will allow students to have access to transportation around Tucson.
Group photos will be provided for each student and for Mexican authorities to show proof that the grant is being put to a good use, according to SEP Belcalos.
PCC is providing a Positive Engaging Educational Resource and Support PEERS for the exchange students. PEERS is a mentor program to provide personal connections and to help the students live in a new culture and environment. A PEERS ambassador must spend four to five hours with a small groups of students.
Cultural events will be coordinated throughout the semester. The students will be engaging with different events held by the student clubs. Field trips to community cultural events will take place so the students aren’t only going to class but actually getting the full feel of studying abroad.
A series of workshops will be provided by PCC to prepare them for whatever their field of study is. Some workshops will provide study skills, networking tips and interviewing skills. The students are required to attend and participate in a PCC biannual Emerging Leaders Program.
This program will help students develop the skills needed to become successful in their professional careers.
The importance of each student is crucial to PCC, so students have access to free tutoring at the learning center like any other PCC student. Counselors will meet with students on an appointment basis to talk about school or any personal issues.
“It’s exciting to be part of a student’s educational journey in the U.S.,” said Daisy Rodriguez Pitel, associate director, international student and global engagement. “For many students, it is their first time being away from home.”
An academic advisor will be assigned to a student, and they will meet three times throughout the semester. In these meetings, the advisor will guide the student by using an academic progress form that will document the experience of the student.
With the students coming from Mexico, PCC will provide two different programs that will help the students’ English learning experience.
One of the two programs includes having a conversation partner. The partner is a PCC student that will meet their student for one hour a week to help them learn English.
The other program is hosting a conversation group where a leader will meet with students and will practice English in a small group. These meetings will take place once a week for an hour.
Nathan Toy is a pre-law major and is planning to transfer to the University of Arizona or Columbia University.
“It’s an honor to be one of the few community colleges in the U.S. to participate in this program, and what I find most enjoyable is helping the students find joy in their adjustment to Tucson,” Toy said.
“I’ve learned that the language really isn’t a barrier. You find ways other ways to communicate and recognize how much you have in common.”