PCC: a sanctuary for international students

Sebastian Romero / Courier Yarenni Reyes an international student at Pasadena City College August 7 2017

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Walking around this campus, one can bump into many students running late to class, sitting down underneath trees that offer a cool shade, or an international student. Except one wouldn’t necessarily know if they were an international student, not unless you asked. There are many reasons why PCC is wonderful. It is a great stepping stone for anyone wanting to transfer to celebrated universities, but it also has a diverse student body that encompasses the spirit of belonging to a supporting community.

Such a community helped Yarenni Reyes Medina after she was unable to attend her dream school, UCLA. Medina decided that she would attend PCC and get involved in as many programs as possible. As a medical student hoping to transfer to UCLA and study to be a doctor, PCC has built a a sturdy foundation in Medina’s academic experience.

“After I started getting involved with the Associated Students […] and saw all the opportunities and programs [PCC] has to offer,” said Medina, “I thought, ‘Okay, it’s great.”

Now, after her first year attending PCC, she has successfully run her own campaign to be Vice President of Cultural Diversity for Associated Students and received a scholarship from Alpha Gamma Sigma, a recognized program throughout campus that offers students volunteer opportunities and scholarships.

“I feel like I’m on the right path,” said Medina. “I think I’m doing the best that I can.”

PCC, though appearing to be a small campus, offers a wide variety of resources to anyone willing to seek opportunities and gain more knowledge about how they can make their experience count. PCC is kind of like the purse Mary Poppins carries around, full of surprises.

Resources aren’t solely offered during Welcome week, or the different clubs around campus, but can be found simply in a classroom, full of students eager to learn and a professor ready to teach.

“I owe everything to [Professor] Underwood,” said Alejandro Chavez Morales, a business major who fell in love with critical thinking after taking Underwood’s English 1A class.

A big critical thinker himself, Morales believes that there is always more to add to existing conversations relating to political discourses or any other philosophical debate that has been around for centuries. Studying with Underwood only made him want to read and learn more about dense subjects such as philosophy.

“He has never said, ‘You are not capable,’’ said Morales. He has always had a challenge [for students] […] but never anything he doesn’t believe students can’t achieve.”

Being at PCC has not only pushed Morales to think more critically and be more open to different conversations that can take place in and out of the classroom, but has given him the opportunity to be a leader on campus as the Vice President for Business Affairs.

“The best part of being at PCC right now is Associated Students (AS) and to have the chance to make a change,” said Morales. “I really feel the need and the passion to put my time to helping students.”

During the week, you can catch Morales during his business hours planning events and seminars for students to attend. On other days, he would rather be playing the guitar, a passion of his that he loves.

Back in Mexico City, he studied classical guitar and obtained his A.A. degree in music. Though he moved to a different country, Morales has done what he can to keep up with music.

“I took classes at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music,” said Morales.

The Pasadena Conservatory of Music is a nonprofit community school that has kept Morales on his feet, practicing music and crafting his skill. It was in this school that helped him win first place in a classical guitar competition from Cal State LA. It is a hobby like this that reminds Morales of who he was in Mexico City; happy and playing the guitar.

However, through all these different interests and experiences, the title of being an international student hasn’t really changed the way Morales views himself as a student at PCC. Though he has the title of “international” on paper, in person, Morales is just another student, studying to transfer to a university like the rest of the students on campus.

“I have never seen myself as an international student,” said Morales. “To me it was more like an adventure than a challenge.”

This reassurance can be attributed to the type of community on campus. From the beginning one steps onto the campus, a breeze of acceptance passes over each student and this instantaneous feeling gives confidence to continue to contribute to this community. PCC champions the variety of student experiences, which is what sets this campus apart from any other.

Having come from Jordan three years ago, Jude Khatib has found PCC to be her home, a place where she has garnered confidence and gained leadership skills.

“Students are supported and don’t have a limit to where they want to go,” said Khatib, a third year student at PCC.

As a Biochemistry major, Khatib has dreams to attend UCLA and lend a hand in cancer research.

“Technology is changing and influencing medicine and medical techniques, especially for cancer,” said Khatib. “I would like to contribute to the research that could find a cure.”

Though she is unable to apply for paid research jobs because of her international status, Khatib has been able to do research on campus in her classes for biology and calculus. She has found that PCC has given her the foundation to continue her studies and though her time being a student here is slowly winding down, she is grateful that professors and the many organizations on campus have supported her and encouraged her to strive for opportunities.

“PCC is an accepting campus,” said Khatib. “I don’t feel like I’m different than anyone just because I’m an international student.”

More than 1,900 students enrolled at PCC are international students taking classes and hoping to transfer to renowned universities such as UCLA or UC Berkeley.

Amid these times of uncertainty, it seems nothing is stopping international students from achieving their dreams and continuing to study their passion, not even the title “international”.

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