International students see advantage in community college

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Extensive ESL program draws international students to this college.

By Ashley Luis

This college has 260 international students from 60 countries contributing to a diverse environment.

The top three countries represented here are Mexico with 38 students, South Korea with 29 students and Vietnam with 25 students. 

The number of international students here has been consistent for the past five years, said Suzanna Borawski, coordinator of international student services.

“It is not easy applying to study abroad,” she said. 

“The top three reasons why foreign students study here is because of the low tuition cost compared to a four-year university, the extensive ESL program we provide, and the small class sizes.”

This is the only college in the Alamo Community College District  that provides an extensive English-as-a-second language program to help international students with language skills. 

“St. Philip’s just started giving ESL classes last semester with not much turnout in students because the word got out late that we were offering the courses. This semester, we are pushing it further,” Patrice Smith, coordinator of student services at St. Philip’s, said.

International students wishing to study abroad first have to contact the international department of the college they want to attend. 

This college’s international students office requires an application along with a $15 application fee. 

Students also must provide an official letter from a bank with proof of $15,000 in an account to show financial stability. International students pay out-of-state tuition, which is three times more than paid by students who are residents of Bexar County studying full time. 

High school transcripts translated in English then need to be sent to the international student services office and then submitted to the admissions and records office. 

The office sends an admissions letter to the applicant along with an I-20 form from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security seeking information about their background. 

This information goes on the Department of Homeland Security database. International students then need to make an appointment at the U.S. embassy in their country to receive a visa. 

The applicant must agree to be a full-time student in another country. If not, the student must get another visa or return to their country.

International students need to arrive 30 days before the semester starts to test their language skills. 

This determines whether they need English-as-a-second language classes or go straight to taking the Accuplacer for course placement.

International students have the opportunity to work on-campus but only for 19 hours a week. They cannot work off-campus unless they are given permission by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is a very long and hard process, Borawski said.

“Our goal is to help international students navigate the American higher education and culture,” Borawski said.

Another way to help international students acclimate is the International Students Association, formed 15 years ago to help international students interact with other students. 

Members conduct fundraiser’s and community service projects every semester. 

On April 26, members will travel to Corpus Christi for a beach cleanup sponsored by student life.

The club’s Web site is


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