International students come for PAC programs
Gabriela López García left her home in Durango, Mexico for the first time this fall for the opportunity to study at Palo Alto College. At just 19 years old, García says leaving home was hard, but she knew from classmates who had gone through the same program that it was a chance she couldn’t pass up.
“It was a great opportunity, and I had to take it because I really want to learn here,” said García. “I want to improve my English level, and also I’d like to learn more about the culture and logistics, my career.”
Each fall, students like García come from 14 different universities throughout Mexico to attend one of the Alamo Colleges through the Becalos program. García is one of 32 Mexican college students attending Palo Alto College this semester to study logistics or international business. Forty-six additional Becalos students are studying various programs throughout the Alamo Colleges District this fall.
“Some of the students have never left their home state or travelled in Mexico. So here you have an opportunity to go for a semester to a different country. Even though we think of San Antonio of being very close to the Mexican culture, it is very different,” said Pati Garza, coordinator of international recruitment and student services at the Alamo Colleges District.
The Becalos students are fully immersed in the English language upon arriving in San Antonio, according to Garza, as one of the goals of the program is to help them improve their communication in English. Studying abroad is a practical way for these students to not only practice the language, but they also learn about other cultures and how their trade is approached by other countries.
“We’re a global economy,” said Garza. “[Studying abroad] expands their vision and experiences so much. It also gives them the opportunity to practice their English intensively.”
Ronnie Brannon, assistant professor of logistics at Palo Alto College, has taught Becalos students for the past three years. He says that the students get hands-on experience using top-tier logistics technology and resources used in the United States. They also benefit from interacting with the American students in the classroom and through group projects.
“I look forward to having Becalos students. It’s one of my most favorite classes to have because I get a chance to break down logistics into the purest form,” said Brannon. “I love logistics, and with them, it’s so much fun breaking it down.”
Brannon says he expects the same from his Becalos students that he does from the native-English speakers in his classes. At the beginning of the semester, Becalos students often struggle to communicate in English, but they adjust through attending class, completing assignments, and participating in group projects entirely in English. Brannon says his American students benefit, too, because they get a better understanding of the course content by learning how to communicate the subject matter clearly.
“Some don’t speak [English] quite as well, and they struggle but that’s ok. When we get down to the end of the semester, they’re much more comfortable and their communication is better,” said Brannon.
Three weeks into the semester, García says she is impressed by her professors’ knowledge and teaching skills, and she is excited to continue learning. She wants to work in a port someday, and she hopes that will open doors to work in other countries. For now, she is soaking up the chance to practice her English, learn about her trade, and experience all that San Antonio has to offer. She says the city is beautiful, and the people are kind. She is already starting to feel at home.
“I feel really blessed to be here because, as I said, it is a great opportunity, and it is a great experience,” said García. “I know that this is going to help me in the future with my professional career. I think that I am growing up in this aspect, so it’s good.”
For more information about International Programs, including study abroad opportunities for Alamo Colleges District students, visit alamo.edu/international
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