Assayer of Student Opinion.

The Prospector

Assayer of Student Opinion.

The Prospector

Assayer of Student Opinion.

The Prospector

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You’ll get through, even if you’re not a U.S. citizen


The life of an international student isn’t easy. Since my first semester, I was put under a lot of pressure by my family, my friends and my high school teachers to succeed in this “great opportunity to study with the best,” as they would say. 

My mother does not know English and my father isn’t always available due to work. There is no one in my family who has studied outside Mexico. So, as a bilingual high schooler, with only one semester of driving, I was immediately put in charge of my admission process at UTEP.

I had to prepare for the admission exam and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) myself, since my high school did not have any workshops on tests or application processes. I had to learn about driving in El Paso and parking. I had to deal with the huge amount of paperwork the Office of International Programs needed for my admission as an international student. I had to take care of my documents as a foreign student with several immigration offices and I had to do all of that within two months, since I had changed my major to philosophy at the last minute.

Therefore, I missed the deadlines for scholarships, and to this day I haven’t been able to get a scholarship because most them are for U.S. citizens. Because of this, I used to see El Paso as this foreign land and I used to think of myself as being the outsider.

My first barrier came when I had to pay for my first semester at UTEP. Once I went to Mike Loya Academic Services Building to ask about the process, the stress took over.

I had asked the lady if I would be able to pay it in cash and I remember she said, “yes, you have until 6 p.m. to do that, you can do it online or you can come here, but it has to be done before 6 p.m.” I had understood that I had until 6 p.m. to pay for my tuition, and it was one day after I received the email notification about tuition for the first time.

Of course, I was freaking out. I immediately told my mom and started calling my father to see what we could do. It was such a stressful situation and at the end of the day, I made my father pay, and he had a huge amount of debt on his credit card for something that we could have easily paid throughout the next month, as I learned afterwards.

This experience changed me in the sense that every time I would ask something of someone, I had to overcome the language barrier. I would ask things thoroughly, explaining I was an international student and that I had different paperwork than the average student.

Thinking back, I realize now I could have saved so much trouble by just asking. Being afraid to speak in English, even though I already knew the language, has been one of the most difficult challenges I have had to overcome.

Still, it has been great to learn from my mistakes and look forward. Now, I am not afraid of studying somewhere else because of language, I do not think I am less of a person for not knowing certain vocabulary, and most importantly, I have learned how to embrace changes in my life. The life of an international student isn’t easy, but it is not as impossible as one may think at the beginning.

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You’ll get through, even if you’re not a U.S. citizen