Wichita State News
Photo: Shae West
Cecilia Martinez stands next to traditional Paraguayan dress at the Paraguay booth in the RSC during International Education Week, Nov. 17-22.

International student deals with tough application process

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

International students suffer from a difficult application process, expensive tuition and language barriers, but Cecilia Martinez didn’t let hardships stop her from studying at Wichita State University.

Her mother was sad to see her go. Martinez said in Paraguay students don’t travel internationally very often.

“You still live with your parents when you’re in the university,” she said. “You live in the same city all of your life.”

Martinez grew up in Asuncion, Paraguay, and she knew before coming to America that she wanted to study English.

“My goal was to learn English, and then go back,” she said. “But I saw a great opportunity for me.”

Her tuition stress was lessened because of an agreement between Paraguay and Kansas, Martinez said. International students in Paraguay are given the opportunity to pay in-state tuition in Kansas.

“I saw that it would not be too expensive to stay,” she said.

However, her visa process was no less painful than for other international students. U.S. embassies look for proof that a student will come back to their home country, Martinez said, and not stay in America illegally.

“When I applied, they asked for grades, bank statements, whether I had a house,” she said.

When she was accepted to WSU, she went to the U.S. embassy to prove her admission, and they gave her a four-year student visa, which is very rare, she said.

Her next problem was money. The value of currency in Paraguay is low compared to American money, Martinez said.

During her first year of college, her father and grandmother supported her financially. From then on, she got a job and scholarships to pay tuition and bills.

“It’s a headache to get scholarships for international students,” she said.

International students are limited to working on campus, unless they are given special permission, or they use a cooperative education program.

“Everything is really regulated,” she said.

When she thought about transferring to the University of Kansas, Martinez was offered a position at the WSU Office of International Education. She also works as a resident assistant in the Wheatshocker apartments to pay for her expenses.

“It was so perfect,” she said. “Obviously it was a sign that I had to stay here.”

Martinez is getting her bachelor’s in communication with an emphasis in integrated marketing communication. She wanted to combine advertising, writing and graphic design into her major, which led her to IMC. She also wants to get a master’s in international relations.

“My long-term goal is to be an ambassador representing my country,” she said.

After she completes her degree, she wants to work in an international organization such as the United Nations or the World Wildlife Foundation.

As a member of the Cultural Ambassador Program at WSU, Martinez is able to act as a diplomat for her country in college.

The ambassadors give presentations about their home countries to schools.

“People love it,” she said. “The questions you get are amazing.”

At Beech Elementary School, children were shocked when Martinez told them Paraguay didn’t have a Wal-Mart or a Popeyes Chicken.

“I love doing it because I’m pretty sure I’m the only person from Paraguay they will ever know,” she said. “We may be the only way they get to know about our countries.”

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Created on Tuesday, December 09, 2008; Last modified on Tuesday, December 09, 2008