International students struggle to cross the border during COVID

For the past three years Javier Peregrina has been among the many students who have to cross the U.S.-Mexico border between San Luis R.C., Mex., and San Luis, Ariz., every weekday to attend classes at Arizona Western College.

“A few years back I decided to come to the United States and pursue my dream career at AWC,” said the 20-year-old.

Peregrina is a music major who started crossing the San Luis Port of Entry when he was 17. For him it has become something normal for his education and daily life.

“Becoming a border commuter student has been one of the best decisions of my life,” he said. “I feel that I have more opportunities to grow. I know other students that started crossing the border since elementary school and I admire them for their persistence.”

During his freshman year at AWC, Peregrina faced some challenges, such as struggling to communicate with his professors and classmates in English. It took him a lot of practice in his free time, but he is now able to speak and write the language fluently.

In order to reach their destination on time, many transborder students (transfronterizos in Spanish) need to wake up before sunrise.

“I cross the border at 4:30 in the morning because one time an officer sent me to a secondary inspection, and I had to miss my class,” Peregrina said.

According to Sussana M. Zambrano, Associate Dean for South Yuma County Services, the AWC administration understands the reality of teaching in a border city. The community college encourages professors to ask questions and avoid making assumptions when students are late or miss class.

The COVID-19 outbreak is still not under control, and thousands of students and workers struggle to cross the border. There have been many new restrictions and longer wait times for essential travelers at the border, protocols that are necessary to prevent the further spread of the Coronavirus. At AWC, however, students can choose between limited in-person classes or ones that connect via Zoom.

Peregrina is aware of the risks of attending in-person classes in a global pandemic. Due to the difficult circumstances, he attends only one class in person because that is required for taking exams.

“I hope things get better and that I am able to attend most of my classes,” Peregrina said. “As a transborder student I feel grateful of attending AWC and I look forward to graduating next year.”

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