Bears break international barriers

Photo courtesy of Wang and Pecina

By Elise Crosley | Reporter

Baylor provides the opportunity for international students to have a more comfortable college experience through the PAWS (People Around the World Sharing) program. Students come from all over the world to Waco. However, some of these students said they had a difficult time transitioning to American culture.

Baylor’s PAWS program was created to fix this problem. It pairs an international student with a student who has an understanding of the American culture and provides them with the opportunity to become close friends and learn from each other.

“Getting a partner makes me feel like someone is concerned about me and cares for me,” said Tin-Chen Wang, a sophomore from Taiwan. “They are a resource I can go to if I need anything.”

The partner takes the time each week to teach them about campus-life and American culture. Wang shared that her partner, Houston sophomore Alexa Pecina, would take her to the mall on the weekends to spend time with her and her friends. While the program was built to help international students, PAWS changes the lives of American students as well.

“I wanted to be a part of the program because I really enjoy learning about people’s cultures,” Pecina said. “It’s one of my passions. It was an amazing experience.”

Many of the international students who go through the program return the next year to become a PAWS mentor, according to Wang. This year, Wang is taking on the role as a mentor, using her new knowledge of Baylor and Waco to help other new students.

“I like Baylor because they have smaller class sizes compared to other universities. I get to make friends from the United States, so I get to know their culture more. I get to listen to their stories from their families and get to know them and know their religion,” Wang said.

Mexico City, Mexico graduate student David Anaya was not a part of the program and had a more difficult time transitioning to Baylor. He decided to use his challenging experience as a way to make the transition easier for other incoming Baylor Bears by joining the program as the first non-American mentor. He made room in his schedule to befriend eight different international students through the program.

“I really wanted to make sure that I made international students feel welcome,” Anaya said. “I really think that’s what the program’s all about. We help them fit into the community. We help them learn customs that are foreign to them, and we introduce them to food. We help them find places of worship if they need them. It helped me put others in a position better than mine when I came here.”

Anaya met other students from Mexico during his time with the PAWS program and said he gained some of his closest friends through it. He will even be attending one of their weddings soon.

“It’ll intimately intertwine you with another person from a different culture, a different background … It puts them in a better position to survive, to thrive. You’ll learn a lot. You’ll get to make great experiences, great memories,” Anaya said.