International Student’s Association strengthens students

Culinary arts major and international student Sid Jayathilake said that coming to the United States as a student was a risk.

Jayathilake is from Sri Lanka, a country north of the Indian Ocean, and has been at Cerritos College for three semesters.

When he was 16, Jayathilake moved to California with the help of his father, but has since moved around California on his own.

The first obstacle he faced when living in California was speaking the English language.

“The English we speak in Sri Lanka is British English. Over here (California) it’s American English, so it’s completely different.”

International Student Association president Charles Caguioa said that he has noticed that language is an obstacle for international students.

Caguioa said that ISA aims to help international students, like Jayathilake, get adjusted to American culture, language and everything else America has to offer.

ISA is a club on campus that helps international students get adjusted to life in America, while at the same time shedding light onto different cultures and ethnicities for Cerritos College to see and learn from.

“One of the biggest things that I know that they were having to struggle with was mainly getting used to the culture here, even with English,” Caguioa said.

Caguioa said that in his experiences with ISA, he has noticed a few students that were once not that fluent in English are now very fluent and are even picking up on slang words.

Jayathilake went on to say that another obstacle he faced was money.

When he was looking for places on his own, he said he felt like he was being taken advantage of.

Looking for a place that was safe for Jayathilake was also difficult for him.

“It was quite hard for me because, for me, as an individual moving out (it) was so different, and I’m still just 17,” Jayathilake said.

The process of enrolling at Cerritos College went by rapidly according to Jayathilake. He signed up to attend Cerritos College just two weeks before receiving his enrollment date.

From there, he had to work on getting his visa and passport ready.

One upside to this quick process for Jayathilake was that it made for less time being homesick.

When international students come to Cerritos College, ISA vice president Albert Saucedo said that they can go to the Office of International Student Services and be referred to ISA to get more acquainted with the school and its students.

“(ISA) helps show them around. We become their friends, anything they need, we are there for them,” Saucedo said.

America was such a big culture shock for Jayathilake. He said that the attitudes and hospitality of others was different from his home country.

To get more involved in not only American culture, but Cerritos College itself, Jayathilake participated in the Global Village event put on by the International Student’s Association.

Saucedo said that ISA has a lot of volunteer opportunities for students to get more involved in the club and Cerritos College’s campus.

Jayathilake said that the ISA club was a good fit for him.

“It has a lot of diversity. People have their own culture. People have their own tradition.”

He went on to say that for international students, they are just trying their best to “Americanize” themselves.

Caguioa said that the ISA does not just reach out to international students, but also to students who want to either embrace and share their culture and to students who maybe don’t know much about their culture and want to learn more.

Saucedo agrees with Caguioa that the club does want to reach out to all students.

“Either way, you can be part of it or not part of it (ISA)…we can help you out, show you around, get to know you and talk to you about your major,” Saucedo said.

He also said that within the club, there are also team building exercises to help students build leadership.

He hopes that these exercises will help students become stronger.

During his time at Cerritos College, Saucedo has met many international students and said that the club usually gets about 15 or 20 members who are from other countries.

“Some come and go, but they learn a lot when they come and join (ISA),” Saucedo said.