SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – On Monday, a group of international students at Western Iowa Tech Community College (WITCC) raised concerns about internships they were placed in as part of a cultural exchange program.
The college’s President addressed faculty members, administration, and students regarding claims.
WITCC President Terry Murrell said the college has done it’s best to provide international students with work experience and college education.
However, he acknowledges a lack of communication with students has caused problems in this, the first year for the international program that requires a J-1 visa.
“I really have enjoyed every month I have been here. I have learned a lot about American culture,” said Carolina Perec, WITCC student.
Carolina Perec is enrolled in the J-1 program, the same program a group of students made claims about on Monday.
“If I have to go back to Chile because of these accusations, I think it’s pretty unfair honestly,” said Perec.
On Tuesday, Western Iowa Tech President acknowledged there have been growing pains for the first year J-1 exchange program.
“I know that, that we struggled to get all of the paperwork correct not having gone through this before. We did not understand the extent of the frustration that existed with our students,” said Murrell.
In November 2019, the U.S. State Department reviewed the program and required changes to be made to the internship component of the program.
“We welcomed the State Department to come in and provide that guidance for us. We have continued to stay in contact with the State Department, we are not required to do that, but we want to make sure we have the highest valued program, ” said Murrell.
With the recent changes, Murrel says 43 students that have secured internships for the 2nd semester, with seven others yet to be placed.
“We offered those students who are not happy with the changes if they wanted to return [to their country] that they can return and that we would pay for that return. We had five students take us up on that. But we also know that there are students who are very happy with the education that they have got,” said Murrell.
“I have learned in all of my classes, people have been very kind to us,” said Perec.
Murrell says the college has not recruited students for the program next year. He also added that the future of the program after this year is uncertain at this time.