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International student's transfer journey from Cochise College to ASU

First-generation college student inspired by her family to pursue her love of medicine, engineering

portrait of ASU student Paulette Iniguez Erunez
May 04, 2022

Arizona State University transfer student Paulette Iniguez Erunez is the first in her family to not only study outside of her home country of Mexico, but also the first to continue her studies in pursuit of her bachelor’s degree.

As an international student, Iniguez Erunez decided the best way to transition into postsecondary education was to begin at a community college because of the proximity to her family, the financial savings it afforded her parents and the scholarship opportunities offered. So Iniguez Erunez started her college journey at Cochise College.

Inspired by her dreams of working in both the medical and the engineering field, Iniguez Erunez sought to merge these two passions as a means to give back to the community, serving people of lower incomes in rural areas.

“My grandparents live in a rural area, and many people are experiencing poor living conditions," she said. "Most of them cannot afford attending a hospital or traveling to a big city for medical attention. My grandfather has been my greatest inspiration to continue pursuing my bachelor’s degree.”

During her senior year of high school, Iniguez Erunez further learned about the field of medicine and bioengineering, which is when she decided to pursue a career in biomedical engineering in the United States.

When asked why she chose ASU, Iniguez Erunez said, “I chose ASU because it offered me some great scholarships and the opportunity of keeping the ones I had earned during community college. The engineering program for my specific major was of great interest to me, and I loved the decision of transferring to this awesome campus.”

Iniguez Erunez will be completing her BSE in the Fulton Schools of Engineering biomedical engineering program in May 2022. Here, she talks about her path to ASU and plans upon graduating.

Question: Why (and when) did you choose your major?

Answer: I chose my major during my last semester of high school. I wasn't even sure if I would continue my education in Mexico or the U.S. During the last months of my high school experience, I decided I would pursue a degree in the United States in biomedical engineering. During that time, my grandfather was battling his cancer and the treatments it involved. I wanted to be part of it and know and gain as much knowledge as I could about it. When my grandfather was diagnosed with kidney and prostate cancer, the limited treatment options due to him being a high-risk patient led to the inevitable. It has always been a great motivation to me and made me realize the importance of innovative technologies to treat such diseases and reduce the limited treatment options, and I plan on working towards my goal of making improvements in the medical field.

Q: Were you involved in any clubs or organizations at your community college? If so, please share which one(s) and how your participation impacted your community college experience.

A: Volunteering has been part of my extracurricular activities since I was in middle school. While in community college, I was part of Phi Theta Kappa and it helped me to participate in activities, as well as gaining leadership skills and the experience as the club’s vice president for fundraising for the Douglas chapter at Cochise College. It taught me that small changes have a big impact and it helped me become more engaged with my community. I was part of several activities since I was an active member in several clubs, such as Phi Theta Kappa, the Disaster Relief Club and the Research Club. The activities that I have been part of are the Blood Drive, Pit Fire, Relay for Life, Regional Conference, Highway Cleanup and Hamburger Sales. I was part of a research project for the Special Topics and Applications in Biology course.

Volunteering is an act of kindness since it is something you do without expecting anything in return; it is a very rewarding experience. We learn to give and participate for the community we live in, different people, and different circumstances. Also, while in community college during my last semester, I participated in Habitat for Humanity. This project consisted of helping rebuild houses for people in need. This project took place in San Diego, where two different clubs worked together and traveled to the city for an enriching experience. The region experienced floods, which impacted many families and affected their home structures. We partnered with the group and volunteered on repairing the damages such as the insulation of the walls, roof shingles (and) painting the exterior, among others. We learned to work with different tools and wore protective gear to help with the construction. During that trip, we also formed part of the San Diego Coast Keeper Project, whose purpose was to collect as much trash as possible from Mission Beach, which helps keep record of what trash is most common and help inform the people about it. That way they can help keep the beach clean and support the community with raising awareness.

Q: What have you enjoyed most about your ASU experience so far?

A: What I have enjoyed the most is the life near campus, the diversity it offers and all the fun activities happening. I have had the opportunity of living off campus but still very close to it to experience the life of a college student, which I believe is an important aspect of every college student's life. I enjoy the classrooms and the amiability of the professors as well as my classmates. I have made great friends here that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to a new transfer student?

A: I would recommend they look out for the requirements for their specific program. It will be a great advantage if before transferring they know what they need to take, or even better, that they take their prerequisite courses needed at their community college, if possible. This is what I can offer from my experience. I wasn’t aware of the prerequisites for important classes, which lead me to hold back a year for graduation, so it is crucial for them to be immersed in that aspect. Use the transfer resources that ASU has to offer, such as MyPath2ASU, so you can keep track of your courses that will successfully transfer.

Q: What are your plans after you graduate with your bachelor's degree?

A: My career goals are to obtain a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering at Arizona State University. Once graduating, I plan to pursue a master’s degree as part of the 4+1 program ASU offers. I would like to be part of clinical research rather than going into industry. Of course, plans may change, but I would like to pursue the research field when graduating.

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