Unlocking futures through language, Pacific International Academy (PIA) serves as a bridge between nations, propelling students toward their dreams while creating a global tapestry of connection and understanding. The academy formed a partnership with Warner Pacific University and has been operating here on campus since the spring of 2018.
PIA operates as a nonprofit language school primarily focused on bringing international students to the U.S. and assisting them in achieving their English-speaking goals. Some students aspire to secure spots in undergraduate or graduate programs, while others aim to master skills for career advancement and pursue personal goals through English language learning. The program began in 1997 and was held at Marylhurst University for over 20 years until its closure in 2018.
PIA brings in students for long and short-term study programs. Many students come to pursue an academic course and then either continue at a university in the U.S. or return to their home universities. The short-term programs are geared towards younger high school students for a one-to-three-week program. They get to experience life in America, gain cultural experiences, and improve their English.
When recruiting students from other organizations, PIA’s Director, Rahi Ghazimorad explained that they look for places with similar unique qualities. Since PIA is located at a small, private, Christian university, they network with schools in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan whose missions and values align. PIA also utilizes different networking resources such as memberships to organizations like Study Oregon and partnerships with the US Commercial Service, Travel Portland, and Travel Oregon.
“Warner Pacific has been a wonderful partner,” said Rahi. “The number one thing our students look for is the opportunity to improve their English and experience American life. So, for them to be on campus of a university and go to basketball games and hang out with American students their own age and practice their English is very valuable to them.”
PIA and WPU students connect through conversation partners and forums. The conversation partner program pairs a PIA student with an English-speaking volunteer—either student or staff member—and they meet for one hour a week just to chat. The Conversation Forum is a drop in weekly event open to all. Each week the group explores a relevant cultural topic. “Some of those connections have turned into long-term friendships,” Rahi mentioned.
Before the Pandemic, PIA often engaged in class projects collaborating with Warner Pacific students. The PIA Listening and Speaking course worked on projects with a Warner Pacific theater class where students acted out skits together. They also partnered with a photography class in the past where PIA students and WPU students made presentations about their art. Rahi further explained that “PIA hopes to continue these collaborations and create more opportunities for the two populations to gather and benefit from each other’s experiences.”
Through the partnership with Warner Pacific, PIA students get a glimpse of what it is like to be a college student in Portland, OR. “During my time at PIA, I met wonderful friends from several cultures, got a quality education, and developed my English considerably,” said Boshra, a PIA student from Saudi Arabia. “In addition, Portland was a very nice place, especially the Warner Pacific campus. If given the chance again, I would choose Portland and PIA without hesitation.”