A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By Brenda Medina-Ramirez
Mayra Moya is a general dentist, but she can only work as a dental assistant. In 1991, Moya obtained her B.S. degree in general dentistry, from her native country, the Dominican Republic. After moving to the United States, Moya decided to stay at home until her two young children were older. Then, she enrolled in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) program at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) to improve her English skills. A year later Moya felt ready to enter the workforce. There was just one problem: to practice as a dentist she would have to go back to dental school. Because Moya’s degree is from a foreign country, it had to be revalidated in the U. S., which is a lengthy and expensive process. She took a shortcut and became a dental assistant. Once working in her field, Moya felt that she wanted to do more with her knowledge. Two years ago, she hired an agency to translate her dentistry credits from Spanish to English. Then she sent the translated documents to the American Dental Association for evaluation and approval, and to the Educational Credential Evaluators for accreditation. “I spent about $500 for the translation and $300 to get the accreditation,” said Moya. But she is not done yet. Moya needs to spend two years in dental school for a state license, four if she wants to practice nationwide. The closest dental school to Moya is the University of Florida, a long drive away in Gainesville. “Who is going to take care of my family?” she asked. Moya opted instead for a license in dental hygiene, which she can pursue without leaving Tampa. Now she has to take the State Board test to become a Florida hygienist. Cases like this are very common among immigrants who graduated from a college outside the U.S. “Many students who are professionals in their country try to revalidate, to re-certify their professions in this country,” said Dr. Luz Lono, head of the EAP department at HCC, Ybor City campus. Since most postsecondary, technical and doctorate degrees required a license, verification is vital. “Professionals need to bring proper documentation from their home countries,” said Lono. Procedures vary among career fields. Other cases are like Bunana Wakil’s. In Syria, Wakil graduated with an A.S. degree in travel accounting. While it is a good-paying profession there, here in the U.S., a college education is not needed to be a travel agent. It was shocking for Wakil to realize that “I can’t do anything with my degree here. It is not even a major, I don’t have anything to revalidate,” she said. Not only isn’t it a major, but it is also becoming obsolete. “I was surprised and disappointed when I found out that here, everything related to travel-ticketing can be done online,” said Wakil. She also applied for an airport job but was turned down because of her limited English. Wakil decided to go back to college to become an MRI-licensed nurse. That only takes two years or less, but before she can take classes in that field, she must first take six levels of EAP. In order to register for EAP classes at HCC, she must bring proof of her high school diploma from her home country. “It is not easy to get those papers there, that was many years ago,” said Wakil. Lono explains that “In some foreign countries, the system is not very organized. Also, sometimes the students don’t have anyone in their countries that can get those papers for them,” she said. The other option available to Wakil is to obtain a graduate equivalency diploma. Currently, Wakil, who has twin baby girls, is taking first-level EAP classes as a full-time student. Lono said that the college gives students some time to get their personal files. “However, the papers from their countries, or their equivalents from here, have to be submitted after their first semester,” said Lono. “Now I have to do my high school again, go back to college for I don’t know how long. I have a family to take care of,” Wakil said. “That is frustrating!”