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Customer service with a smile

Ariel Suarez immigrated to Dallas from the Philippines when he was 9 years old. (Photo/Nathan Carter)

For immigration adviser Ariel Suarez, working in the Office of International Services (OIS) is an exercise in customer service. The OIS, which assists international students, faculty and staff, served approximately 7,000 international students during the 2011-12 academic year.

“We deal with a lot of international students,” Suarez said. “You have to listen very carefully to their problem, and after you learn about their situation, you formulate a solution to that problem.”

Suarez’s family, which includes his mother and two older sisters, immigrated to Dallas from the Philippines when he was 9 yeara old.

“I chose working for International Services because I appreciate the fact that USC is promoting international education,” he said. “I like helping people because I was once an immigrant, and I know there are cultural differences that they go through. They have this stress level already, so I like to get them to feel welcome and to ease that anxiety.”

Suarez graduated from USC with his Bachelor of Arts in psychology in 2006 and worked with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ literacy program KOREH L.A. and at an AT&T store before joining the OIS in 2008. Initially an information specialist, he learned the basics of immigration rules and requirements and applied that initial training to his current position.

The difference between being an information specialist and an immigration officer “is you’re able to look deeply into the student’s case and work one-on-one with the student rather than servicing thousands of students you don’t really get to know,” Suarez said.

“I’ve had someone come in, and she cried because she was unhappy with her current situation, family-wise and other stuff,” he added. “I helped ease her anxiety and frustration and just made her feel comfortable. It’s a rewarding feeling when you help someone feel good.”

Esther Lee, associate director of the OIS, said Suarez is a perfect match for his position.

“His work ethic, his demeanor, his ability to look above and beyond the situation of a crisis is something outstanding,” she said. “He is always willing to take on additional tasks and to provide assistance to other colleagues in the office.”

Suarez enjoys the challenges he faces in his position at the OIS, and he plans to apply to graduate school in the next year or two to earn a Master of Education in postsecondary administration and student affairs or a Master of Arts in psychology with an emphasis on human behavior.

“My long-term goal is to stay in international education,” he said, “and to continue learning and applying those skills that I’ve learned to help international students progress.”

Customer service with a smile

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