EducationUSA | Exploring Community Colleges (Nov. 2016)

EducationUSA | Exploring Community Colleges (Nov. 2016)

August 20, 2019 1 By Stanley Isaacs


When we study together and we learn together we work together and we prosper together It is my pleasure to welcome our viewers around the world to today’s EducationUSA interactive series webchat on exploring community colleges in the United States. My name is Alfred Boll representing EducationUSA in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the United States Department of State. EducationUSA is the department’s network of international student advising centers in nearly every country of the world. Our more than 550 dedicated advisors help international students and their families navigate the American college and university admissions process by providing accurate, comprehensive, and current information about the full range of higher education options offered by the more than 4,700 accredited American higher education institutions. Today’s interactive webinar is part of a series aimed at providing you with up-to-date information about current topics related to American higher education. Throughout the program our panelists will answer your questions submitted in the chat space next to the video player. You can also share your questions and comments on Twitter using the hashtag #EducationUSA. Today’s online discussion will include information on how two year programs of study offer high quality academic and technical training cost saving options and opportunities for easy transitions into four year degree programs for international students. We are pleased to have two panels to answer your questions. The first is made up of two community college administrators and will be followed by a panel of two students currently studying at community colleges in the United States. Dr. Anize Appel is the assistant director for the Center for International Education at the Northampton Community College located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She assists in the development management and implementation of international programs and supports the network of international students on campus. She also facilitates the study abroad programs which provided Northampton students with opportunities to visit and study in over 10 countries this year. Heidi Russell-Kalkofen has worked with students coming to the United States for over 30 years on both coasts of the country and in both small private and large public associate degree granting institutions. She is currently an international student coordinator at Montgomery College, a large community college of over 60,000 students located just outside Washington DC. I would like to begin by asking each of you the same question. What is most special about the community college experience in your view? Anize. Well I find it interesting that Northampton Community College we have about 10,000 students that are enrolled and we have a 600 bed facility. We are the only community college in the state of Pennsylvania to have a residence hall and the important word to focus on is community. I think about last year a student that have been traveling for three days who came from Eastern Africa and he arrived at our doorstep he had been accepted to the college but he didn’t realize he needed to fill out the people work for residence hall. So what we like to do is build a relationship with the individual. So for that particular student we made sure that he was fed for two or three days, we made sure he had accommodations in a nearby hotel and while that was happening we filled out the paperwork to make sure that he could move into the residence hall. So for us a community college is about the relationships that we build with each individual. Heidi? Thank you. I think the word community is important because when we talk about our community we’re part of the community so our community college doesn’t have its own hair stylist or it’s own post office, you live in the actual community that’s what you’re there to do and then you come to the college. What that means as well as that we really connected to our county. So in Maryland where I am now the county’s run the community colleges along with the state. Where I was in California was a community college district but it was still its own entity so it wasn’t connected to the federal government, it was connected to the state and the local area and what that means is that those colleges that are responding to the local area. So for us for example, we have Marriott international hotels in our county so we have a very robust hospitality management program. We also sit where the human genome project does all of its magic in biotechnology so we have an amazing biotechnology program. We need to respond to that in order to prepare our students for the rest of their education because that associate degrees is really just the first part of that whole bachelor degree program and moving on in higher education. Thank you both, very interesting. Let’s go back for a moment and tell our viewers what are community colleges and how do they fit into the US higher education system? Well at Northampton Community College and I’ll speak a little for Heidi as well, the community college offers the first two years of the higher educational degree and for Northampton students and I’m sure as well for Montgomery, students can come in, we have an intensive English as a second language program so even if you have already an advanced degree from the country that you’re from, you can come to Northampton and finish a credential and improve your English skills which will then allow you to move on to additional programming. In addition to that it also serves as a pathway for a diverse community to gain higher education. We serve a diverse community of learners from those who are English as a second language speakers and myself I actually attended a community college because I didn’t have a prerequisite to go onto a master’s program and this was many years ago but it really serves the community in a broad variety of ways. So I think what’s special about the associate degree because I’ve worked at public and private institutions doing the associate level education, is that it focuses in the United States we want to have a liberal arts education, liberate minds of our students and a lot of that is focused and concentrated that wide variety of courses that students take its concentrated in those first couple of years of education, the first half of that bachelor degree and so that means that all the students on your campus are really looking at doing that very important work of deciding what they’re studying and getting that basic broad grounding in all the other areas that allow students to be creative and innovative by being able to make connections between different types of things. So that associate degree has a very special purpose. It’s also its own credentials so that if you need to complete and stop for time before you move on thats you can do that but I don’t know about Pennsylvania certainly in California and Maryland it’s also something that the states do when they fund to say we want our students at the lower division level to go to the community college because that saves our money for our universities to focus on higher research and upper division work and PhD research and so they really guarantee, Maryland and California both basically guarantee that if you get an associate degree, you move directly into the state university system. They are really just the first part of that whole state university system. Is that the main difference between two and four year between two-year community colleges and four-year institutions or what would you say the the main differences are? I think there’s a couple of things to talk about I’m in terms of the differences between a two-year and four-year policy. At Northampton we like to say although we’re two-year college it has a four-year feel and that’s because we have many articulation agreements with state colleges. We’ve had graduates of Northampton Community College to move on to prestigious universities some of them even in the Ivy Leagues. So it is great for an international student in particular who’s transcript may not reflect the rigor the academic rigor that we look for for a student who perhaps finished their high school lessons here in the US. But it’s a great pathway for them to enter get the two years. In fact we had a student who won the Jack Kent scholarship which was a hundred thousand dollars and he had a choice to attend any college in the nation so as an international student is a great pathway for you to enter the education the higher educational system here in the US. Thank You, Heidi? I agree I think that we’ve had students that move on to all kinds of institutions because we’re in the greater DC area they go to Georgetown and American all kinds of great places and so I think we have to help our students understand that the academics are exactly the same as the lower division coursework that they would get at any high quality institution university. For us many of our faculty are the same but in addition to that we serve the community in other ways so we have credential programs and specialized programs where we do training that maybe for a shorter time than the just the beginning of university study and that means we also have professionals in fields that come in and teach for us. So we have the faculty that we may share with our neighbor universities that are teaching with us with their academic rigor but we also have people directly from the field and that’s particularly useful of course and things like business that come in and can teach to our students in their community. So do community colleges have the same high quality academic standards as four-year institutions? Absolutely. I definitely say that Northampton Community College has had three of the last seven professors of the year for the state of Pennsylvania and that is a huge accolade to the quality of the instruction the academic preparation that our instructors impart upon our students. Absolutely and and I agree we have high-quality students but I think the articulation that you were talking about before is the other important part. If Georgetown University want to take our courses directly and transfer and say they are exactly the same they’re recognizing that those are exactly the same forces. So why are community colleges a particularly good option for international students? Again, I’m you know I’m first generation American so I understand what it may feel like to come into the United States and and not be able to attend the college of your choice. My father for instance he had graduated from high school in his home country and when he came to the United States it was challenging for him to get accepted into a four-year university so he attended a community college. It is a great pathway to prepare yourself for the continued study that you would like to pursue in addition to the fact again a community college is a community. Particularly at Northampton Community College it’s a family. Our associate dean for the Center for International Education Dr. Manuel Gonzalez as well as Patty Bullet, they’ve been at the college between 26 30 years collectively together they have built a report and a relationship with our alumni and we’ve seen marriages we’ve seen children so it is a community is not just come get this credential and move on. We actually keep in touch with you and we you know encourage your success. Well-said. Excellent. Do two-year institutions have the same accreditation process as four-year institution? It’s the same one we’re in the middle of going through ours now. So institutions in the United States are regionally accredited and therefore they are accredited by their peers and it’s exactly the same process they’re looking at all the same things and they are seen in the same way and it again since all of that coursework does transfer over in fact for many institutions if you as teachers will associate degree just transfers is a block of courses then it really has to look exactly the same. Okay, going back to international students at community colleges what would you say are the biggest opportunities for them at your institutions and at community colleges generally? I would say much like even the native-born American students on the idea of pursuing general studies, at Northampton Community College we have preferred deadlines but we really bend to meet the needs of the students so our spring semester deadline was November seventeenth but we may have students that apply in December and again this goes back to that personal relationship where we work with the student independently to assure their success to make sure that they are accepted and they are pursuing a pathway that will gain them what their ultimate goal is. I think for us again it goes back to that community so that we do have that relationship with the community so students who want to pursue their education and also get some experience in their field have the opportunity to do that and it’s very local and it’s very connected. The other thing that I think is important at least at all the institutions I’ve worked at is that those lower division courses if you go to a large institution you maybe in an introduction to psychology class with a thousand other students. We don’t have a classroom the even seats that many on our campus so I think our largest classroom is probably 80. So one of the greatest opportunities is the chance for students to get to know their faculty, they are expected to get to know their faculty and our faculty are there to teach they’re not there to do research they’re not there do anything else they’re there for their students so they get that opportunity to really get to know faculty and to have those connections in the community. Its very interesting – sorry – I just want to add one other thing. I believe also community colleges, we have open enrollment policies so for at least Northampton you don’t need to have IELTS or TOEFL scores. You come in and we’ll get you squared away with our English as a second language program but the idea of knowing that if you apply you meet the basic criteria of the age and the high school diploma you’re accepted. So yes I think most community colleges want just completion of the equivalent of secondary education as their academic credential for admission. At our particular institution we have a variety of wonderful language schools near us so that we do have a floor for English level before we can accept students that we do need things like IELTS and TOEFL. But each community college is going to have again that brings in a diversity of students to so you’ve got students who are looking for a variety of different outcomes. They may want technical training or they may want their university degree so that we can offer that to all of our students. Before we move on to our next question, just very quickly to go back to English language training, can you talk a little bit about the specific training that you do in English for students? Is there any for prospective students or is it is one students arrive and then what happens as they proceed through their studies? Okay, at Northampton Community College again you don’t have to have TOEFL or IELTS. You apply, you meet all of the guidelines for the application process, we accept you. Once you come in that’s when we conduct the placement test. The placement test will tell us where you sit on the scale of reading writing speaking and listening and once we once you’ve taken those tests we place you in the appropriate course work and you have basically someone who’s holding your hand through that whole process. Some students may complete English 1 through 4 in the first year and a half depending on the student but again we work with each individual student we meet them where they are to help them to get to where they want to go. So on our campus we have basically three levels of English so we have English as a second language which is designed for students who are really preparing to start academic study we have english courses that are college level English but for non-native speakers and then we have students who are native level english speakers so in that middle level our students are able to sort of mix both English and other courses. I say you may start with your English and you mix in with some of your degree courses and then you move to all degree courses eventually so it allows students to transition that gives them the chance to be part of a college community and be on a college campus do all the fun things like got all the games and go to all the productions and the performances and to be part of all of that but they’re also working on their English as well as continuing to prepare themselves for their degree level study. So our next question from our viewers goes to something you just mentioned being part of a community and how special part that is the experience of being at a community college why do your institution seek to enroll international students and how do they become part of your communities? Our president at Northampton Community College feels that internationalization is a very critical component it’s actually one of our strategic priorities. Its diversity and global engagement so we are actually seeking to increase the number of international students so that the experience of our traditional students in parentheses is enhanced. The opportunity again to build these relationships with individuals and not the idea of just the paper. Our study abroad program works through that as well. We’ve had international students participate in our study abroad program which may be something they may not have been able to do previously and that’s how we build those relationships one person to another person. Absolutely, every year I say to our students getting ready to graduate at graduation rehearsal, that when we pull our American students our US-born students that one of the things that they highlight most specifically about being at Montgomery College is that they had the chance to meet all these people from all over the world and how exciting that is for them that they really appreciate that. We are fortunate where we are to be in a very diverse community so that the diversity is reflected it also means that there’s somebody around to tell you where the really good food from home is but that allows us then to really highlight and focus in on why we want to have these students because we also have immigrants from those countries for many of those same countries and they also want to understand what’s going on in their countries currently so it makes for a lot of good conversation. So is it fair to say that international students fit into your strategic plans and vision for your colleges and if so how do you see things developing? They definitely do at Northampton Community College. We have over 60 clubs and organizations for our students and one of those organizations international student organization and in fact today at this moment actually in about an hour there’s an international student presentation in alignment with International Student Week. So as a college we come together we enjoy the diversity of the cuisine the music the entertainment and it really helps us to become a better more connected community. Yeah I think for us about thirty percent of our students are not born in the United States overall and so it really is a very important part of our community to celebrate that diversity every opportunity we get and our students appreciate that and our staff and our faculty and our president all appreciate that so we too are celebrating International Education Week so at this point in time we’ve had celebrations on all of our campuses and we’re very excited to make our students a part of that. That’s quite an impressive vision. Our next question is if you could tell us about the international student support services that you have on campus. Are there clubs, special programs that students can take advantage of? How did they meet American students? Do they? So we have students from 45 different countries at Northampton Community College and again we have over 60 clubs and organizations for any student who is able would like to join and it ranges from international student organization to the Muslim student organization to a variety of other. So through those opportunities the students can meet and connect with other students. We also have a twice-yearly what we call a quad fest where the whole campus we have three locations plus online where each campus can meet they can they can get together meet each other enjoy music and fun. It’s the support services in terms of tutoring they’re all free. So we have a learning center so if they need some additional tutoring with their English or maybe they’re taking chemistry all they have to do is go to our Learning Center and make an appointment and they can meet with someone who will help them to study and prepare for the exams or any other stressful. We also have counseling services that’s available to our students that’s free sometimes we don’t always realize when we are undergoing culture shock so it might manifest in a variety of ways so our counseling department make sure that they get to know each individual student again its that person to person connection to make sure that we can help them along their way. Right so we too have our own offices that we work with our international students we have some special programs when they first come in to help them get settled and get oriented because our general community is so diverse we also have counselors that speaks several different languages we have a lot of opportunities for students to get involved with clubs and organizations. But I think one of the special things where we are right now in the Greater Washington DC area is that we have good connections with our embassies that are in the DC area too so there are lots of community events. Most of I believe, most of the dependants and employees of these of the embassies live in our county so we have lots of opportunities to come together. We just had a big Diwali celebration at our Civic Center that our students were part of and that we were able to be at. So we get involved with the community as well to get those kinds of programs working to support our students. Very interesting. Our next question is about how students move from community colleges to four-year institutions to complete a bachelor’s degree. Could you talk a little bit about that process and what you’ve seen students experience? What we what you were talking about earlier with articulation agreements, articulation agreements are discussions and and probably contracts between institutions so some of it is very simple as I was saying in California in Maryland and many other states in the United States if you graduate from that state community college you are guaranteed a place in their state university system it’s a simple transition. At our institution now you fill out an application when you first come in and tell the University, the state university system “I want to go to you when I’m done”. And then they know and that way they essentially save a place for you they don’t recruit as many students because they know they have students coming in from the community college that they have saved a place for you. As far as the transition, we work also with the University of Maryland system to assist our students who are transferring so we are developing at a special international student transfer program because our students go there in such large numbers that we need to make certain that we have a very specific pathway we don’t have to repeat all the things they learned from us about how to deal with having a student visa and living in the United States we just need to know what’s different and what those transitions mean because it really is a pretty simple transition for them. For for us at Northampton Community College we like to say we’re in the center of the action we’re about an hour and a half an hour and 15 minutes from New York City about an hour from Philadelphia and about two-and-a-half to three hours from Washington DC so the transfer process does not just affect the Pennsylvania colleges we have sent students in fact an international student from Kenya recently graduated from Columbia University so we work hand-in-hand with the individual to make sure that they are their end goal is what we’re working towards our transfer office works very closely with them and again the Center for International Education we’re a team of individuals that are there to support you not just through the educational process but through some of those challenging times as well. Thank you very much. So with so many good options in terms of community colleges how to students find the right community college for them and what factors should they consider? That whole community thing you know you’ve spoken about how you’re working individually with students, your population is different than our populations so some of it is about location and about size some of it is going to be about urban versus suburban versus rural. But certainly also want to look at the programs because all community colleges specialize in something because they often do reflects that community so again for us if it were biotechnology or or hospitality management then you’d be looking for something specific. If it is something more general a lot of community colleges are going to be responding to the general needs that that are seen all around the country and you also want to see where they do have articulation agreements with where you can transfer easily to. I always tell students figure out what your final goal is and then when you step back we can help you figure out how to get there. So I agree. At Northampton Community College again we have over a hundred programs, we have microcredentials, we have specialized diplomas, certificates, so you really have to look at what the institution is offering and make sure that that’s the pathway, the foundation that you’d like to utilize to spring to your next step even if the microcredential is the next step that you want to take. Thank you, so we have reached the final question for this first part of our program. Could you tell us a little bit about what makes your respective institutions unique and special at Northampton Community College and Montgomery College? Again I think it’s the relationships. Again the Associate Dean Dr. Manuel Gonzalez has been there for 26 years. Patty Boulous who’s doing international admissions for 30 years. We have someone who works in our admissions office, his name is Mark he also, he’s the the advisor for the international student organization so our international students are different but the same in the sense that we embrace the diversity but they’re just like every other student and building those relationships where we’re excited about having international students throughout through our homes. We have people that volunteer as host families so it really is if you’re looking for a family feel with someone who’s going to hold your hand when you’re in crisis and someone to kind of help you move along when you’re stuck that’s what Northampton Community College is. Thank you Anize. Heidi? Montgomery college is really so fortunate to have its location and it’s connection to the county in the state be such a central part of what it does. So our students can do internships at the library of Congress, National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Science and Technology and so because we have those connections and we have those opportunities for students because of where were located and because of our connection to the community, we’re really able to offer students a lot of chances to get experience in their fields which I think is a unique part of our institution. Thank you both for such valuable insights for our viewers. We are now going to move to the second half of our web chat to speak to two international students currently enrolled at community colleges in the United States. But first we would like to show you some remarks by Dr. Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States and a proud community college instructor. In my classroom, I have students from all over the world from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Europe. Most of my students are immigrants and many of whom have left behind their families their friends and everything that was familiar to them to get an education in the United States because there’s something I think very special about our institutions. They’re open, they’re diverse and encourage freethought. We have such a vast and vibrant system that allows students to reach their full potential. I often say that my students are my heroes because many of them have had to overcome so many obstacles in life. Conflicts, tragedies, heartbreaking losses. But they’re turning the page on their past. Regardless of their circumstances they show up. They work hard and they believe like you do that anything is possible. I’m now joined by Camilla Matamoros who is a student at Montgomery College. Camilla is from Cali, Colombia and is in her last semester as a business major. She told me she chose Montgomery College because of the diversity of students at the college, especially the opportunity for her to meet people from cultures she was not familiar with. Kelvyn Osaria is a student at Northampton Community College. He is the second of four children in his family and was born in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. He is a participant in the community college initiative program, a program sponsored by the Department of State that provides a quality academic experience at US community colleges intended to build technical skills, enhance leadership capacity capabilities and strengthen English language proficiency. Kelvyn is a business administration major. I’d also like to begin by asking each of you the same question I did before, what is most special about the community college experience in your view? Well basically I can say that the experience of being in a diverse community and in this particular institution, Northampton Community College I have the opportunity to not only meet new Americans but also I have the opportunity to meet a lot of people from other countries which is very awesome. Camilla? Well same in Montgomery College. We have the opportunity to have people from all over that world. It’s not only meeting the person but also meeting their religion, their opinion about the world. So that’s amazing for me. Okay thank you very much. Why did you both choose to study in the United States and at a community college? Well basically I am participating in the CCI program community college in city program which is a wonderful experience to basically be in an American environment and having an American education which is wonderful because as I come from a third world country sometimes you know it is not really, I mean my country sometimes we don’t really have the opportunity to experience the like different things like we do here. But this particular program that I am participating in and I didn’t have an opportunity like to choose the college that I was going to. However, based on the interviews that I had before, based on my interest they decided, they said that this is going to be the most convenient for me because here I have the opportunity the opportunity to participate in different leadership programs which is basically an open door to success. Thank you. Camilla? Well I chose the United States because in my opinion is a great place. Colombia is also very nice but we don’t have that much opportunities that the United States can give to especially to a student. Maybe my major as well is business so this country it’s a pathway exactly to success, especially in that that career. Just picking up on that, that links to our next question, can you tell us a little bit about your areas of study about your interests about how you envision your career? Well basically, the opportunity of being here is to have an experiential learning in my business field so I can say that Northern Community College has given me the opportunity to not only know about the American culture but also to know how you do business. So through the leadership programs, I am able to grow not only professionally but personally and it’s a wonderful opportunity I think. Same. In Montgomery College I was part of the business club so in here we have learned well I have learned like how to do relations with people in order to have connections with people in order to grow your business. Same as leadership. It’s very important so I have learned all of those aspects in Montgomery College that will help me later with my career. Okay thank you. We have a question from the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal. Could you tell us about programs that your community colleges offer students in general? What are the wide range of offerings that you have not only that you found interesting but that you see other students, international students studying or looking at? Well basically the opportunity to engage with the community and be able to volunteer in the community I think it’s a wonderful experience and also we have the opportunity in Northampton Community College to go to the friend you see and basically I think it’s a great opportunity to expand the skills and in terms of programs itself, as I mentioned, I was participating the leadership program which I find very interesting and it gives me the opportunity to know people from the area and from other different countries as well. And I also was participating an etiquette lunch, which I had the opportunity to meet managers and business owners from the Lehigh Valley, which is a great opportunity to basically grow. Camilla? Montgomery College has a program that is named Phi Theta Kappa. This program is for honors for students so it doesn’t give you only the opportunity to meet great people but also to get involved with the community. So they have very like, where we can go and help people from the church and like different activities to help the community as a whole. So both of you are studying business. What are some of the other areas that international students choose to study? What are some of the best offerings or interesting courses that you have at your colleges? Well in Montgomery College we have pretty much everything. We have nursing, we have computer science, we have what else, yeah those are like the most common ones. I’m sure some languages languages as well yes for sure. Okay, excellent. Yes and at Northampton Community College we have the opportunity to participate in the second language program. So basically they give us the opportunity to strengthen our abilities in the proficiency of English and I think it’s a great opportunity to basically interact with others and also not only that but we also have the opportunity to participate in the communication program where the college you know put us in this part of being able to speak in public so it’s a great opportunity to basically grow. And you’re both doing a fantastic job about speaking to our viewers and public, we’re really pleased at this. So can you tell me, have you gotten involved in campus activities and activities in your community that are not just related to your studies but related to what Anize and Heidi you know described to us as the community itself that is community colleges are so linked to their communities are really and students become a part of the community. Absolutely yes that is one of the good things about Northampton Community College. Northampton Community College give you the opportunity to not only be a regular student but also get involved in the community. For example I am right now volunteering in a church in some other institution as well and I I am a senator. I am from the students senate. So as part of our duties, we are actually the connection between the college and the students as well as well. We are their voice. So basically we make decisions on their behalf and what we’re trying to do is that we basically approve clubs we found clubs and also whenever the students have a great opportunity they have the opportunity to basically bring their ideas of activities that we can have in college. So basically what we do is that we give them support we give them the financial resources as well and we help them to contribute to our community as well because sometimes their ideas is to basically help the community so they come for advice and we give them you know the opportunity to have the funds and also the people they can get involved in their activities as well. Let me quickly follow up because you are a member of student government. How do you feel as an international student being part of the leadership of the whole College in terms of deciding what students want to do, what their priorities are, communicating with the administration that’s a lot of responsibility what does it feel like to have come from the Dominican Republic and then to be involved in the leadership of your college? Well I will say that it is very challenging very demanding because I have to let say as I am an international student I have to be able to communicate effectively with them and also as I have different point of view because I’m coming from a third world country the Domican Republic sometimes I can say that one of the challenges that I have here is that they’re basically the environment. Their culture is different than mine so sometimes i have to adapt to their culture and also bring my culture beliefs. Sometimes I can say that you know in these particular position this is a leadership position which I think is very challenging like I mentioned and will give me the opportunity to basically grow with them and also give my ideas and my voice to be heard. Thank you Kelvyn. Camilla? Montgomery College will also have a club that is called voice for animals we’re trying to raise funds for animals to take them to the shelters or to make people like a little more conscious about on these these animals. The same in that business club, we were trying to raise funds for some women in Africa so the whole idea was they created some necklaces and then here we were on selling them and then with that money we were able either to buy some things for them or to send it back to their country in order to help them. I have to say i find it very impressive you are both very involved in your local communities in your colleges. You’re certainly ambassadors for your countries in your colleges and in the United States. Do American students reach out to that? I mean do you get or are people interested? Do you find that it goes both ways? Yes I think that yes I mean, I think they feel I am I don’t like that word but I think that they feel like engaged in order for them to be also helping help with us. Yes absolutely whenever it comes, whenever I go to an activity, a night out they say “Hey, where are from?” and whenever I say that in from the Dominican Republic they always ” Oh wow, you’re from the Dominican Republic, tell me about it. I mean how’s the weather there?” and everything. So basically I see that it goes both ways so their interest in knowing our culture is the same in terms that we have to know their culture. That’s fantastic. That’s very cool. So our next question is I think is a crucial one, how did you both convince your parents to let you study in the United States? Start with you Camilla. Well yes well actually my father he was here so but he didn’t want me to stay here especially by my own. I don’t have any family here and I had only a few friends so at the beginning I had to make a powerpoint presentation explaining like the pros and cons of why I should here. Of course more pros than cons so that that was for him and then for my mom she was a little nervous because she was like I mean you’re going to be there by yourself. The language that culture and then but i was able to convince her as well so it ended out good. Okay well this is the first time that I’m away from my country and I could say that my parents they know that I am very independent. So when I told them that I wanted to come here to study, they said “Kelvyn are you sure?” and I said yes I am positive I will go and I will do it and I will succeed. And they said well we always we always say yes to whatever crazy idea you might have so yes we’re going to say yes to this one as well and we hope the best. Thank you both very much I mean you know that this makes me think back to my own college experiences and the fact that you know all of us it’s a crucial time in life. Lots of things are changing, lots of challenges. We’re trying to imagine what does this mean for me, what am I going to do in the future? You know there are difficulties as well as opportunities and great experiences. Can you talk a little bit about the struggles or the challenges that you faced in college and you know how you’ve overcome them or how you’ve dealt with them? Basically my biggest challenge has been adapting to this new culture like in the classroom for example because in my country they have the opportunity to work the same way I’m working right now. Let’s say in terms of my studies. Like right now we have an online platform that we have to submit our assignments and all that so basically that was very challenging for me at the beginning but then when you start to realize that in my particular college, Northampton Community College, I have a lot of people that are able to help me and able to you know help me succeed. It’s basically kind of a something good. So this is how we overcome that challenge basically the learning center I have been there a lot of times because you know I was struggling at the beginning with some some classes that they helped me out and thankfully right now you know I am on a good path right now, a good way. Excellent. Camilla? Well my challenge at the beginning was the language and you’re little bit like back at home but when I got here it was totally different. but things got, I mean the American people they have been very very nice with me at college. We have high-quality professors who have been there since the beginning to help me move on to where I’m at now so now I’m already almost I’m near to graduation which is very good. Yeah. And also not only that but the professors in Northampton Community College they have office hours so they always motivate you to visit them in their office hours so besides class you also have an opportunity to talk to them in having a one-on-one conversation so you can succeed if you have if you’re struggling with something you have the opportunity to let them know so they know that you’re from a different country maybe you don’t understand the term because as we are you know as as English is our second language sometimes are you know we don’t understand everything but as we have an opportunity to talk to them directly you know it makes it easy. Yeah we also have those office hours and are great because we have the opportunity to be to be near to our professors so they might know the struggles that you might have either because the language or because you had like a culture shock so I mean it’s great they’re very good people. That great to hear. What are some of the things that have surprised you after coming to the United States and how has your you know how have your impressions of the United States changed since coming here? Well I have realized that you guys are very open to new ideas and very open to new cultures so basically at the beginning I felt that you were not like that but now I realized that I have been treated as a family member right now so I could say that everybody here is very friendly, very nice, very open, and they are able to teach you know to teach you and guide you through the process of being in a different country. I’m glad to hear it, Camilla? Well at the beginning I thought that you were like a little bit disorganized but when I got here I was I’m Catholic I went to that church and in my country we don’t do a line on to receive that communion. But in here you gotta do a line in order to receive a communion so at that moment I was like oh my god This person these people are very straight and even with that traffic, respect that you have to the police it’s amazing for me. I mean you see a police or army soldier and you’re like glad you have it and thankful for that person. Keeping that idea what is different about American classrooms and about the professors that you have that you know different from what you were expecting or what you had imagined? Well I can say that in the American classroom we have a like an interactive conversation so it’s not only what the professors say in the class but you have the opportunity to say your own ideas which is wonderful. Sometimes in our countries we don’t have that opportunity we just sit there and listen to the professor, but here we have the opportunity to you know say something and give your own opinion. Yes, your opinion counts. Sometimes back in our country they are like a little bit more conservative as you said here you guys are a little bit more open-minded. So what you think even though it might be different it’s also important and they take that into account so given that interactive nature of the classroom what do you do if you don’t understand something? What do you do if there’s a like you said with you don’t understand a word or something isn’t clear? I raise my hand. Yeah I’m like otherwise I’ll be, I’ll get behind. And I mean the professors are so good that they have already gave you like that on they let you do that you won’t feel like I’m uncomfortable if you just raise the hand and say like oh my god I don’t understand as well because the other students who might be American they understand that this is not your first language so I mean it’s amazing to have that support from the professors and from the students. I also raise my hand, I ask a lot of questions whenever I don’t understand a term I say hey please can you please give me a little bit of explanation of that term? And no one has ever said oh come on you know let’s move forward? No they are very openly they actually you know give you the opportunity and say okay what I meant was this and that. And for example that are a lot of things that you know maybe sometimes because of time we have the opportunity to cover it in class so there when it comes there are office hours so we can be able to see them after. And so you’re meeting with the professor her or himself in office hours? Yes, that has been actually experience right now I’m taking Economics 202 I have at the beginning I was struggling a lot but I started going to the office hours and my second midterm it was great thanks to that because the professor was so open to explain to me after class I like one-on-one situation which is even better. Fantastic and now you both sound like very busy people in terms of studies and interests and your lives. How do you balance you know school, family, and work and all the opportunities that you have outside of school like sports and that your volunteer options, you know all the things that are available to you at your community colleges? Well at the beginning I was struggling with it with it before but then I realized that organization is the key. So I have an agenda with me all the time and whenever I have an activity I write it down okay on Thursday have an activity. I write it down. So basically I divided the activities by time so I will say okay right now I’m going to study marketing and I’m going to assign two or three hours a day so I can complete that assignment and once I am done with that I can move forward with the other activities during the day and that is basically how I organize myself and right now I am succeeding because of that but at the beginning I was struggling because I didn’t have like a natural plan but then when I realized that organization is important then I you know decided to have a plan and write down everything so I can be able to you know accomplish more and be patient as well. Thank you, Kelvyn. Camilla? Same I think that writing everything in an agenda is the best option just because at the end of the day when you have already completed that assignment you can just cross that out and that’s the best feeling that you can get, crossing it out because you’re already done with it so it’s it has worked also for me. It sounds like you’re both very entrepreneurial, that is you’re interested in many things but through good organization you can balance lots of opportunities. Do you or do you think are there things that you would still like to do in the future in terms of what is you know available to you where you’ve said I you know I just don’t have time or I have too much going on or do you find the balance about about right in terms of you know the way the way your lives are right now? Well right now I have a balance right now but I can say that right now I’m working on a project so once I go back to my country, I’m going to travel the country delivering motivational speeches so what I’m doing I am in my preparation stage let’s say so right now I am attending different leadership conferences and I am reading a lot so I can be more prepared and give more to my country once I go back. So also here I am working on a project to you know kind of the same thing like go to different nonprofit organizations like Boys and Girls club to basically deliver motivational speeches but this time I am pointing with and ex-convict so it’s gonna give his basically life you know changing experience speech about how his life has changed since you know he has been working, he has been in a different program to you know basically overcome you know there are obstacles, his obstacles before. So I think that it gives me the opportunity to not only get the experiential learning here but also I’m going to be more effective once i go back to my country because of this great opportunity. That’s fantastic. Same well right now working in the International Student Office at Montgomery College as the manager. So this experience has I mean has been amazing so right now I’m trying to finish on this period with that until graduation and then after that I’m hoping to do OPT which is also another opportunity for international students to work in in any field in our major. So for now right now I i think that I’m balanced with what I’m doing so I mean I hope that in the future I can start getting some more experience towards my field but for right now I feel that have done well. So, speaking about the future, how do you think that your current experience in at a community college is going to impact your you know your future when you are looking for jobs? Well I can say tremendously. Yeah. This opportunity, it’s a huge opportunity and also not only looks good on a resume but gives me the basically notion of the environment that I’m going to be working in the future. Same, I mean the support this opportunity working at Montgomery College give me like this appearance of how to do an interview because it’s totally different back home. Same as writing a resume. So I mean this has been great because all the skills that I have acquired from this job will benefit my future in other jobs. Thank you both. So we have reached our final question which is what advice would you give prospective students viewers or anyone else who is thinking about studying in the United States and considering studying at a community college? Well I can say never stop dreaming. Everything is possible. I was back in the days like around these day in time back in the years, I didn’t even know that I was going to be here and look where I am. So never stop dreaming, focus on the things that you would like to do then focus on the on your basically general situation and see outside of the box. Yeah that’s true I think that if you have that dream of being outside of your country or meeting some new people just go for it because you don’t know what’s going to happen next and for sure it’s going to be good if you follow your dream and what you want to do, it will be good for sure. Well unfortunately we are we are almost out of time but I wonder if each of you have a few has a few parting thoughts for our viewers? Kelvyn, you gave a lot of encouragement, anything you’d like to say about a community college to end? Well basically Northampton Community College it’s not only an institution but a family like the first day that I came here that I went to that particular institution I felt like at home. So I said this is not going to be something different than my family so this is my new family right now and I’m very proud of that. That’s inspiring. Montgomery College or a community college as its name says it’s a community were if you are struggling there will be someone supporting you so don’t don’t just let your thoughts go you are feeling like that you’re struggling just go for it because there will be like a family that will be able to support you. Well thank you for joining us today Camilla and Kelvyn and thanks to Heidi and Anize who joined us earlier in the program. You can find more information about studying in the United States by visiting the EducationUSA website at www.educationusa.state.gov There you can find information on the five steps to US study, locate an EducationUSA center in your country, one of 413 around the world, connect with us via social media, learn about both in-person and virtual upcoming events research, financial aid opportunities and much more. Thank you and please join us for future EducationUSA interactive web chats