COD Welcomes Students From Around The World Through The Community College Initiative Program


Image by Eva Koureta

Eva Koureta, Staff Writer

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to remove information that indicated the CCI program provides participants funding for non-programmatic travel. The program does not provide funding for that type of personal expense. We regret the error.

College of DuPage has opened its doors to welcome 18 students from around the globe. The U.S. State Department is sponsoring the annual Community College Initiative Program (CCIP), which gives these students the opportunity to create an outstanding career in their field of interest. 

“This program is not only a chance to follow your career dreams, but also to expand your knowledge in any matter,” said Kayla Chepyator, community college initiative Program coordinator. At COD, foreign students can pursue a one-year certificate program in the field of their choice, take advantage of opportunities for professional internships and participate in service learning and community engagement activities. 

Din Hodzic, a 20-year-old foreign student from Bosnia and Herzegovina, is pursuing his certificate in Mass Communication. “I am glad to be a part of this outstanding program. Even though I have been at COD for only two months, I’ve learned and developed new skills that will assist me later on in my career. I already feel like a different person, more mature and independent due to the fact that I left my country and moved across the world to chase my dreams. I am grateful and honored that COD is a part of my journey.” 

For the current academic year, the visiting students represent seven different countries: Kosovo, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, Colombia, Ghana, South Africa.

Image by Eva Koureta

“Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), which administers the CCI Program on behalf of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, selects colleges with strong program offerings to be members of the NOVA-led Community College Consortium and host CCI participants,” Chepyator said. “The current programs that COD offers are in Applied Engineering, Early Childhood Education, Business and Management, Hospitality and Tourism including Culinary Arts, Motion Picture Television-Media-Graphic Design, Horticulture and Agriculture, Public Safety and IT. This year we are piloting a new program in Mass Communication, which will help to educate our participants in identifying and combating misinformation in both traditional and digital media.”

The CCI program offers a lot more than education. Based on the international students, CCIP provides them with all the necessities for an exciting period in their life away from their home countries. Activism, volunteering and sightseeing are just a few of the activities the program offers. Almost every weekend the students are assigned to activities that help them learn more about American culture, such as visiting the Illinois State Capitol, field trips to Verona, Wis., and sightseeing in downtown Chicago. What students are mostly looking forward to is visiting Devils Lake in Wisconsin.

Venera Gashi, who is from Kosovo, said she’s already found a sense of belonging. 

“The most exciting part, after a long week, is being able to meet with your new friends, I call them my second family, and just enjoy our time in America. It’s a dream come true, and I’m glad that I am a part of a great college with many opportunities like COD,” said Gashi. 

As for the student’s expenses, especially when moving across the country, the CCI program provides them with apartments close to COD, which help the students attend their classes without the need of transportation.

According to Chepyator, this program is not only an opportunity for academic and professional growth, but also for personal growth. Students who are motivated and passionate are those who always succeed in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. COD has participated in this program since 2012 and has hosted 156 students from 15 countries worldwide. After receiving their certificate students return to their countries with a greater chance of continuing their studies or getting a job.

For more information on the Community College Initiative Program visit: