Community College Initiative Program Creates Opportunities Beyond 10 Months

The Community College Initiative Program helps foreign exchange students attend college in the United States

Albinota Krasniqi, Staff Writer

The Community College Initiative Program (CCI) is an exchange program that is funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). They give people around the world the opportunity to study for one academic year, “10 months” at community college in the U.S.

College of DuPage (COD) is one of the colleges that those students are studying at and with this year being the eleventh year of the program at COD. This year, the program includes 18 students from 6 countries –Kosovo, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Kazakhstan– that are studying Digital Media and Communication. Also, four Ukrainian students from last year are currently studying their second year focused on film.

Provided by Kayla Chepyator

Last year, CCI included 18 students from 7 countries: Kosovo, South Africa, Columbia, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine and Ghana.

This exchange program is a good opportunity to develop new skills and gain more knowledge about your field of study. Also, international students are learning more about  American culture while giving and receiving knowledge from other cultures. Here students have some required hours of volunteering and internship which helps them to meet more people, contribute to the community and learn new things in their field.

After returning to their countries, students are more likely to get opportunities for internships or jobs thanks to CCI. Venera Gashi was a CCI participant last year, originally hailing from Kosovo.

“I have applied at an organization called Democracy for Development (D4D) and I’m doing a paid internship there. CCI leveled up my CV and this gave me a chance to do my internship,” Gashi says.

Also, even if this program is not directly affecting their future, what they got here is helping them now in their country. Martin Jonah from Ghana, a CCI student from last year, uses his degree and his connections to help in his everyday life.

“I majored in Electromechanical Engineering at COD so I had the greatest opportunity to work with the engineers at College of DuPage,” Jonah says. “They still help me out with things I don’t understand even back home.”

CCI and these studies at COD are influencing them to be able to work in companies that previously would not accept them. Jonah says that he only applied to one company, but before the CCI program they didn’t accept him. However, he tried again after returning home and now is working there.

The opportunities for practice at COD are many, but you need to know what you want and where your goal is to go. Participants of this program had internships here that they dreamed of and this program helped them try new things. Daniel Paez Sanchez, from Columbia, is one of those students.

“My internship was in a flight academy in the maintenance department since my major was in engineering,” Sanchez says. “I did really want to get it in the aviation field because that’s what my career is about. I could learn from airplanes I had never worked before which has built knowledge in me so I can use it as work experience.”

We may hear different reasons why someone would apply to programs like CCI, but everyone hopes that they will get good things during the program or after. Hana Hulić from Bosnia and Herzegovina came for a different perspective from COD.

“I came to this program with the purpose of expanding my knowledge about media, because a lot of the things media-wise originate from the U.S. so I knew that professors could share a bit more insight than professors from my hometown,” Hulić said.

Culture exchange is one of the pillars that CCI has and Florent Kuçi from Kosovo, said that he liked this part most because this helped him to learn more about the world. Also, now back in his country, he has more job opportunities. Now, Kuçi is getting job offers to work as a story writer or be a journalist for a TV program.

There are countries where this program is not valued as much as in others, but that experience affected their resume. Din Hozdic, from Bosnia and Herzegovina said that in their country it is not appreciated as much that  he studied here, but this program has helped him to improve his skills and knowledge. 

Studying for a second year at COD through this program is an opportunity now being enjoyed by four last year students from Ukraine. Zoia Shumak is one of them and said this is unforgettable for her. “In addition to the promised media education program, I was introduced to film studies and now this is a degree I am pursuing,” added Zoia. 

It is important to get out of your comfort zone and try new things that will help you in the future. Ali Murat Soylu, from Turkey, did an internship of about 170 hours at one of the best restaurants in the Chicago area and it helped him to have a job now in this field. 

“I started applying for jobs before returning to my country. I am working in an Italian restaurant”, said Soylu.

From these stories we can see that this is an experience for one academic year, but it is more worthwhile than that. It doesn’t depend on where you are, but what you want to do and if you are working to make your dreams come true. CCI will help you try new things, but what you get out of it is what you choose.