International Students Excel Oceans Away From Home

CHUCK REYES
El Vaquero Staff Writer

The college experience has always been described as both a scary and exciting one. For no one is that more true than the international student.

Far from home in a foreign country, international students have found a home in community colleges, which have become a melting pot of nationalities from around the world. GCC is no exception.
What follows is a look at two of the six international students to be profiled; these students have excelled in their studies despite living away from their home country.

Chie Koiizuka

To call Chie Koiizuka a hard worker would be a gross understatement. Back in her native country of Japan, Koiizuka, 28, dreamed of coming to America, the West Coast, more specifically Los Angeles.

In 2004, such opportunity opened up for her, and through an agency in Japan, Koiizuka was offered a number of schools she could attend. Among them were Citrus College, Santiago Canyon College and MiraCosta College, but it was GCC that caught her eye. “It was the closest to L.A.,” she said.
Although she had learned some English in her school in Japan, Koiizuka felt that she needed further education in the language. When she arrived in California she “took language school for two months” before enrolling at GCC.

With a stronger command of the English language, Koiizuka became a GCC student in fall of 2004. Her goal was an associates degree in accounting, but the way Koiizuka chose to pursue this goal is slightly different than many of her peers. While most college students take two years to complete an associate degree, Koiizuka wanted hers in one.

In her first semester on campus, she took a full load of 17 units, and not willing to take a break, took another seven in the winter. This spring semester she is taking 17 units, and plans to take another six in the first summer session and five in the second session. She is also a member of the school’s ESL club.

Koiizuka does not deny the challenge of her workload, “It’s really hard, hopefully I can keep my grades up,” she said. Undoubtedly, such a workload would be a challenge for anyone, but Koiizuka and her diligence has allowed her to keep up her 4.0 GPA.

Koiizuka hopes her hard work in America pays off when she returns to Japan by the end of summer. “I want to find a job in Japan, in a consulting firm,” said Koiizuka.

Monica Nandwani

Monica Nandwani has, just recently, reaped the benefits of her own hard work. Hailing from Bacolod City, Philippines, Nandwani, 18, was already accepted to the University of the Philippines after she completed high school, but chose to take a year off to visit the United States through a foreign student exchange program.

While living with a Danish family in California, Nandwani fell in love with her new surroundings “I asked my dad if I could try it out in California,” she said and was thrilled when her father encouraged her to apply to several California universities.

Due to the fact that the Philippine high school system differs from its American counterpart, Nandwani was declined by a number of UC and Cal-State campuses, whose international offices suggested first attending a community college. Unsure at first, she asked herself, “Should I stay here or Manila (Philippines)?” But with a pull she couldn’t deny, Nandwani chose America. With an aunt living in the Glendale area, GCC was the practical choice.

In the spring of 2003, Nandwani came to Glendale and enrolled in GCC. Like the high school system, the college systems also greatly differ, and Nandwani had to learn this the hard way, “I didn’t know anybody here…I had to learn everything by myself.”

Due to an enrollment mix-up, Nandwani was not placed in the very meticulous nursing program that she wanted. Determined not to give up, she learned how GCC’s ladder system of requisites and prerequisites and enrolled in all the classes she needed to get into four-year university nursing programs. “Luckily, I signed up for all the right classes, or else I would’ve been screwed,” Nandwani said, laughing.

With a full class load a current 4.0 GPA, she had her heart set on the nursing program in Cal-State LA. It was through the suggestion of a kindly aunt one winter evening that Nandwani considered applying also to Johns Hopkins University. She paid for the $70 application fee and completed the necessary papers and essays, not expecting a positive response.

“It was all really serendipitous, like all my choices led to just one path,” said Nandwani, about her acceptance into Johns Hopkins. It is her final semester at GCC, and she is taking a five unit class to get the one extra unit she needed for Johns Hopkins and to keep the full-time student workload required for international students. “It’s incredibly hard being an international student,” said Nandwani. “I’ve been very lucky.”