International Students Celebrated

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Many people from around the world leave their native country to begin a life in America. The reasons for this emmigration are unique to each individual. For many, America represents freedoms and opportunities inaccessible in other countries. For others, such as GCC student, Rickard Andersson of Sweden, it is to satisfy a curiosity, “to see what America is like.”

Regardless of the reason for coming to the United States, international student counselor and Sierra Leone native, Dr. Kamara-Kay, vows that GCC values the international student and is “doing [its] best to make America feel like home.”
In fact, GCC will celebrate
the international experience during World Cultural Week,
May 22 to 26.

According to David Nelson, director of international recruitment, an average of 550 international students attend GCC each semester. There are over 50 countries currently represented on the GCC campus with Japan, Korea, Sweden, Hong Kong/China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines and Armenia accounting for the majority of sending countries.

Currently, GCC is host to 528 international students. According to international student counselor, Mariah Ribeiro, GCC is attractive to foreign students because the college has, “a reputation for academic excellence [and] a high transfer rate to major universities.”

Ribeiro believes international students enrich the cultural mosaic of the GCC campus. “They are a highly valued part of the college because they bring with them their experiences abroad that they share with other students who may never have the opportunity of going to those countries and being exposed to those cultures. They bring that wealth of experience, of knowledge and of history to the campus,” said Ribeiro.

This sort of appreciation and commitment towards the international student by GCC faculty is a major factor in allowing GCC to remain appealing to students coming from countries outside the United States.

According to “Open Doors,” a census report issued by the non-profit educational company, Institute of International Education (IIE), GCC has maintained a steady enrollment for international students despite a drop in numbers of internation student enrollment in other area community colleges and even language school programs.

According to Nelson, GCC ranked 33 in the top 40 of two-year institutions nationwide which enroll international visa students this past year.

When asked to comment on why they chose GCC, international students are quick to explain why the college is regarded highly within the international student community.

After briefly exploring the post-secondary terrain at university in his native Sweden, English major, Alexandre Valencia, enjoys the freedom that the college offers in allowing him to explore his scholastic strengths. “I wouldn’t have started dancing if that wasn’t an option here, you can do a lot of stuff,” said Valencia.

Like many students, Valencia is unsure where his education will lead him, but with a wide assortment of interests including, English, dance, international relations, and philosophy, he credits GCC as an accommodating support system for students.

Along with the benefits offered from a culturally diverse campus, the international student is also a source of significant revenue. Student visas require students remain enrolled in 12 units per semester. At non-resident tuition costs, this works out to be approximately $2,500 per student, per semester. With an average of 550 registered full-time students coming from outside the United States every semester, this generates roughly $1.4 million for the college every fall and spring semester.

Unlike the $28 per unit that resident students pay that goes to the state, the $160 per unit cost for international students stays on campus and is a great benefit to the college’s budget.

International students are prohibited from working outside of the GCC campus. However, because many scholarships are based on merit, not residency, international students are able to receive most of the same scholarships offered to American students.

There are also two scholarships for international students: the international student scholarship and the Dr. Gary Parker scholarship.

The international student scholarship is given to three to four students each year, the amount being determined by “how much money we have in that fund,” said Ribeiro.

The Dr. Gary Parker scholarship is given to one international student each year. Both scholarships are merit based, factoring economic needs, academic performance and involvement in campus activities to determine the recipient.

Fostering the mutually beneficial relationship between the college and its international student body, GCC will host several events in celebration of World Cultural Week, May 22 to 26. These events will showcase the multicultural dynamic that thrives at GCC.

On May 23, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the ISA will host a food fair in the Plaza Vaquero featuring traditional foods from Cuba, China, the Philippines, Iran and Italy – a few examples of countries represented at GCC.

Along with the food fair, the dance department, which includes several international students, will perform dances of various cultures during student hour.

On May 26, the international student association will host a spring dinner dance at the Brookside Country Club in Pasadena. The semi-formal event will run from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. and will include a dinner at 7:45 p.m. and a DJ who will play dance music from various cultures.

Also, to raise money for scholarships, the ISA is selling raffle tickets.

The winners of the raffle will be announced during the food fair and spring dinner dance and will receive day passes to either, Disneyland, Magic Mountain, Universal Studios or San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park.