Record Number of International Students Attending SUNY JCC

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JCC students in the Community College Initiative (CCI) Program recently attended a Jamestown Rebels hockey game as part of a group outing. The program is made up of 12 international students at the college.

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SUNY JCC

Santru Mohan watched with glee as the leaves changed colors and fell from their branches in recent weeks. He smiles when talking about the cooling temperatures that have arrived on campus.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the winter and snow because I have never seen snow in my life,” said Mohan, a SUNY Jamestown Community College student from southern India, where temperatures are balmy throughout the year.

Mohan is far from the only JCC student from overseas enjoying wondrous experiences each day. The hospitality and tourism major is one of a record 72 international students from 26 countries and six continents attending JCC’s Jamestown Campus this fall. The previous high was 53 in 2019.

When the college holds its annual Go Global International Education Fair on Nov. 17, attendees will be given an imitation passport that they can get stamped at tables representing many of the countries from which JCC international students call home.

“We have a very busy pipeline of students right now,” said Hannah Pruch, JCC’s global learning coordinator. “We get applications finished and submitted almost every day.”

Pruch expects as many as 12 students — coming from Fiji, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan — to join the college for the spring semester. It’s likely there will be more than 100 JCC international students by next fall.

There are many reasons why the pipeline to JCC from the rest of the world has widened over the past dozen years — not the least of which is the college’s dedication to giving students from around the globe a welcoming home.

“JCC was one of the schools that reached out to me to say hey we like your portfolio, maybe come study at our school,” said Belinda Paine, one of 15 South African students at JCC. “I loved the atmosphere. It was always so welcoming from the first moment I met Hannah. She was so kind. I remember it was midnight our time and we were having a meeting with her. It was so exciting, and they made so much time for us. With JCC you could see the ethos of the school was so different from other places. This was definitely the place I wanted to be at.”

JCC president Daniel DeMarte said “increasing international enrollments is aligned with the college’s strategic plan as well as our diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative.”

“International students add value to both the college and the community,” he added. “They provide an opportunity for local students to develop an understanding of different cultures, while recognizing the common traits that all people share.”

Although international students have attended JCC for decades, the college’s first efforts to attract global learners was in 2008, when the Jamestown Campus residence halls opened, said Nelson Garifi, JCC’s recently retired executive director for academic innovation who has stayed on as a global learning consultant.

As JCC was preparing to open its on-campus housing 13 years ago, an earthquake devastated Sichuan, China.

“SUNY quickly organized a comprehensive initiative to bring 150 Sichuan college students to New York to provide them with continuity in their college studies as most colleges and universities in the region were significantly damaged by the earthquake,” Garifi recalled. “The timing worked well for JCC as we were able to welcome five of those dislocated students to Jamestown for a full academic year, and they have stayed in touch with us ever since.

International students connect with JCC in many ways. Some find the school’s website after doing an online search. Others work with agencies in their country that help them through the process of gathering information and applying to colleges.

Nineteen students are at JCC through U.S. State Department programs. Twelve are part of the Community College Initiative (CCI) Program, which is new to the college this year. Five students are at JCC from the Year of Exchange in America for Russians program, while two Germans came as part of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange.

Additionally, many South African and Australian students come to JCC with the help of International Athlete Management 360, or IAM 360 for short.

The CCI program will allow 12 to 16 international students to come to the college each year, said Lena Young, who coordinates the program for JCC.

Students in the program must complete an extensive application process to be selected by their country’s embassy, including producing eight essays, Mohan said. They are also required to do 75 hours of internship work and 100 volunteer hours while in the U.S.

They spend an academic year at their community college before returning home.

“While they’re here they are writing what’s called an action plan,” Young said. “It’s a plan for what you are going to do to improve your home country and community upon returning from what you learned while in the USA.”

From left, Javier Garcia and Paula Legarra of Spain, and Belinda Paine and Nonjabulo Mathebula of South Africa are four of a record 72 international students attending JCC this semester.

While Pruch expects to travel overseas to meet with prospective students in person when the pandemic releases its grip on the world, most of her first encounters now come via video conferencing.

“That is a change from the pandemic,” she said. “Everyone’s a little tired of Zoom meetings, but for internationals it’s been great. That’s something that wasn’t really utilized before the pandemic. We get to have webinars and one-on-ones. It’s better than email or a phone call. It’s time to sit down together and really get to know them, answer their questions, and address their concerns.”

Pruch said JCC’s caring commitment to international students along with the college’s affordable tuition rates and scholarship opportunities make it a top choice for many.

“A lot of responses we’re getting from prospective students is that they really appreciate that we can take the time to meet with them one-on-one and that they’ve heard from multiple voices at the college, even though they’re not even enrolled yet,” she added. “It seems like a very nurturing and caring environment, which it is.

“I talk to a lot of parents as well, and they’re balancing their budgets,” Pruch continued. “It’s already an added expense to send your child abroad, and then you’re dealing with the currency conversion. You’re dealing with all the added expenses of health insurance. Having competitive tuition and scholarships to offer and convenient housing go a really long way. Parents understand that their child is safe here and cared for and looked after. They know that they’re joining a community and not just becoming one out of 500 people on a campus that no one knows.”

For additional information, contact JCC’s global learning office at 716.338.1291 or visit https://www.sunyjcc.edu/international.

Nationally since 2007, the CCI Program has hosted more than 3,400 participants from 21 countries. This U.S. Department of State program is administered by Northern Virginia Community College in cooperation with the NOVA-led Community College Consortium, of which JCC is a member. For further information, please contact the NOVA CCI Program Team at CCCIP@nvcc.edu and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at eca-press@state.gov. Learn more at https://www.nvcc.edu/ccip/.