International exchange programs like the Community College Initiative (CCI) Program have an undeniable impact on exchange participants. With increased workforce development skills, a better understanding of U.S. culture, and a strong academic foundation, CCI participants return to their home countries as changed individuals.
But exchange programs transform more than the individual—they also bring positive changes to the institutions that host international exchange participants. One of the nine community colleges currently hosting CCI participants—College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL— provides a prime example.
For the past seven years, College of DuPage (COD) has hosted 107 CCI international exchange participants from 13 different countries. In six of those seven years, CCI participants came from countries not otherwise represented in the college’s international student body.
This year, for instance, CCI participants from Bangladesh, Cote d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, and Kenya are the only international students representing those countries. Their presence in classes, campus organizations, local volunteer events, and professional internship sites exposes domestic students, faculty, and staff at COD, as well as local residents, to global cultures and perspectives from five countries to which they would not otherwise be exposed. At different times since 2013, CCI participants from nine countries—Bangladesh, Cote d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, South Africa, and Turkey—have been the only students from those countries to study at COD.
Beyond simple numbers, CCI participants strengthen the diversity of their host institutions through high involvement in campus activities and the broader community. At COD participants have taken on leadership roles in college clubs and organizations and contributed more than 15,000 hours in volunteer and internship work at local businesses and organizations.
In celebration of the contributions of the college’s CCI participants, in the summer of 2018 College of DuPage included five CCI participant stories and photos in the college’s “International Hall.” The International Hall is a large study and gathering space, and along the walls are the stories and photos of 12 noteworthy COD international students. The Hall also showcases the flags from all the countries that COD international students represent as well as artifacts from several countries.
By contributing to their host communities and diversifying the representation of countries within U.S. community colleges, CCI participants at COD bring a unique value added to campus life.