#LanguageLearning Part 1: Strengthening English Language Proficiency to Bridge the Digital Divide


In Part 1 of our two-part Language Learning blog series, we highlight the impact the Community College Initiative (CCI) Program has on participants as they strengthen their English language proficiency during their exchange. Check back for Part 2 of our series, in which we will focus on the impact that enhancing English language skills during the CCI Program has had on alumni.

Learning during a pandemic presents a wealth of opportunities and obstacles. Although virtual learning has been around since before the pandemic, increased virtual learning opportunities have led to innovations in online teaching and allowed students to connect with materials in new and exciting ways. However, remote education also has some challenges. In particular, some students find it more difficult to participate and engage in virtual classrooms because they lack the resources necessary to participate, such as a computer or a stable internet connection.

This gap between those who benefit from reliable access to the internet and those who don’t is known as “the Digital Divide.” In Indonesia, as of 2018 over 93 million Indonesians are without access to reliable internet connections creating a digital divide that envelopes roughly 35 percent of the country’s population.

Bridging the Digital Divide

That is where CCI participant Joe Bakhier (Indonesia, Community College of Baltimore County, Tourism and Hospitality, 2021-2022) got involved. When in-person classes were canceled for the remainder of the year in Indonesia, Joe realized how many children in his home community were unable to access online classes. Joe decided to address this challenge head-on by starting a new local English class called “Brave English,” a small class led by himself specifically for children who can’t participate in virtual classes.

Using the English language knowledge he gained from taking University courses in Indonesia, Joe did his best to give his students the personalized education that they were lacking during the pandemic. Although he didn’t have specialized education or training in teaching English, Joe took on the challenge in stride developing individualized learning plans that were fun, engaging, and most importantly informative.

Children sit in a circle coloring on pieces of paper.

Children participating in a coloring activity as part of their Brave English classes.

By the time Joe was selected to participate in the CCI Program he had supported fifteen pupils in his free time and was able to fill the educational vacuum that the children needed. Proudly, Joe shared that the children’s parents reported that their kids now had a genuine passion for English, singing songs, counting in English, using common English expressions, and even winning an English-speaking competition!

Studying in the United States

Now through the CCI Program, Joe is studying at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) and is eager to use his exchange year to strengthen his English language skills and knowledge in his field of study, tourism. His home community of Lombok Island, Indonesia is experiencing a boom in the tourism and service industries. Through his coursework in tourism and hospitality, he hopes to be able to return to Indonesia and impart to others his new English language and tourism knowledge. His ultimate goal is to uplift the economic and educational situation of those in his community.

So far, Joe is hard at work finishing his first weeks of class and is speaking in English every moment he can. Joe shared, “I have been speaking English 24/7 not only with the professors, but also with other CCI participants from different countries. Unconsciously, I feel more comfortable speaking English now. The more I learn English in the class, the more I know about many things that I thought I knew.”

A man stands centered in front of the Washington Monument.


The Impact of the CCI Program

Enhancing CCI participants’ English language proficiency, technical and industry knowledge, and leadership skills empower them to become agents of positive change in their home countries. We can’t wait to see all that Joe will accomplish after his CCI exchange year!


Do you have a story that you would love to share with the Community College Initiative Program? Participants, alumni, instructors, staff, social hosts, and community members are encouraged to share their stories for the chance to be highlighted in future blogs and social media highlights. Follow this link to complete our “Submit A Story” form.


Written by Evan T. Flatt, Alumni Relations and Communications Coordinator
Edited by Dana Brantley, Senior Program Manager
Posted in Academics, Action Plans, Participants, Volunteering.