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Grant expands college consortium that hosts foreign students

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Abdul Qayyum, 32, of Pakistan, spent a year at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC), earning two certificates—in project management and nonprofit leadership and administration—as well as volunteering in the community, learning about American culture and acquiring workforce skills that will be useful back home.

More foreign students will have opportunities like that, thanks to a $6.8-million grant awarded to NVCC by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to expand the work of the Community College Consortium (CCC), which has been providing educational and cultural experiences to international students since 2009. Led by NVCC, the CCC includes Miami Dade College (Florida), Houston Community College (Texas), City College of San Francisco (California), Maricopa Community Colleges (Arizona) and the College of DuPage (Illinois). The new grant funding will allow Bunker Hill Community College (Massachusetts) to join the consortium.

The total number of participating foreign students at CCC colleges will increase from 79 for the academic year that just ended to 150 for the upcoming year, said Syedur Rahman, CCC project director and director of International Sponsored Programs at NVCC.

Students will arrive in July from 13 countries: Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, Panama, Dominican Republic, Kenya, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire. The goal is to have no more than four from a particular country at the same college, Rahman said.

The students are in business administration and management, media studies, hospitality and tourism, and information technology. Either the U.S. embassy or the bi-national commission in the students’ home countries selected the participants. It’s a highly competitive process, Rahman said. The grant covers their tuition, housing, travel, books and other expenses.

This is not a degree program, although in some cases the credits they earn will transfer to their home country, he said. The students will be able to improve their skills, making it easier for them to enter the job market when they get back. And the expertise they acquire will help contribute to the economic development of their home countries.

Cross-cultural connections

Just as important, Rahman said, is the opportunity to learn about American society and culture. The foreign students are required to contribute 100 hours of volunteer service, although many do much more.

Qayyum put in close to 300 hours volunteering at the Library of Congress, the National Book Festival and the Transitional Housing Corp. Other foreign students at NVCC have volunteered at hospitals, meals-on-wheels programs, the National Day of Service and International Education Week.

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