During late November, International Education Week, also called Global Education Week, is celebrated worldwide. College of DuPage holds many activities including presentations, workshops and films to highlight a variety of topics. For example, one of our COD English faculty held a discussion on the history of East Berlin and the “Fall of the Wall” in 1989 when Germany reunited, citing East German writer Christa Wolf, “was bleibt,” or what remains as a starting point for students’ discussion. It also an opportunity to highlight the benefits of joint initiatives between the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders to study, learn, and exchange experiences.
Participation is welcome for all individuals and institutions interested in international education and exchange activities, including schools, colleges and universities, embassies, international organizations, businesses, associations, and community organizations.
You’re Live On Camera
I was invited to present in a series of IEW events at Education USA in Zagreb; Ana Uglešić asked if I was interested in delivering a Facebook Live presentation on the US Embassy Zagreb website. I quickly responded I would love to! Before getting on another bus (it’s about 3 ½ hours from Zadar to Zagreb), I prepared a series of PowerPoint slides on the American Community College system, covering topics in placement testing, course schedules, transfer information and academic advising. I showed up to the Education USA office in the evening and met a videographer and staff before the bright lights turned on and I was on camera.
The time went quickly as I passionately discussed the definition of a community college and ways for international students to study at community colleges in the United States. I encouraged international students to apply to community colleges they may be interested in: https://www.facebook.com/zagreb.usembassy/
I began the FaceBook Live presentation with a video clip: “What’s it like at College of DuPage,” a Youtube video I helped script with our COD Multimedia Services department this past summer: https://youtu.be/bAXrt20-CVQ
Next, I explained a brief history of community colleges in the early 1900s. Croatia is not familiar with the community college system, and I reviewed how two-year community colleges signaled a dramatic change that expanded educational opportunities for all.
The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) is the primary advocacy organization for the nation’s community colleges. The association represents nearly 1,200 2-year, degree-granting institutions and enrolls approximately 13 million students — nearly half of all undergraduates in the United States.
Community colleges are often called junior colleges, technical colleges, two-year colleges or city colleges. From the beginning, these institutions were often called “the people’s colleges,” because they helped to level the field for students wishing to pursue higher education. They provide a tertiary education, or continuing education, granting certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees. States with the largest number of public community colleges are California, Texas, North Carolina, Illinois, and New York.
State universities typically offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs. Community colleges are student centered and offer courses students can use for general education requirements. (example GE’s: Psychology, Biology, Sociology) You can then transfer to a four-year university to finish your bachelor’s degree.
Community colleges serve multiple missions—from workforce training, to remediating students in preparation for higher education, to community enrichment.
Community colleges offer students the opportunity to save money, prepare for transfer to a four-year college, get ready for a career, and take advantage of a flexible schedule.
How do I apply?
I encouraged students to apply at least one year in advance to ensure they have enough time to complete the steps to enrollment before the start of the semester.
Each type of student requires a slightly different application process. It is important to spend time researching a variety of community college websites. Read the descriptions carefully and click the one that fits you best to give you a brief outline of your admission process.
New students seeking admission to a specific program often have to provide appropriate transcripts and participate in placement assessment to meet prerequisites or corequisites, unless an exemption is met. When new students are able to meet the specific admission requirements for a given curriculum, they may then be enrolled in that curriculum and remain in the program as long as they make satisfactory progress and remain enrolled on a continuous basis as required by their curriculum.
Even programs that are open enrollment do not automatically register students for college-level classes. While community colleges provide higher education for all, they have standards that students must meet to advance academically.In order to determine if developmental course work is necessary, most community colleges require placement tests, such as:
- College Board’s ACCUPLACER
- ACT’s COMPASS
- State-specific tests like Florida’s College-Level Academic Skills Test (CLAST)
- The college’s own tests
The SAT or ACTmay also be used for placement purposes. At some community colleges, students who achieve certain SAT or ACT scores may be exempt from taking placement tests in reading, writing or math.
Some programs are selective and have limited enrollment. They usually have a separate application and specific admission requirements. Selective programs are primarily found in these fields:
- Allied health
- Law enforcement
- Engineering technology
- Computer technology
Qualified high school students may dual enroll in structured pathways that lead to a certificate, diploma, or degree.
Registration can be done online or in person. You may schedule registration through an established online account. Students are given login information upon registration. There are several staff members and faculty here to help in the process.
Community colleges provide a quality education without spending as much money as university students. For example, at College of DuPage, the cost of tuition is $137 per credit hour; most students register for a 12-15 credit hour load. The costs can be itemized as approximately $3,000 for tuition and $1,500 for books, supplies and fees. Students would also need to provide their own off-campus housing. It is still a fraction of the price compared to university costs. Scholarships and financial aid packages are also available to pursue. I told students to look into multiple ways to gather financial aid.
Nearly two-thirds of all students entering a community college plan to transfer to a four-year institution, according to the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE). Most community colleges offer a transfer program designed to steer students toward an associate degree that will allow them to transfer to a college with junior status. But successful transfer ultimately depends on whether the courses taken meet the requirements of the particular major at the four-year college the student selects.
Most community colleges have articulation agreements that will accept credit hours. It is an advantage because you can have multiple degrees from the United States – this can ultimately increase language skills and cultural capital when you return to your home.
I wasn’t sure of all the particulars regarding a F1 Student Visa, but know this type of visa is issued to international students attending an academic program or English Language Program at a US college or university. Students with a F1 Visa maintain a minimum course load for full-time student status. Again, I encouraged students to check specific community college websites for requirements.
I also prompted students to investigate if a community college may offer an upcoming webinar, workshop or college fair to gain more information. What is the location of the community college? Are you interested in this region? Does it have industry that you may be likely to work nearby?
One of the reasons I love teaching at College of DuPage is the relationships I build with students. This is due, in large part, to our smaller class sizes. Faculty at community colleges are not required to teach enormous sections of 200 0r 500 students with TA’s like in universities. Instead, at community colleges we are student centered and the main focus is on teaching. We can pursue publication opportunities and conference participation, but it is not required. Class sizes are typically 20-35 students depending on course of study, labs, workshops, seminars and online courses.
Why Choose a Community College?
The best advice I can provide for students who plan on attending a community college is to take as many college-preparation courses in high school they can. Students who do their best to prepare, will most likely score well on whatever assessment tests they may be required to take, and be in a much better position to move forward and achieve success in their college careers.
Community colleges offer accessibility, academics and access to all students wishing to pursue a higher education. Overall, we’re here to help students follow their dreams and make the most of their college experience.
The next day I completed another presentation on Service Learning at Education USA. This presentation was given in-house, to a number of staff members interested in pursuing a SL curriculum. We discussed scaffolding, support and services when forming partnerships within the community as it is tied to the curriculum. After a few hours, Ana asked if I would like to go out for coffee. Of course, this is an important part of Croatian culture! Ana commented that Croats are hedonistic when it comes to consuming coffee, which is one of the reasons why there are more cafes than restaurants. “We’ll sit for hours drinking coffee and talking with friends. It is part of our daily routine. It is part of our culture. Even when we ask someone to go out for coffee, it is really synonymous with any type of drink, not just caffeine.”
She was a delightful host and I could talk with her easily. We both commented that it felt like we’d known each other for years. Ana took me to a gorgeous café called Kavkaz Kazalisna Kavana. She asked me if I thought it was “swanky,” an adjective my grandfather loved to use. And I had to say, “Yes!” As we strolled down the street, it’s hard to believe the surrounding area used to be all swampland. We came upon The National Theater, a bright yellow ochre colored building built in 1895, that really stands out across the street from the café. The theatre is located in the Lower Town on Trg Republike Hrvatske, or Republic of Croatia Square. This square is the last in the arc of eight green squares that formed Lenuci’s Horseshoe. Well-known Viennese architects Ferdinand Feliner and Herman Helmar were responsible for the plans for this building and they did an exceptional job.
Kavkaz has a terrace overlooking the theater, but because of the cold weather, we enjoyed the interior, a modern twist on an old word cafe decorated with fantastic costumes from the national theatre.
Another great benefit of walking and talking with a local Croat like Ana is sharing bakery tips. Like coffee, bakeries dominate the Croatian landscape. You can’t walk 10 feet without smelling freshly baked bread. It really is sensory heaven. Franchises like Starbucks and Subway have not even approached Croatia, knowing that the local food and drink are the best!
Ana recommended her favorite, Pekara Dubravica in Zagreb. It was located right outside Hotel Dubrovnik and you can buy all sorts of delicacies, from burek and pizza to cakes. And this bakery was unique because it sold pre-packaged salads. I couldn’t resist and bought a brown grain salad with fresh carrots and cheese, but added a small crescent roll to my order as well (can’t resist the bread!).
Another benefit in traveling in Zagreb is visiting my fellow Fulbright friends Carmen and Tiana. They are both stationed in Zagreb and we met this past summer at the Fulbright orientation in Kansas City. Reunions are welcome when living in a foreign country for several months. Carmen suggested a local restaurant outside of the market. It was small and most tables were full – a good sign. The menu was primarily fish, with a few side dishes. Carmen ordered fish soup and blivete, a potato and spinach style side dish. Tiana and I opted to order the fried fish.
However, before we could decide on our food order, our waitress approached us with a vengeance. “What do you want?” she quipped. Well, um, plese give me a second to decide. I just sat down. “So three soups?” She clearly wanted to rush this along and not chit chat.
I responded, “What is in the soup?” She clacked back, “Fish soup. So three soups it is.” No, I was not interested in fish soup, so I asked if they had another type of soup. She looked at me like I had asked her for $1 million, and turned to walk away. We looked at one another, not knowing what to do next, but since Carmen had been to this restaurant previously, she said she had interacted with the crabby waitress before. When she came back to our table 10 minutes later, Carmen tried to diffuse her anger by asking, “How are you?” The waitress echoed, “How am I? I do the same thing day after day, after day. How do you think I am?” Silence. We placed our order and Carmen asked for water, quickly clarifying tap water. The waitress fired back, “You pay for water in a restaurant. The only water I will give you is in coffee. You want water? You pay.” So Carmen and Tiana ordered bottles of sparkling water and I ordered a Coke (naturally).
The shrimp came minutes later, with tails, legs, heads and beady eyes, overflowing on the platter. The waitress banged the plates down on the table and some of the shrimp jumped off the plate onto the checkered tablecloth.
We exchanged stories about teaching and Carmen shared some devastating anecdotes about her research in Osijek, a village hit very hard by the war. She had taken students to visit a home for the elderly and heard some horrible stories of women who witness graphic violence within their families. Carmen told us about the struggle of belonging, particularly when the Serbs took over the Croatian housing, marking the outside of the doors with a Serbian symbol and when the Croats came back to “reclaim” some of what they had lost, it opened even more wounds in the village. Even today, the cafes and bars are designated by locals for Serbs only and Croats only. If you are interacting with “the wrong side,” there could be trouble.
And Tiana told us about her teaching observations and presentations at Zagreb’s American Corner. Due to the lengthy school strike, her Fulbright assignments have been moved around, cancelled and disrupted. She continued to make the most of her time in Zagreb, but was looking forward to a set schedule. She also talked about navigating discrimination within Zagreb and shared some disturbing stories about how she has been approached over the past several months. It brings to light a lot of cultural awareness, tolerance and issues to think about as the world continues to change. Tiana is a brave and strong young woman. I admire her tenacity throughout this experience. Sharing our collective narratives reminds me how important it is to pause for a brief lunch and reconnect with friends who appreciate and support one another.