JJC hopes to draw more international students
BY TINA AKOURIS firstname.lastname@example.org March 21, 2014 8:40PM
Updated: April 25, 2014 6:02AM
Sam Mombou knew his uncle was probably going to die after he was in a serious bike accident in their native Togo, a country in West Africa.
Mombou went to the hospital where his uncle lay dying, hoping to hear some comforting words from the medical staff. But what he got was like a slap in the face.
“I knew he was going to die, but I thought they needed to at least try to tell us that they were trying to (save) him,” Mombou said. “But they just left him there, because they knew he was going to die. I thought, ‘This needs to be changed. How can I do that?’ ”
That motivated Mombou, who already had a degree in business, to come to the United States to study nursing. He doesn’t want anyone else to have to go through what he and his family did.
Mombou is one of eight international students studying at Joliet Junior College this semester in hopes of moving on to a four-year university in the United States.
The students’ native countries include Norway, Germany, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Togo and Uzbekistan, and they all are part of the college’s international student services department.
The department is the brainchild of JJC President Debra Daniels and vice president of student development Yolanda Isaacs, and coordinator Dayna Crabb was hired to get the program on its feet.
Daniels and Isaacs saw the need for more services for students who were coming to JJC.
Crabb’s first day was April 1, 2013, and she since has helped increase services for international students, started an international students club, streamlined admissions and expanded the reach of the program by enacting new policies and procedures for international students.
“We’ve done a lot in terms of social media, and that’s been new for the college,” Crabb said. “I’m able to Skype with students all over the world and that’s also helped as we’ve been able to expand our reach.”
Crabb is hoping the number of students in the program will grow by the fall semester. That’s when she expects to open the school’s Intensive English for Academic Purposes program, pending approval via the federal Student and Exchange Visitors Program.
Crabb said JJC is pursuing the program because there is a demand from Joliet-area residents who have relatives who need to learn English.
“When I got here, the high English language standards were causing us to lose some of the (local residents),” Crabb said. “People were calling on behalf of (relatives) who wanted to learn English. This way, we are responding to our international students and our community.”
It may seem odd to some that international students would be attracted to a junior college in the suburbs rather than a four-year university with an expansive campus.
“They are attracted to community colleges because they get that same American experience for much less in cost,” Crabb said. “We provide pathways to a bachelor’s degree and we partner up with local universities.”
There are 24 four-year colleges and universities that JJC has a relationship with for its international students. The top three schools that JJC’s international students go to so they can earn a bachelor’s degree are DePaul, the University of St. Francis and Governors State.
Out-of-state schools that partner with JJC include Missouri University and Purdue-Calumet.
“For international students, the goal is to get a bachelor’s degree,” Crabb said. “A student does two years at a community college and then transfers to a local private school, for example, and pays $40,000 overall. It’s a big cost savings.”
International students need to have a high level of proficiency in English. Crabb said each student must take an exam and send in his or her English scores before being admitted.
The cost for international (and out-of-state) students at JJC is $333.54 per credit hour, while in-district residents pay $111 per hour.
International students can live on campus at Centennial Commons, or, in the case of Mombou, live with a local family. Mombou lives with a family in Morris.
Hoang Nguyen, of Vietnam, completed a two-year associate’s degree at JJC in December and is at DePaul’s Loop campus studying computer science. He is no stranger to studying abroad, having studied in Australia before coming to JJC.
“I wanted to study somewhere that had a broader culture and I wanted something that was more reasonable (in cost) and I chose a community college,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen, who lives in Plainfield, also was instrumental in starting the international students club at JJC, which is for both American and foreign students.
“Last semester Dayna was going to create a club for international students, and I decided I wanted to be a leader somehow,” Nguyen said. “I volunteered for the vice president position and I gained a lot of experience from that.”