Gadsden, Ala.–The International Program at Gadsden State Community College welcomed 15 new international students as part of the Community College Initiatives (CCI) Program administered by Community Colleges for International Development, with funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright commission, and the Ministry of Education of Egypt. This is the second academic year that Gadsden State has participated in the program, which allows students from historically underserved populations to study technical and vocational programs at the college for one year. Last year, Gadsden State had seven students from Egypt participating in the program, completing their degrees or certificates in December. Participating students this year are from Brazil, Belize, Costa Rica and Egypt.
The CCI Program aims to provide quality educational programs, professional development, employment skills and a first-hand study of American culture for the participants. According to the U.S. Department of State Web site, After completing the program, participants return home with new skills and experiences that enable them to contribute to the growth and development of their countries and societies.”
LaTonya Gamboa, a twenty-year old CCI participant from Belize, did just that. She said she decided to apply for the program on a whim after hearing about it from a friend of a friend who knew about the program from working at the U.S. Embassy. “I was at a place in my life where I had traveled and had time to learn about myself and I had a choice to go to work or school.” Gamboa said, “I chose school.” Gamboa chose to pursue the Certified Nursing Assistant program upon arrival at Gadsden State because nurses are needed everywhere in the world. Gamboa said, “I hope to continue my studies and use my nursing degree to transition into environmental conservation and public health.”
Gamboa said that she did not have any expectations of Alabama, but that she was ready for an exciting adventure. “It has turned into a giant learning adventure about the differences from Belize.” The biggest difference Gamboa has found is in the teaching styles of her professors. “At home teachers just read from the book,” she said. “Here my teachers come alive when they teach and tell stories to make the lesson real. I am learning from experience and not just reading.”
Faith Dobbs, project coordinator, said that the program helps students stay focused. “The students are very driven because they only have one year to complete the program.” Dr. Paula Ross-Derrick, coordinator of international programs, added that international students contribute to the diversity of the College. “The students are able to learn about each other while sharing traditions of their cultures.”
Gadsden State has offered an extensive international program since 1968, and an intensive English program, Alabama Language Institute, since 1973, when it became the first program of its kind in the state. This semester Gadsden State has approximately 200 international students from 51 countries. The average cost for an international student to attend Gadsden State is $11,000 a year.
Ross-Derrick said that most students hear about Gadsden State’s international program by word of mouth. “The Alabama Language Institute and Gadsden State have excellent reputations for the educational experience and for the faculty,” Ross-Derrick said. “The students hear that a relative or friend went through the international program here so they research it and apply.”
While at Gadsden State, the students receive mentor families who help them adjust and give them a family life away from home. For more information about Gadsden State’s International Program, CCI, or becoming a Mentor Family please contact Dr. Paula Ross-Derrick at (256) 549-8324 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.