If we can’t explore the world, the world can still come to us. The US Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is now funding Salt Lake Community College’s participation in the Community College Initiative Program (CCIP) enabling 11 international students to spend a year attending SLCC. These students have come from Egypt, Ghana, India and South Africa.
“Department of State funding began four or five years ago,” SLCC’s Director of International Student Services, Nancy Fillat, said. “It’s for underrepresented, non-elite students. Traditionally, the students who come from other countries are somewhat privileged. They have resources.”
In other words, students who apply and are selected to come to the US through CCIP probably didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in their mouths. They typically represent people from more economically typical backgrounds in their respective countries.
The CCIP program focuses on providing academic instruction to students while they immerse themselves in US society and culture. The program allows for cultural sharing between US students and those born internationally while giving international participants “new skills and experiences that enable them to contribute to the growth and development of their countries and societies.”
Take Francis Dede for example. Dede was born and raised in Ghana, the son of cocoa farmers.
“I would not consider myself rich or poor,” Dede explained. “When you see the poor in Ghana, you know they’re poor. I would consider myself among the average.”
Dede got word of the CCIP program while attending polytechnic school as an accounting major in Ghana and was one of hundreds of applicants trying for a limited number of spaces in CCIP. He earned his place, is now attending SLCC and will eventually return to Ghana.
Neha Sharma from New Delhi and Saira Banu from Hyderabad, India are also attending SLCC. In situations similar to Dede, both ladies were selected from hundreds of applicants and will spend over a year in Salt Lake City before returning to India with a strengthened skill set.
Sharma volunteered in India helping children infected with HIV before coming to the US and eventually hopes to become an “instructor or lecturer.” Banu was a business major in Hyderabad, but has since changed her mind.
“I want to be a nutritionist where I can help people I am meeting. People here are often obese,” Banu said.
When asked what they missed from home, food and friends were prominent in each student’s reply. One other theme was universally touched on when asked about what was missing here in the states; a sense of community.
Dede replied, “One thing that I’ve seen, [while in the US] is independent living. Everybody is sort of like, living in their own house. It’s very hard for you to see your neighbor. In Ghana, everybody depends on the other. So those in your neighborhood, you know. You see them, you play with them, you do a lot of activities with them, but here you don’t see that. Here most everybody is locked in his house.”
When asked to compare classes here with classes in India, Sharma expressed a similar sentiment. “Sometimes they behave very friendly, but mostly they don’t talk. When we walk on roads, [in India] when somebody meets they say hi and give a good smile. In my class nobody talks with each other. They don’t interact nicely with each other. They come to class, take notes, don’t interact, then go back.”
In prior talks with other international students, many recounted their observations of the prevalent isolationism witnessed here in stark comparison to the open arm attitudes of the cultures they’ve come from.