Our international students

Sonya and Pam in Singapore

With my mom, Pam, in Singapore

I traveled to India and back during the Memorial Day week, from May 25th to June 2nd, traveling on Singapore Airlines to Kerala, India via Tokyo and Singapore, and the same stops on the way back. Traveling through these different countries made me think about BC’s International Program and the value of having international students on campus.

The growth in the international student population in the US can be traced back to the 1940s when the US government saw expanding intercultural experiences between countries as a way to build global wellbeing.  William Fullbright was a strong advocate of international relation and he introduced the legislation that launched the Fullbright program:


Mr President, I ask unanimous consent to introduce a bill for reference to the committee on Military Affairs, authorizing the use of credits established through the sale of surplus properties abroad for the promotion of international goodwill through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture, and science.
[International Students in the U.S.: Trends, Cultural Adjustments, and Solutions for a Better Experience. Kwasi Sarkodie-Mensah, Journal of Education for Library and Information Science. Vol. 39, No. 3 (Summer, 1998), pp.214-222.]

Ever since the international students population in the US has grown over time.  Here are some stats from the Open Doors published in November 2012:

  • Total international enrollment in the U.S. educational system increased 6% in 2011/12 to a record high of 764,495 international students
  • International students still comprise less than 4% of total U.S. higher education enrollment
  • Students from the top 5 places of origin (China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada) comprise 56% of all international students
  • The top 3 host states (California, New York and Texas) hosted 32% of all international students in the U.S. in 2011/12.

So what is the Bakersfield College story related to international programming and what would we like it to be in the future? There are many reasons why we might want to increase the number of international students on campus.

International Students at BC

International Students at BC

Foreign students by their very presence help American students learn about other cultures and people without having to leave home, and in so doing also encourage students to dream big about traveling abroad, learning foreign languages, understanding how we are globally interconnected and to make those dreams a reality. International students often come to the US to study science, math and technology programs, and by coming here they help build and grow our STEM disciplines. These students also help build programs and support the college through their tuition – a US education represents a value that these students are willing and able to pay a premium to obtain.  This would be a fiscally viable strategy for BC in addition to the fundamental values of diversity and international integration that these students will bring to BC.   And educating international young is a good source of soft power, creating citizen diplomats

In an email communication with Jerry Ludeke in the Archives, I learned that BC has welcomed international students since at least 1959, when it was the Records and Admissions Office that did most of the work with foreign students, and later on (probably when the ESL programs began) more formalized help was made available for foreign students.  Check out page 5 of the Nov 2010 Archives newsletter at http://tinyurl.com/kb57pk8.

In case you aren’t already familiar with today’s BC International Student Office (ISO), here are some highlights, as prepared by Shohreh Rahman, our counselor for this program:

In 2012-2013 the BC ISO was a “home away from home” for our F-1 visa students, 30 from 17 different countries in Fall 2012 and 33 from 20 different countries in Spring 201.

ISO follows principles that focus on balancing the needs of students, institutional policies and federal regulations:

  • Awareness of individual international student’s needs. The  healthy adjustment of  foreign students to American culture
  • Development of student’s fullest potential academically
  • Development of student’s fullest potential socially

The ISO Acts as a liaison between the college, outside agencies, and international students through a range of  programs: Educational workshops, Diversity and cultural workshops and celebrations of different cultures. The ISO offers transitional services (pre-arrival communication with students and campus personnel, orientation programs); academic advising and counseling (Educational Planning, transfer information, international transcripts, educational workshops); personal counseling (stress management,  homesickness, and gender issues); and immigration advising (extension of stay, OPT and work permit, college recommendation letters, Social Security and other workshops).

Also, check out the website at http://www.bakersfieldcollege.edu/international/default.asp

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2 thoughts on “Our international students

  1. Edgar A. Ruiz A. June 9, 2013 at 6:14 pm Reply

    I would like to thank you for your commitment helping international students. America is a great country that opens the opportunity to individuals who want to go forward in their education. During my education at Bakersfield College, as a foreign student, I received multiple benefits. On the other hand, I want to express my happiness for your travel around the world.

  2. Janet Tarjan June 10, 2013 at 11:39 pm Reply

    Thank you for sharing these insights!
    My first airplane trip at age 12 took me from my home in Southern California where I was the youngest of four children to our sister city Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, where I became the second of seven children in my new family for the next four months. When the airplane doors opened, I thought I would die from the heat and humidity. I couldn’t breathe. At school, because Spanish was new to me, I was placed in 4th grade instead of 8th grade. I was probably a foot taller than my classmates. After school, I sat in front of an air conditioner in my shared bedroom and cried. After a few days, I stopped crying and started understanding my new life. There may be difficult or dangerous situations and homesickness can be debilitating. Mean people can be hurtful in any language. Kind people can be helpful and supportive with or without words. I learned a lot of Spanish in four months. And, I learned so much more than Spanish!!! I LOVE meeting people from different countries whether I am at home or abroad. Your blog post makes me reminisce about many positive and wonderful memories of my own life being enriched by opportunities to learn from professors from other countries or make new friends from far away places as we share a walk at the beach, a hike in the mountains, or a walk around the botanical gardens. It is fun to discuss sports, family, religion, or politics. Sometimes I get a chance to be the one traveling. Other times, I am close to home and my path crosses that of a world traveler. Some meetings are planned. Others just happen. I am enriched either way. At BC, we are so lucky to have international students, faculty, staff, and administrators! We have grand opportunities for learning about the world, each other, and ourselves! Twenty years ago, there were 52 native languages spoken by the BC students. I wonder how many there are now. After 27 years of teaching at BC, I am still delighted daily by the opportunities we have to interact with people from so many different parts of the world! I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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