International Students Build Skills at COD

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By Mike McKissack

College of DuPage has welcomed 16 students from around the world through the 2017-2018 Community College Initiative (CCI) program.

Made possible through a grant from the U.S. Department of State, the CCI program recruits participants from underserved and unrepresented communities and provides them with quality educational study at U.S. community colleges. The program is designed to build technical skills, enhance leadership capabilities and strengthen English language proficiency.

While at COD, the students pursue one-year certificate programs in workforce development fields and receive opportunities for professional internships, service learning and community engagement activities. After completing the program, the students return home with a deeper understanding of U.S. culture and new skills to help them contribute to the economic growth and development of their countries.

“We are thrilled to welcome 16 students from across the globe to College of DuPage,” said International Student Services Program Coordinator Kayla Chepyator. “While the CCI program enables underserved students to develop additional skills and gain a broader view of the world and their profession, the students’ presence here and the learning and cultural exchange we receive from them makes our participation as beneficial to us as it is to them.”

CCI program participant Cynthia Awini, from Bawku, Ghana, is pursuing a certificate in Restaurant Management at COD as well as taking several culinary arts classes. Before coming to COD, she was pursuing a Higher National Diploma in Hotel Catering and Institutional Management at Bolgatanga Polytechnic in the Upper East Region of Ghana.

Awini said the CCI program is providing her with a broad range of opportunities.

“This program is providing me with a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the opportunity to build leadership skills, develop professional skills and participate in cultural exchange, as well as a chance to get out of my comfort zone and see life differently.”

After completing the program, Awini said she plans to return home and complete her Higher National Degree at Bolgatanga Polytechnic. Then she would like to earn a master’s degree in Hospitality Management and possibly a degree in the culinary arts.

She said she is impressed with the College of DuPage’s facilities and plans on taking advantage of everything her stay in the U.S. has to offer.

“I hope to gain as much as I can while I’m here,” she said. “I have already gained a lot of practical, hands-on experiences in my classes. I’m also learning about U.S. culture and building professional and social networks.”

Hailing from Santiago, Dominican Republic, CCI program participant Samuel Lopez-Chavez is pursuing certificates in Mechatronic Technology and Process Control Instrumentation at COD. Before arriving this fall, he was studying Telematics Engineering at Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra.

Lopez-Chavez said he is pleased with his experiences at COD.

“This is a huge opportunity for me,” he said. “I’m very impressed with the technologies, services for students, politeness of the faculty and the campus in general. All of these form a very interesting combination that truly helps students thrive. I’m looking forward to taking advantage of all the awesome things that COD has to offer.”

Passionate about global issues, entrepreneurship, leadership and volunteering, Lopez-Chavez said his participation in more than 15 national and international United Nations-modeled debates and leadership opportunities have helped him to understand the impact he can make on the community. Upon his return to the Dominican Republic, he will continue attending university, work as an automation freelancer and seek opportunities in community service while encouraging others to do the same.

Lopez-Chavez is particularly impressed with the College’s focus on hands-on experiences using state-of-the-art equipment in his chosen field. He is thrilled with his choice to participate in the CCI program.

“My life has made a change of 360 degrees, not only because I’m living in a new country but because all these positive experiences challenge me and put me out of my comfort zone,” he said. “It feels like I’m really getting the tools necessary to succeed in the present and in the future.”

Since 2007, the CCI Program has hosted more than 2,800 participants from 21 countries. For the past four years, College of DuPage has been one of the consortium partners to receive 16 students through the CCI program. This year, CCI participants at COD are from a broad range of areas across the globe, including Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey.

CCI participants contribute to their U.S. host communities by helping U.S. community colleges to internationalize their campuses. According to the 2012-2013 “Open Doors” report, only one percent of U.S. community college students will gain 21st century international experience and workforce skills through study abroad programs. CCI program participants engage community college students with international cultures and diverse perspectives in their U.S. classrooms and on their home campuses.

For more information, contact the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at

For more information about COD’s Field and Experiential Learning/Study Abroad/Global Education programs, call (630) 942-2356 or visit

Pictured above: Seated, left to right: Samuel Lopez-Chavez (Dominican Republic, Mechatronics); Shahbaaz Khan (India, Graphic Design). Standing, left to right: Origanus Ramfate (South Africa, Web Development); Mmbatho Moshoeshoe (South Africa, Mechatronics); Mahesh Anand (India, Mechatronics); Immanuel Njabulo Nzima (South Africa, Architecture/Construction Management); Riesztra Alfathsyah (Indonesia, CAD); Pedro Garzón Umaña (Colombia, Organizational Leadership); Sadia Tarique (Pakistan, Business); Kowsalya Rajkumar (India, Digital Media/Graphic Design); Muhammed Wagar (Pakistan, Entrepreneurship/Business); Cynthia Awini (Ghana, Restaurant Management/Culinary Arts); Noman Kazmi (Pakistan, Entrepreneurship); Sri Artha Togatorop (Indonesia, Project Management); Burak Efe (Turkey, Electronics Technology); Rabia Sertlek (Turkey, Graphic Design)

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  2018 College of DuPage