International Students Build Workforce Skills Through College Community Initiative Program

By: Angela Mennecke

CCI students stand together in front of a corn field after volunteering.

College of DuPage has welcomed 18 students from around the world through the 2021-2022 Community College Initiative program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

While at COD, visiting students pursue one-year certificate programs in workforce development fields and receive opportunities for professional internships, service learning and community engagement activities. Since 2012, COD has hosted 156 students from 15 countries worldwide.

“I have been consistently impressed with how these young leaders take what they learn at COD back to their home countries and use it to improve their communities,” said COD CCI Program Coordinator Kayla Chepyator. “At the same time, they bring with them the knowledge and experience of cultures that people in the COD community may not have been exposed to before. It’s really a wonderful global learning opportunity for everyone involved.”

For the current academic year, students are participating in a CCI-initiated pilot program designed to build knowledge about the current media landscape and develop media literacy skills, including the ability to understand and counter misinformation and disinformation.

Ukrainian student Zoia Shumak and Bosnian student Hana Hulic both are participating.

“Being a part of the first group from Bosnia and Herzegovina to participate in this communications program means a lot to me,” Hulic said. “This program will help me gain a competitive advantage in the field that I wouldn’t have had in my home country.”

As Hulic continues to acclimate to American culture, she hopes to pave the way for more Bosnian and Herzegovinian students to participate in the CCI program.

“I enjoy studying here at COD a lot and I am extremely grateful,” she said. “I believe that my professors have insights in the field and I am so thankful to learn from them. The college personnel and professors make sure that we understand the lessons and they are willing to answer our questions.”

For Shumak, studying in the U.S. has long been a dream of hers.

“I always thought that studying in the U.S. would be an opportunity for me to develop myself academically, professionally and personally,” she said. “And now that I’m here, it’s a completely different culture, another approach to studying and everything is different from what I am used to. This is a life-changing adventure.”

This year's students represent seven countries, and include Lina De La Espriella Viloria (Columbia, applied engineering); Veronika Falileieva (Ukraine, digital media/mass communication); Venera Gashia (Kosovo, digital media/mass communication); Din Hodzic (Bosnia/Herzegovina, digital media/mass communication); Oleksii Horbatenko (Ukraine, digital media/mass communication); Aida Hujic (Bosnia/Herzegovina, digital media/mass communication); Hana Hulic (Bosnia/Herzegovina, digital media/mass communication); Martin Jonah (Ghana, applied engineering); Artina Kabashi (Kosovo, digital media/mass communication); Gentrit Kalludra (Kosovo, digital media/mass communication); Florent Kuci (Kosovo, digital media/mass communication); Bilqees Momath (South Africa, culinary arts); Beyza Ogut (Turkey, culinary arts); Luis Paez Sanchez (Columbia, applied engineering); Zoia Shumak (Ukraine, digital media/mass communication); Oleksandra Solonenko (Turkey, digital media/mass communication); Ali Soylu (Turkey, culinary arts); and Vadym Valihun (Ukraine, digital media/mass communication.)

For more information about the Community College Initiative Program, contact Chepyator at

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

Photo caption: CCI Program students volunteering at the Northern Illinois Food Bank.