Aug 1, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Millions of international students from all over the world dream of studying in the US. While many of them succeed, others may not see a pathway to bringing this dream to life. Enter the Community College Initiative Program (CCI). A non-degree program of the Bureau of Educational and Affairs, this government international exchange program offer scholarships enabling international students to spend up to one year studying at US community colleges. Here’s a closer look at CCI.

An Overview of CCI

Looking to increase your skills and experience by studying in the US? CCI offers international students the opportunity to learn, build technical skills, and in some cases earn certificates in their fields of study -- all while immersing themselves in American life and culture. A variety of activities, including everything from professional internships to community engagement events, further support the development of English language proficiency.

Service learning is also a key component of CCI, which is administered by Northern Virginia Community College on behalf of the Community College Consortium.Through participation in local community service activities, students contribute to causes they care about, practice leadership skills, and further integrate into their local communities.

CCI scholarship support is comprehensive, and includes tuition and college fees, meals and housing (either on campus or in approved apartments), J-1 visa support, J-1 compliant limited accident and sickness coverage, round-trip travel, and an allowance for books and incidentals. The program also includes access to a variety of professional and personal development activities.

Community colleges hosting CCI scholarship recipients in 2018 include  Bunker Hill Community College, Boston, MA; College of DuPage, Glen Ellen, IL; Houston Community College, Houston, TX;  Kirkwood Community College, Des Moines, IA; Mesa Community College, Mesa, AZ; Northern Virginia Community College (Annandale and Alexandria campuses), VA; Northampton Community College, Bethlehem, PA, Scottsdale Community College, Scottsdale, AZ; and Valencia College, Orlando, FL.

Since CCI’s establishment in 2007, more than 75 community college have hosted nearly 3,000 participants from more than 20 countries.

Are You Eligible for CCI?

In order to be eligible for CCI, your studies must be in agriculture, applied engineering, business management and administration, early childhood education, information technology, media, public safety, and tourism and hospitality management.

Additiontionally, you must meet a set of criteria set forth by by the Department of State. Applicants must:

  • Be 18 years old at the program’s start

  • Possess a diploma from a secondary school

  • Have basic knowledge of English

  • Want to build professional and leadership skills that will be applied to development in their own home countries (participants are recruited from historically underrepresented and underserved communities)

  • Be available to start the CCI program in July of the academic year

  • Fulfill all other country-specific requirements

Speaking of country-specific requirement, CCI participation doesn’t automatically result in credits from institutions in students’ home countries. Participants looking to obtain credit should check in with their home institutions to determine whether program credit is a possibility.

Beyond the Degree

While CCI participations is for a year or less and does not culminate in a degree like a traditional bachelor’s degree program, it is accompanied by many practical benefits thanks to a focus on professional training, such as the internship component.  

Not to mention that you can’t put a price tag on the experience itself.  But you don’t have to take our word for it. Instead, hear it from former participants themselves. Says Louisa Addio of Ghana of her CCI participation, “After returning home I went back to college to finish my degree. I will use everything I learned during the CCI program to develop myself, my community, my college and my country at large.”

“The CCI program helped me expand my horizons and see the world and its diversity from a different perspective that has changed my life,” adds Ryan Kharisma of Indonesia.

Says Pakistan’s Jalaluddin Mughal, meanwhile, “The CCI program was an inspiring opportunity for me that brought me back to academics after almost ten years. I have received incredible knowledge, marvelous professional skills, extensive networking and professional connections, and an impressive understanding about other people and cultures.”

The takeaway? While American degrees certainly have their allures, there are many more reasons to study in the US than a credential. The CCI program opens doors to the world of opportunities waiting there.

Interested in learning more about community colleges? Check out, Why Do We Call Them Community Colleges?

 

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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