For a community college situated in a small corner of New York state, Jamestown Community College is making a substantial impact in the education of students from across the globe.
This fall semester, JCC reported its largest enrollment of international students in the college's history - welcoming 34 students to its Jamestown campus, and four at its Cattaraugus County campus in Olean. Current international students at JCC represent the following countries: Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, China, Colombia, Iraq, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Montenegro, South Korea and Vietnam.
According to Victoria Peterson, JCC's international outreach coordinator, international students attend JCC for various reasons.
"First and foremost, international students are attracted here because they know of JCC's reputation for providing high-quality educational experiences in a very caring environment. At the same time, the affordability of attending JCC as an international student is a real draw," she said.
Additionally, Peterson said Jamestown's proximity to metropolitan areas such as Buffalo, Erie, Pittsburgh and New York City is a draw, as well as JCC's ever-increasing number of transfer agreements with four-year universities.
Greg Marco, a Canadian student, found himself at JCC under different circumstances. Marco said he first heard about and visited JCC during what is known as a "victory lap," in which students in Canada's Ontario province can opt to continue their education through a fifth year of secondary school.
Marco, who had maintained his involvement in high school sports into his "grade 13" year, said he received a call from JCC's head baseball coach Dick Adams in August of last year expressing interest in having Marco participate on JCC's baseball team.
"Over the next couple of months, we communicated back and forth and negotiated," said Marco, who is considering a degree in criminal justice. "I looked into (JCC's) criminal justice program online and saw that they had the four-year transferrable degree that I was looking for; so that was a bonus. And, just in talking to Coach Adams, he seemed like a nice guy. So, once everything got worked out, I came to the JCC open house and saw everything, met with the coach and sat down with him. And that was the finalizing moment."
Other students are attending JCC through programs sponsored by their respective governments. Ana Caroline Oliveira Silva, known at JCC as "Carol," is a Brazilian student participating in the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program. Ali Naji, from Iraq, is attending JCC through the Higher Committee for Education Development in Iraq.
According to Nelson Garifi, director of marketing and academic initiatives at JCC, said these international programs are highly selective, which is indicative of the academic abilities possessed by Ali and Carol.
"Both of their nations are investing in their residents, and to be selected for these scholarships, you have to be among the top students in your nation. So, they're very competitive. And (JCC has) had the opportunity to participate in these two programs," Garifi said.
The primary purpose for Ali and Carol's attendance at JCC is English-language training. Ali, who holds a bachelor's degree in biology, said he has been grateful for the opportunity to attend JCC and experience an entirely different culture.
"I am so excited to be here, and to learn and teach other cultures," Ali said. "My culture is very different from American culture, and my Islamic religion is very different. So, we have many differences, but I am teaching my culture and learning this culture. And, I'm meeting friends from other countries and making connections."
"I'm happy to be here, too, because this is the first time I've been out of my country," Carol said. "The culture is not so different, but the most difficult thing is the language. We came here without knowing pretty much any (English), and in three months of being here, I have been very grateful for this experience. People here were very receptive with me. They are always trying to help me."
Although the international students arrived at JCC by different pathways, they are all in agreement that JCC has been a positive experience in the progression of their education.
"It ended up being a perfect fit, because I really did need that stepping stone from high school to college," Marco said. "JCC really made me successful as a student. I was never particularly the smartest guy in high school, but now here I'm achieving much more than I was. And I feel like that had a lot to do with the teachers, they've really helped me and are always willing to help. I haven't had any sort of bad experience at JCC. And the biggest thing I noticed coming here is the community. I was welcomed with open arms, and everyone was just so happy to see me. So that's definitely given me a broader perspective on American culture."
Ali, who will be going to State University of New York at Buffalo for his master's degree in biology, said JCC has helped to improve his grasp on the English language.
"I have improved my English very well, it's much better than it was," Ali said. "And here, it's more of a community than a place to study. I've met people, all the teachers have been helpful with us and all the people here are awesome."
Carol will be transferring to SUNY Fredonia next month to obtain her bachelor's degree in information systems.
"I still have trouble with the language, but I think I learn fast," Carol said. "And I think that's because the teachers are always there to help with anything. And everybody is ready to help. Even in the cafeteria, sometimes I don't know how to say a word and I ask and they try to help me as much as they can. I give credit to everybody in the community for that."
In addition to JCC's record number of international students, a Thursday press release from the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York state is No. 2 in the nation in attracting international students in higher education.
"New York's colleges and universities are hubs of leading talent that are spurring innovation and training the next generation of international entrepreneurs," Cuomo said in the release. "This report demonstrates how our institutions of higher education are fertile grounds for new businesses that require a diverse, world-class workforce in order to grow and prosper."