Living overseas is no easy feat, but for COC foreign students, the International Services and Programs (ISP) office is a service that helps students to make the most out of their time here.

“What it does is, first, it’s basically about students’ mobility. It’s about international students coming in to study on our campus,” said Dr. Jia-Yi Cheng-Levine, Dean of the Internal Affairs and Global Engagement.

Dr. Cheng-Levine with Chinese students. Photo courtesy of Dr. Cheng-Levine.

Cheng-Levine attributes a “solid international office,” a “very friendly community” and Santa Clarita being “one of the safest cities in California” as being the primary reasons why COC is particularly special with regards to international students.

Cheng-Levine stated that increased opportunities are another driving factor behind students choosing COC.

“I think I would have more opportunities and more choices if I want to develop myself more,” said Tracy Xia, a Chinese international student. “It’s really fun learning different languages, and its helped me a lot with developing oral speaking skills. Learning a new language is like learning a new path of thinking.”

In China, college is a different experience.

Xia explained that here in the US, it’s easier to get into a university, but it’s more challenging to get the GPA necessary to graduate with a degree.

In China, it’s the opposite.

“Community college as a concept is unknown because not all cultures or countries have the idea of community college,” Cheng-Levine stated.

According to data provided by the ISP office, this spring COC had 211 international students from 43 countries, speaking 24 native languages.

Academically-speaking, 44 of the students have a 4.0 GPA and 97 of them have a 3.5 or higher.

“COC with ISP service has been able to raise our international students’ academic achievement from where they didn’t think was possible, to now they know it’s possible if they want it and they’re willing to pursue it,” Dr. Cheng-Levine said.

The ISP office goes above and beyond to recruit students from all over the globe. According to Cheng-Levine, they have established an especially strong bond with high schools in China.

“Some of those schools have what they call COC track classes,” she explained, “meaning those students the year they go to high school they knew they were coming to us to study in COC.”

Occasionally, the ISP office comes across roadblocks in the recruitment process.

Tracy Xia speaking at COC’s Model United Nations Club. Photo courtesy of Tracy Via.

An example is the process of getting visas, specifically for Chinese students.

According to Dr. Cheng-Levine, in the academic year of 2018-2019, 30 prospective COC students from China received their acceptance letters. However, 10 of them were unable to receive visas.

“We were on track to grow the Chinese-speaking population pretty good until this semester. Because of higher visa rejection rate, we slowed down our growth a little bit,” Cheng-Levine said. She couldn’t say for sure the reasoning behind the visa rejections, but what is certain “it has created some kind of uneasiness and anxiety among Chinese students’ parents and Chinese potential applicants.”

Nevertheless, Cheng-Levine is unfazed, promising to push forward with the recruitment process and expanding the services provided by the ISP.

“That’s what our motto is. We want to bring COC to the world, but we want to bring the world back to COC,” Cheng-Levine said. “Instead of dropping bombs I think we should start talking about bringing people together through education. I believe that’s how world peace is built.”

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