International Student Program bridges culture shock for foreign students

Anna Podshivalova

March 12, 2019

The International Student Program (ISP) at El Camino College enrolls about 650 students every semester from over 67 different countries all over the world, according to EC’s 2016-2017 Annual Factbook. 

The Factbook also provides insights into specifics of international students’ origin.

The largest share of EC international students come from Asia: 31 percent from Japan, 14 percent from China, 13 percent from Korea, and 11 percent from Vietnam. European students make up 7 percent, while South American students represent 4 percent.

“Foreign students find out about us at educational fairs that take place in their home countries,” Lindsey Ludwig, ISP manager, said.”Most often, students will learn about our college through friends or family members.”

However, not all of the incoming foreign students have an understanding of English and need to go through a language school before they are able to attend community college.

“It took me six months at a language school before I transferred to El Camino College,” ISP assistant, Caroline Etges said. “Now, I work at the ISP office on campus but also attend Long Beach California State University—majoring in communication and media studies, and I still struggle with writing skills.”

For international students requiring additional language training, EC offers an English language program called El Camino Language Academy (ECLA), which provides staff support through quality language instruction and one-on-one interactions for each student, according to the EC website.

But despite the language barrier, international students choose to pursue majors that require strong communication skills. The most popular programs for international students include business administration, computer science, fashion, psychology, art, and cinema, according to the Annual Factbook.

Shaotong He, an international student, said she studies business administration.

“I am very interested in it, as it is quite versatile,” she said. “After graduation, I want to transfer to UC Irvine or UC Santa Barbara.”

However, learning a new language is not the only barrier international students face.

Trump’s travel ban has created limitations for several potential students.

However, Ludwig said that although the travel ban has not affected EC students directly, the number of visa approvals have decreased.

“In many countries such as Russia, Venezuela or Iran, there are now difficulties with the economy,” Ludwig said. “Because of this, studying abroad has become quite expensive for some students.”

Yet, EC charges foreign students $270 per unit plus the original $46 per unit domestic students pay, according to the EC website. 

Ludwig said that the program does get help from a general government fund.

Since several students are thousands of miles from home, Ludwig said EC offers international students activities and workshops to pursue outside of classes and familiarize themselves with the campus.

“We have a lot of social programs and workshops in which foreign students can take part,” Ludwig said. “We also cooperate with universities and do everything possible to involve as many students as possible in social activities.”

In addition, EC is ranked in the top ten for transfer colleges to UC, and in the top three for transfer colleges to CSU, according to EC Annual Factbook.

“Foreign students usually take two and a half or three years to transfer to a university,” Ludwig said. “Students are welcome to visit our International Student Program Office for more information.”

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