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Winter 2009:

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What is Home? Postcards from International Student Graduates
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Please contact Debbie Bales if you have interesting articles or suggestions at 714-892-7711 ext. 55142 or at dbales@gwc.cccd.edu. We reserves the right to edit submitted articles.

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International Students

What is Home? Postcards from International Student Graduates

By Janelle Leighton

For decades, students from around the world have called GWC “home” – chez soi, en su hogar, ở nhà. In any language, one common definition of the word home includes family and a sense of belonging. The GWC campus and local community are just that to our international students from over thirty-five countries.

Students share their stories with us through exit interviews, essay contests, and satisfaction surveys, and the concept of home is a central theme in many of their responses. It is a place to feel safe and welcome. International students have found comfort, friendship, a place to rest, and a place to thrive at GWC and within our local community. You can see this firsthand from some of their comments in “postcards” from international student graduates.

Serving close to 300 students, the international student population at Golden West College has nearly tripled in size since the inception of the full-service program in 1999. The five largest groups come from Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, and Brazil. The program experienced a record 30% increase in new students for fall 2008 compared to new students the prior semester.

Below is a list of the countries representing all of the international students who enrolled at GWC for the fall 2008.

  • Azerbaijan
  • Bangladesh
  • Belize
  • Brazil
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • China
  • Croatia
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Hong Kong
  • Indonesia
  • Indonesia
  • Iraq
  • Japan
  • Keny
  • Lebanon
  • Malaysia
  • Nepal
  • New Zealand
  • Pakistan
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sweden
  • Syria
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom
  • Vietnam
  • Zambia

To learn more about the International Student Program, call (714) 895-8146.

Maria Kaupa

Meet Maria Kaupa

Maria Kaupa, age 23, is from a small island of approximately five million people, Paupua, New Guinea. She is in her second semester at GWC. Her original plan was to major in business, but she realized that she has a strong love for science and nature, so she decided to change her major to science.

Q. What made you choose Golden West College?

I live here with an American family who were missionaries for ten years in my home country. My family knows them and they live close to the college.

Q. Coming from a very small island, what adjustments did you have to make as you entered our culture?

Although I had lived for eleven months in Australia, it took me a long time to adjust to English, for one thing. The importance of time has been another major adjustment for me. Back in my country time is whatever. Here, time is very important; getting to class on time, handing in class assignments/papers on time, paying my bills on time, etc. At home I only had to focus on one thing at a time; here you have to focus on a number of things at the same time. In my country I could live under my family’s roof as long as I wanted, enjoying their protection and guidance. Here I am completely on my own and have to do everything for myself, which has been quite an adjustment.

Q. What is the contrast in diets here vs. those from your island?

You have a great variety of food types available. I was surprised to see how much food is in a can, a package and frozen! The food on my island is all organic; everything was grown in my family’s back yard garden. The main food in our village is kaukau (sweet potatoes) and greens from the garden.

Q. What are your plans once you graduate from GWC?

I will be graduating next December and plan to transfer to a four year college, hopefully it will be UCLA. I have decided I want to go into pharmacy and UCLA is outstanding in this field. Once I graduate from a university, I would like to stay here if I can. If not, I will go back home and help my family; I’ll keep my options open. Maria is here on a track scholarship from her country.

She represented her country running at track events at various islands and runs

Muhammad Ali Khan

Meet Mohammad Ali Khan

Mohammad, age 23, is from Pakistan and came to the U.S. to study Engineering. He had planned to begin his studies at a college in New Jersey, but the college was very slow in processing his papers. Mohammad had a friend living in Garden Grove who suggested he come to California. This friend was attending Golden West College and said it was really a nice college with a beautiful campus.

“My first year here I had a hard time getting involved in your culture. I felt there was an expectation barrier, a language barrier and an education barrier. My second year here was much less difficult; I joined some clubs and got involved in extra activities, which I found very helpful. I have to give most of the credit for the improvement in my English speaking skills to the International Student Club.” Mohammad is Vice President of the International Students Club, a member of the Peace, Body and Mind Club, as well as the Scholarship Club.

Q. What have you found interesting/challenging living in a different culture?

“I grew up in Saudi Arabia which is probably the only country in the world that does not have movie theaters. I had my first movie experience here. I found that adjusting to food was not that big a problem. In Pakistan, we have the same fast food chains as you have here; MacDonald’s, KFC, Subway, and I eat a lot of fast food. I have yet to have a full traditional American meal. “I’ve studied in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and I feel America offers more opportunities socially and academically. Everyone here can succeed if they try, everyone here is independent for themselves, and they can make their lives what they want. In most other countries you need a lot of luck and/ or a lot of money to succeed.”

Q. What has been your experience at Golden West?

“I have friends all over America, Ireland, Australia and Malaysia via the internet. I’ve asked them about their International program, if they have one, and we compare notes. I believe we have the best International Student program in this country. My friends are very happy for me that I have had such a great experience here. I recommend my friends come to Golden West College.”

Editor’s note: Starting with the spring semester 2009, Mohammad will start his fourth year at GWC. At the end of his second year he changed his major from Engineering to Business. He plans to transfer to either Cal State Fullerton or Cal State Long Beach in the fall of 2009 to pursue an accounting degree. After receiving his accounting degree, he wants to become a CPA and work several years in this country before returning to the Middle East to get a job there.