BC welcomes many international students


Cinthia Loera

International BC students Seungju Lee, 21, from Korea, and Suhar Ali, 21, from Yemen, speak with International Students Counselor Shohreh Rahman inside her office.

Crystal Valdez, Reporter

Bakersfield College is home to a growing community of international students who travel from across the globe for what is considered to be a better, more prestigious education.

That is exactly what the International Student Affairs program (ISA) at BC offers.

Despite the difficulties these students may experience throughout the journey and upon their arrival, the struggles are outweighed by their academic, social, cultural, and economic contributions.

The admission criteria for international students are extensive compared to those of local students. A few of those distinctions, according to the BC website, are as follows: International students must have an F-1 visa in order to be considered for admission at BC. They must provide evidence that they are proficient in the English language in order to benefit from college level instruction, and they must maintain a 2.0 GPA as well as be enrolled in a minimum of 12 units per semester. Once enrolled, all students must attend a two-day orientation and adhere to the common graduation/transfer requirements.

According to International Student Program Coordinator Shohreh Rahman, BC has enrolled 70 F-1 visa students who represent 26 countries this fall. The top three countries represented are Saudi Arabia, India and South Korea. The most pursued majors are business administration, engineering, biology, and nursing.

Rahman stated that the program does everything in its power keep these students on track. Students who find it difficult to maintain their status are at risk of having that status terminated, and in some cases they must return to their native country.

International students on an F-1 visa are also required to provide evidence that they are financially capable to bear all costs during their attendance period at BC.

According to Rahman: “Students pay the following fees: a non-resident tuition fee of $200 per unit, a capital outlay for facility usage of $46 per unit, and a $46 tuition fee per unit, resulting in a total $292 per unit. The reason international students must pay $246 more than the average local student is because they do not pay California state taxes.”

Additional costs for international students include an average of $726 that result from expenses such as textbooks, health fees, and student fees. Assuming that all students carry the minimum 12 units that are required, they each pay $3,504 each semester plus the additional costs, which then total to an astounding $4,230 per student per semester. The amount per each of the 70 students enrolled this fall result in an approximate grand total of $296,100 additional income for BC this semester.

These students are required to pay all of these out of pocket. According to Rahman, they do not qualify for financial aid and are not allowed to work off campus. However, they are eligible for scholarships and on-campus employment after one or two semesters are completed at BC. The biggest issue for these students is housing.

“BC does not provide housing for our students. Without social security, apartment living arrangements can be difficult. If they don’t have family or friends to stay with, they often arrive at hotels or motels, which can be expensive even if it’s just for the first few weeks,” stated Rahman.

“We are looking for student help. Nowadays, out of state and international students are very mobile. However, our international students don’t have the paperwork to facilitate the housing issue. Fellow students who could offer a room for rent would be a great help.”

Rahman also discussed a new trend. While it is easier for students to arrive with family who currently reside in Bakersfield, more students are risk-takers. They arrive alone with no family to welcome them and nowhere to stay. This is in part because of online resources.

According to Rahman: “The ISA used to only revolve around word of mouth. Students would recommend BC to their friends and family back home. Now they have more accessibility to information on our school’s website and on Facebook. Students learn about us and they are interested, resulting in a substantial increase in enrollment and admission.”

This increase in numbers caused a reaction. The Bakersfield College Student Government Association (BCSGA) is currently working on a housing project in order to alleviate the stress placed on these students who seek better opportunities.

As far as acculturation and assimilation, international students adapt easily.

“We are a global village. They watch the movies we watch, and they listen to the music we listen to. A more prevalent issue is language,” said Rahman.

Students are typically capable of understanding English in a classroom setting. Rahman said that English comprehension depends on the country of origin. Students from countries such as England, Canada, and India are proficient in English because it is studied. Students from countries such as Saudi Arabia have a more difficult time learning to improve their bilingual skills.

There is an International Student Club on campus. However, Rahman stated that ISA students typically do not participate in extracurricular activities. The amount of time and money spent to be admitted to BC, as well as time dedicated to studying in order to avoid status termination is constantly placed in consideration. Education is the main priority. Thus, international students are usually successful at BC.

“Our students are very intelligent. A lot of them are tutors or they do supplemental instruction. Some transfer within two or three years, some graduate within four to five years. Some do practical job training and others choose to go back home,” said Rahman.

An ISA alumnus who overcame poverty and hunger to beat the odds recently contacted her. This former student is now married, a U.S. citizen, and is working on her master’s degree.

“It really touched my heart. In her letter she said that none of that could have been possible without our help,” she stated.

Rahman concluded, “These students are our global ambassadors. They are exchanging their values from around the world and they are contributing to the increased cultural understanding at BC. Our campus is definitely enriched by attendance of international students, and we hope to double this number by Fall 2016.”