January 24, 2012 | Borough of Manhattan Community College
BMCC’s proud slogan is “Start Here, Go Anywhere.”Most students ‘start’ locally, meaning they’re native New Yorkers.
However, some students ‘start’ elsewhere and were born, raised, and educated in another country.
Hundreds of international students attend BMCC, hailing from all over the world. New international students recently attended an Orientation and Welcome Program, led by Lily Yi-Elkin, Assistant Director of International and Transfer Services, and her team of BMCC staffers dedicated to making the transition into BMCC easier for those students here on an F-1 visa.
Part of Yi-Elkin’s job is to help international students adjust to college in a new country—and new city, for that matter—and to make sure their international visas are approved.
According to Yi-Elkin, some international embassies require more paperwork and footwork than others for students to study in the United States.
She does her best to contact these embassies and help these students obtain their United States student visas.
“It’s interesting to note that most international students complete BMCC within two years because according to their student visas, they only have a certain amount of time to study here in the states,” she said. “They can’t slack off or take their time to graduate. Also, many international students have family back home they’re supporting, which motivates them to graduate within a shorter time frame.”
Transfer advisors Yvonne Padmore and Peter Roberts shared some advice with the international students who attended the Welcome Program.
“Know your major and what it takes to graduate,” said Roberts, reminding students they need at least a C in accredited English or Math before they can transfer to a 4-year college.
Roberts also explained that BMCC is home to a variety of tutoring labs open seven days a week. “Get tutored,” he said. “Use those labs.”
Currently, all BMCC students need a minimum of 60 credits to graduate, and a minimum GPA of 2.5.“Aim higher than that, though—you always want to shoot for the stars,” said Roberts.
Spreading the word
BMCC’s new international students also learned about required entrance exams, how to navigate Panther, the importance of meeting with their advisors, and more.To help new students break the ice, Yi-Elkin encouraged international students to partner up and ask each other questions about their home countries.
“Many students hear about BMCC from friends, through word-of-mouth,” said Yi-Elkin. “Community colleges are a great place for international students to receive the educational foundation they need for an easier transition into a four year schools.”
Yi-Elkin said another perk of the CUNY system is that if an international student applies to a 4-year CUNY college, and isn’t accepted, that particular CUNY college usually suggests they attend a community college, first.
“It’s nice that our sister schools in CUNY and even SUNY, recommend other schools within the system to these students to help academically prepare them for a 4-year college.”
This semester, Yi-Elkin has noticed a large number of international students attended an accredited American Language Center—such as one operated by the CUNY system or Kaplan—before they enrolled at BMCC.
“These Language Centers help students improve their English, and in doing so, they’re better prepared for their CUNY Skills Exams,” she said.
Welcome to New York
Enzo Scavone, who grew up in Germany, came to BMCC by way of Switzerland, where he studied philosophy for a period of time at a university, but is now a Writing and Literature major.
He initially came to New York to perform at various open mics, where fellow writers suggested he look into the CUNY system for college.
“I speak German and Italian, but I write and perform in English,” said Scavone. “I’ve enjoyed reading my poetry and monologues aloud, and at BMCC I hope to learn more about Student Government and other extra-curriculars.”
Ionela Miticia is a Liberal Arts major and a former Qatar Airlines flight attendant. She’s originally from Romania, where she studied Economics, and is pleased that some of her previous college credits transferred over to BMCC.
“As a flight attendant, I’ve met people from around the world,” said Miticia, who wants to eventually work in child psychology. “A pilot friend of mine suggested CUNY to me. I’m excited to be in New York—it’s such a lively city.”
Feilipe Aragon is from Bogata, Columbia. His brother and sister are CUNY graduates, and Aragon wanted to follow in their footsteps. “I’m interested in engineering science,” he said. “I became interested in environmentally-friendly construction after watching Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.”
For Aragon, BMCC’s cost of tuition was another attraction.
“The tuition at CUNY is around the same as colleges in Bogota,” said Aragon, who “loves the diversity in New York City and that public transportation runs all night—everything back home shuts down early and there’s not much night life.”
Ayla Gafarova is from Azerbaijan and speaks Russian, Turkish, and English.
“I’m a Liberal Arts major but I just read about the Multimedia program here and I’m thinking that sounds interesting, too…” she said.
Gaforova heard about BMCC from a hometown friend who, “thought it would be a good first college experience for me.”
According to Gaforova, the “good news” is she’s happy to be at BMCC.
“But I don’t know what I want to do! I like interior design and want to study that…or multimedia…or art history…,” she laughs. “So many choices!”