Dressed in a fuzzy, thick parka at BMCC’s International Student Orientation, Ukraine native Nadiia Lekhiv, jokes that she’s used to Manhattan’s cold weather. She’s also used to children, and is convinced she’ll adapt just fine to life as a BMCC student.
“I’ve been an au pair here in the United States for the past two-and-a-half years,” says the Early Childhood Education major. “I’ve met many other au pairs and children from all over the world, and I hope to meet just as many people at BMCC. I want to say ‘Oh, I have a friend in China, in Spain…every country'.”
Lekhiv, who speaks fluent Ukrainian, Russian and English, was just one of the many international students who attended BMCC’s recent orientation, spearheaded by Lily Yi-Elkin, BMCC’s Assistant Director of International and Transfer Services.
Missing aspects of home
"Lily’s been so friendly and helpful,” says Megan Shillingford, who is from the Commonwealth of Dominica and plans to study Accounting. “I like that she’s cheerful."
Shillingford participated in a networking meet-and-greet arranged by Yi-Elkin in which students introduced themselves to each other and learned something unique about their new friend’s home country. She aspires for a career that is “social,” allowing her to interact with a variety of people.
“I came to BMCC because I really like New York and I was seeking a diverse education. My home country is a bit limited, education-wise, when it comes to practical, real-world experience.”
However, unlike Lekhiv, she admits: “I do miss the tropical weather back in Dominica! But I’m excited to be here."
Registration and Visa information
At International Student Orientation, held in room N-402, students asked representatives from the Office of the Bursar various questions about the Panther system, registration, CUNY Skills Assessment Examination, regulations pertaining to a student’s F-1 (immigration Visa) status, and more.
Naomi Machado, Director of BMMC’s Language Immersion for International Students (BLIIS) explained that BLISS is an affordable ESL program for international students with an F-1 Visa and a BMCC I-20.
According to Yi-Elkin, last semester, the majority of BMCC’s international students came to New York from South Korea, Japan, Nepal, China and Russia. BMCC international students come from more than 100 countries around the world.
The transition into an American college isn’t always smooth sailing—and that’s where Yi-Elkin and her office can help.
“Staffers in the Admissions/International Office are here to assist students with their immigration questions and any other matters that may affect their legal status in the United States while studying at BMCC,” says Yi-Elkin. “I encourage students to continuously ask questions to ensure they are on the right academic and career track.”
According to Yi-Elkin, this semester, students faced more challenges in obtaining their F-1 Visas than in the fall semester.
Basically, Spring 2011 students only had two months to get their application approved by CUNY, to contact the International/Admissions Office for assistance with their I-20 (government form needed for official student status) process, and to coordinate with the U.S. Embassy in their home country for a student Visa.
“Additionally, some students were denied their student Visas this semester, so the ones who have been approved were very lucky and must have presented detailed and precise information,” says Yi-Elkin.
Skills exam and prep
International students are encouraged to focus on the CUNY skills exam, which determines their course placement. Once they clear their pre-registration requirements, they can register early for classes.
International students are also generally advised to complete their remedial classes before focusing on classes within their major.
Some lucky incoming students were able to transfer credits from another school right to BMCC.
Nursing major Natalie Idzi, from Ukraine, was able some transfer nine credits from the university she attended back home, over to BMCC. “I’m not quite sure what I want to do specifically in Nursing, but I definitely want a Bachelor’s degree,” she says.
Early registration is key
Christina Lev, from BMCC's Registration Office, suggested all international students receive advisement early.
According to Lev, a big attraction to BMCC is location, location, location—and not just in Tribeca. Classes are also offered in Inwood, Harlem, Brooklyn College and Lehman College.
“Many students like that BMCC has other locations around Manhattan,” says Lev. “It offers them greater flexibility when it comes to travel and scheduling."
Navigating the system
Business Management major Dalerdzhon Bakaev is from Tajikstan. He moved to the United States two years ago, and took some ESL courses to improve his English before enrolling at BMCC.
Bakaev is trying to adjust to life as an American college student. “The academic system here is very different than it is in Tajikstan. We don’t have as many classes available at different times. There are so many different courses I can take here at BMCC.”
Bakaev hopes to be an entrepreneur someday. “I like the idea of being my own boss, maybe form a company that advises people on how to start their own businesses or proposals” he says. “I want to learn as much as possible in the capital of the world—New York City.”