Some BMCC students enroll at the college already knowing their way around New York City…after all, they grew up in one of the five boroughs. However, there are many students who are not native New Yorkers, didn’t attend a local high school and only know a handful of people in New York.
According to Lily Yi-Elkin, Assistant Director of International and Transfer Services, BMCC is home to approximately 1,200 international students. They come from more than 110 countries, are bi-lingual or tri-lingual, and are studying here on an F-1 visa, which allows them to attend college outside of their home country.
International Student Orientation, held on campus and operated by the Office of Admissions/International Student Services Office, guides incoming students through their orientation process, so they can register for classes with ease—and meet other students from around the world.
Yi-Elkin, her staff, and members from the Student Government Association (SGA), made themselves available to international students during their orientation session.
Yi-Elkin and staffers from the Testing Office, Registrar and other on-campus service departments explained how to use the Panther system, register for classes at BMCC, testing procedures and more, while reassuring them the International Student Services Office will assist them with any questions they have about their F-1 visa.
“I think the Admissions/International Office's mission statement clearly demonstrates how the international team strives to provide outstanding service to international students at BMCC,” said Yi-Elkin. “The statement is: ‘We pledge to effectively guide students through the admissions process by providing quality assistance and services’.”
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.
One of the orientation speakers was Peter Pallis, a counselor in the Academic Advisement and Transfer Center. Pallis advised students to concentrate on getting their remedial classes out of the way, “as soon as possible."
Pallis encouraged international students to come to the Academic Advisement and Transfer Center at any time if they have any questions about transferring. “If you’re wondering, ‘What do I need to transfer to Baruch College?’ we can help you with what you need to do.”
According to Pallis, it’s never too early “to look at schools you want to transfer to, after you obtain your 2-year degree.” He described a BMCC degree as an “insurance policy. Many foundation classes can be waived at another school once you obtain your associate’s degree.”
Some lucky incoming students were able to transfer credits from another school right to BMCC. Hicham Sebbani from Moracco plans to major in Computer Information Systems (CIS), and was able to transfer four credits over from the university he attended in Morocco.
Ironically, Sebbani, who speaks fluent Arabic, French and English, originally studied literature in his home country. “My brother felt CIS would be a better major for me here in the U.S.," he explained. Taking his big brother’s advice, Sebbani hopes to work “with software, in some capacity," and is eyeing NYU for his bachelor’s degree. At least, for now, he says.
Meeting new friends
According to Yi-Elkin, most BMCC students hear about BMCC “from family and friends who are living in NYC.”
Incoming student Sarah Mencia, who plans to study business, heard about BMCC from friends. “I was told it’s one of the best community colleges,” said the Dominican Republic native, who says having a degree from a U.S. college “looks good” back home. “You can find a better, higher-paying job was a U.S. degree.”
Aspiring accountant Neta Golan, who “loves numbers," came to study at BMCC with a friend; both are from Israel. “The staffers I’ve met so far have been very helpful, and it seems like BMCC has a comfortable student environment,” she said at orientation.
Golan would eventually like to transfer to Baruch College, then move back to Israel to work as an accountant. “Instead of just jumping head-first into a 4-year college in New York, I thought it was best to first get my feet wet at BMCC."
According to Yi-Elkin, the international population at BMCC has “changed."
"Right now, we have the largest group of international students from South Korea, prior to that it was from the Caribbean," she said.
Yi-Elkin encourages international students to get to know each other, and led an exercise where talked to someone “new” sitting near them to find out something interesting about their new friend’s home country.
The Student Government President John Marshall, a Video Arts Technology (VAT) major knows quite well what it’s like to leave home and study in another, different country. He himself was an international student; coming to New York from his native Trinidad.
Marshall, a “U.S. citizen-to-be” spoke to the international students at orientation. “I know what it’s like to be an international student, it can be challenging. Through SGA, I want to bring awareness about the F1 visa, and want students to know it can jeopardize their immigration status if they fail a class,” he said “I want to see better things happen for international students.”
He encouraged international students to consider joining SGA, especially since many SGA members are international students.
The number increases
Yi-Elkin told the international students: “You represent many different countries in the world. We started with 600 international students, when I first started here 18 years ago, and now we have about 1,200 international students,” she said. “I’ve always been very proud of the international student population at BMCC and to see how many countries are represented.”