The International Students of NOVA

Photo courtesy of Roger Hincapie


Since July 2018, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) has been hosting 30 students coming from 12 different countries around the globe as part of the Community College Initiative Program (CCI).

This year the CCI program, sponsored by the U.S Department of State, has brought students from Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, India, Indonesia, Kenya, South Africa and Turkey to enrich the cultural diversity of NOVA. The students are divided between the Annandale and Alexandria campuses.

Because NOVA is such a diverse college, with almost 8,000 students from abroad who have attended classes at the school in the recent years, 30 students can sound like a small number. However, Dr. Scott Ralls, president of NOVA, said, “The CCI Program makes NOVA even more NOVA, providing a higher cultural diversity to the college.”

These students were chosen between thousands of participants from each of their countries to come and spend one academic year studying, learning, sharing their cultures and building mutual understanding between nations. Through volunteering, internships and leadership development activities, these participants get involved and engaged while learning about American culture.

Photo courtesy of Roger Hincapie

The participants of the program will return to their home countries in May so they can give back to their communities the knowledge they have acquired. They will have finished more than 3,000 hours volunteering and more than 2,250 hours on their internships in which their professional, social and leadership skills will develop while they provide service to their host communities.

Several of these students have gotten involved and are active with different clubs and activities, supporting many organizations and even organizing events on campus.

One example is Eylul Akboru from Turkey. She has completed already more than a hundred volunteering hours in a wide variety of events and a similar amount of internship hours in two different organizations. Akboru currently helps students in public relations courses at the Annandale campus in the development of a real-life project with the guidance of one of her former professors from the fall semester, Dr. Melvin Murphy.

Photo courtesy of Roger Hincapie

Another student, Carlos Laverde from Colombia, is a passionate early-childhood education student who has been supporting different educational institutions in the area through his internship while he achieves his certificate. He is highly interested in his country’s education process, and plans to implement a project named CIEL in his home city, Medellin, to assist with additional educational programs that serve the youth from vulnerable populations.

NOVA is one of seven community colleges participating in this exchange program, and the one that hosts the most of the 150 students divided throughout colleges in different states across the country. The CCI program has been occurring for 12 years, and its prevalence is thanks to the positive impact that the participants have on both their host colleges and their communities as they return to their countries. The program helps to build a better understanding between the United States and the nations involved.