Would it surprise you to learn that for the past five years Iowa Valley Community College District has had the highest percent of international students among all of Iowa's 15 community colleges? Nearly five percent of our students are international, compared to one percent at the other Iowa community colleges. Creating a cross-cultural experience for all of our students is in keeping with our core value: "we value the diversity in our midst."
We recognize that international travel and study abroad experiences can be difficult for most of our students to accomplish, so we are pleased that we can host international students here at Marshalltown Community College. Our international students arrive at MCC for two main reasons: either they have come to participate in intercollegiate athletics, or they are an exchange student looking for a cross-cultural educational experience in the U.S.
MCC has participated in the Youth for Understanding (YFU) international student exchange program for 20 years. During that time, more than 170 international students have interacted and engaged with domestic students (mostly from central Iowa) in the MCC classrooms, at campus activities and events, and through college volunteer projects. The MCC program, which is one of YFU's longest-running partnerships, has resulted in positive experiences for all students. A recent survey of MCC students indicated that 92 percent of the respondents said they are fascinated with the different cultures represented at MCC. Furthermore, the students expressed that they had made friendships with students from other countries, had their "eyes opened," or had developed an interest in learning more about different cultures.
Katie Kothenbeutel, MCC's YFU Coordinator, explains, "the YFU program benefits not only the international students, but everyone on campus. The international students bring both diversity of cultures and diversity of ideas." The survey also indicated that 73% of MCC students said the world seems "more accessible" to them after meeting students from other countries.
Our faculty also believes that students benefit from interactions with international students. Seventy-five percent of the faculty agrees that an understanding of international issues is important for success in the workplace.
As the world becomes smaller because international partnerships become commonplace, Marshalltown Community College students will be more prepared to meet workplace expectations because of their collaboration and friendships with students from countries like Russia, South Korea, Belgium, China, the Netherlands, Brazil, Canada, Spain, and Iceland.
Special Note: If you are interested in hosting a YFU student in your home, contact Katie.Kothenbeutel@iavalley.edu to learn more about this opportunity.
Robin Lilienthal is provost at Marshalltown Community College.