Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Community College Advantage for International Students

By Chiharu Nakatsuka

Are you currently deciding which college to attend in the U.S.? Are you still not sure whether to go to a college/university, graduate school, or English Language School (ELS)? Two years ago, I was also one of those who were unsure where to go and which college to attend. In the end, I finally chose Bergen Community College, where I am now attending. I believe that I made a wise choice in choosing to attend a community college and I would also strongly recommend it to you.

Before coming to the U.S., I already had a bachelor’s degree in my country. So, I had three options when I decided to study in the U.S.: 

1. take a 4-year college course;
2. go to graduate school;
3. or attend an ELS.

But my main objective in studying abroad was to be able to speak English fluently and to use this bilingual skill for my future career. In addition to this, I was also curious and wanted to see what an American classroom is like, how an American college student studies in class, and how a teacher in the U.S. teaches students. So, I decided that I was more interested in experiencing a U.S. college than attending language courses.

Studying abroad is not a cheap self-investment. After my graduation in college in Japan, I worked in a Japanese company for 4 years. I started to save money after I decided to go to the U.S. to further my study. However, I found out that it was very difficult for me to be able to afford attending a 4-year college course or a graduate course. I also couldn’t find any scholarships that I would be eligible for. 

But one day, my aunt who lives in New Jersey introduced me to a local community college. I had never heard of it before until she mentioned it to me. She told me that it is very common among ordinary American students to attend community college and then transfer to a 4-year college course. Also, it helps students save much more money than attending a 4-year college. Community college is also widely open to international students. This is the reason why I decided to apply to a community college.

Attending community college has a lot of advantages for students. One of the biggest advantages is its cheaper tuition. When you attend any course in college, you will have to take some required general education courses called liberal arts, which include courses such as literature, mathematics, language and psychology. Attending these general education courses takes a few years before you can enroll in your major study. If you take these general studies in a community college, you can save a lot of money than taking them in a 4-year college/university. Not only the cheaper tuition, but also the level and quality of education, faculties and facilities of the community college are as high as those of 4-year college/university. 

To add to this, every community college has its own English language program, so international students can improve their English proficiency before attending regular college courses with American students. In my community college, there are over 1,000 international students from over 90 countries around the world. There is an international student center there, and it always supports international students by giving information about visa, curriculum counseling, transferring, and introducing lots of on- and off- campus activities.

In all, I’m so glad to be attending a community college now. I am enjoying a high quality education with American students. So, why don’t you consider attending a community college in the future?


Hello everyone, I am Chiharu Nakatsuka, currently a student at Bergen Community College and majoring in Business International Trading and Accounting. Born in Japan, I grew up in Indonesia and am of Filipino descent. I really appreciated the opportunity to grow up in such a multicultural circumstance. After graduating in Nanzan University in Japan with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, I worked for a Japanese international trading company as a sales assistant for 4 years. Meeting and talking with people from various places in the world is one of my pleasures and has given me a wider outlook. Studying and living in the U.S. by myself is challenging sometimes but I enjoy exposing myself to a new environment. I love watching sports, especially football and traveling around the world.

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