• MHCC’s International Student Program Continues Growing

    Mt. Hood Community College's International Student Program Coordinator Janine Shockley keeps a yellow sticky note on her computer monitor. It has the number "6" scrawled on it.

    Janine Shockley and Mohammad Alabdulali (of Saudi
    Arabia) during a bowling outing with the MHCC
    International Students.

    "That's how many international students we had at MHCC when I started with the program in 2014," says Shockley. "Whenever I get frustrated or I hit a roadblock, I look at that note and recognize just how far we've come."

    Today, Shockley serves and supports 57 full-time international students attending MHCC on F1 student visas. They come to the college from all corners of the globe, including Russia, Taiwan, Japan, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia. Many of them hear about MHCC through friends and families, while others visit Oregon – for instance, as a student at an English-language school – and fall in love with the area before searching for a higher education program here.

    "Our greatest growth has come from the connections made through current and former international students," Shockley says. "Word-of-mouth advertising is huge for us, mainly because prospective students learn that we'll work closely with them and offer one-on-one support throughout their time here."

    Why MHCC for International Students?

    Growing the number of international students enrolled at MHCC demanded persistence, Shockley says. It required removing barriers, simplifying the application process for students, assigning a full-time person to help them navigate enrollment, and delivering good customer service.

    Shockley describes one of these removed barriers: MHCC doesn't require international students to take an English language test, like the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to be accepted. Instead, students take the free college placement test.

    "We can support new students with all levels of English in our English as a Second Language (ESL) and Intensive English for College and Careers (IECC) department, so it makes the application process easier," she adds.

    Her role largely focuses on making the transition to MHCC simpler for international students and on helping them build support networks far from home. She personally ensures that each student receives one-on-one advising; helps them with personal issues; assists them in getting involved in student government and other groups; and organizes international student social events, like bowling and lunches.

    "Many of these students have left their entire families behind, so if something happens, they often can't easily get to family to access that support network," Shockley explains. "I do my best to provide that support and to connect them to all the wonderful resources available across campus so they feel welcome at MHCC."

    Events like MHCC's annual Global Breakfast help international students adjust more easily to college and the culture here, as does the Portland metro area's innate diversity, meaning students can often find food, cultural sites, and support networks that they're more familiar with. In the future, Shockley hopes to establish an international student ambassador program, partnering current international students with incoming ones.

    For Shockley, the perseverance and motivation the international students display is inspiring.

    "They have a strong appreciation for education and have worked incredibly hard to get here," she says. "The enthusiasm they bring to events is powerful, they're passionate about getting involved on campus, and they really want to help welcome all students to MHCC."

    MHCC's International Student Alum

    Linh Hoang (left) with her sister Le.

    Linh Hoang graduated from MHCC in 2015; her sister, Le, also attended the college and earned her degree here in 2016. The Hoangs are from Vietnam.

    "I chose MHCC based on my cousin's recommendation," says Linh. "My experience there was awesome. I would not be where I am now had it not been for MHCC. I'd planned to earn an MBA in the United States, and now I'm fulfilling that dream."

    Linh, who now works towards a master's degree at City University of Seattle, studied Hospitality and Tourism Management at MHCC. After graduating, she worked for the college's Associated Student Government for a year as a receptions coordinator.

    "For myself and other international students, MHCC was and is our second home," says Linh. "MHCC staff was always there for us."

    Ali Alwaqedi graduated from MHCC in 2016.

    "I will never forget all the friendly faces and amazing instructors I had at MHCC," says Ali. "The international student office was extremely helpful in guiding me, making sure I understood all my options, and checking in with me during midterms and finals weeks."

    For Ali, attending MHCC allowed him to easily take the classes he needed for his major. He was also able to make close friends through his classes, study groups, and his involvement in student events. His favorite event: The Global Breakfast.

    Ali Alwaqedi (left) with his brother Abdullah.

    "Make sure you participate in the breakfast and learn about all the beautiful cultures we have and share on campus," Ali advises.

    And to incoming international students: "MHCC is where you can define your dreams and decide what it is you want to study. Don't be shy either; the college will soon be like a second home to you."

    You can email Janine Shockley at Janine.Shockley@mhcc.edu or call 503-491-7165 for more information, or visit mhcc.edu/ProspectiveInternationalStudents/.

    MHCC student Anne McGuire and Ayako Toda (of Japan); McGuire is hosting Toda this year.