Unpublished Article on Peg Lee's visit to India

President Lee back from India

President Lee recently returned from the 2nd summit convened by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice with the goal of "building bridges back to welcome students and scholars from countries that were discouraged from coming to the US in the post-9/11 world," according to Oakton's President Peg Lee. President Lee gathers that the factors that qualify a country to these summits are their "languages, cultures and economic relationships with the US and the rest of the world."

Six college presidents were invited to the summit, Oakton being the only community college in the nation to be selected.

President Lee took this invitation to heart because she feels that Oakton has always been supportive of international/intercultural students, "now better known as global education." This shows in the unique programs and facilities Oakton offers to all students, such as cultures week and a language lab at both campuses, but more important is the college's ethnic atmosphere.

The atmosphere is welcoming. According to Bill Paige at college advancement, there are over 100 languages spoken in Oakton's district and Oakton's student population reflects that. Our current 160 international students come in to an educational environment where "they see Polish people, Hispanic people, Chinese people, Indian people..." International student and health major Vrushank Shah immediately found Oakton a welcoming atmosphere due to it's diversity. "When I first came I got into a relationship with people of the same ethnicity." At the same time Vrushank joined the Board of Student Affairs as a senator which gave him a public platform to perform and "to get connected with different people at different levels."

He came to study in the US because for him it was very difficult to get into the college of his field. "In India, once you get under 90 percent [grades] you have a very slim chance to get into medicine." While he finds that education in medicine in the US is also competitive he says that he now has a better chance to get into medical school. "But there [India] once you don't get in you can't get in for your entire life." Vrushank plans to be a doctor in the US for the early part of his life and take his skills back to his home country during the later part of his life.

While some students come to Oakton on a student visa and pay the extra tuition, many other immigrant students have the advantage of having their legal resident family members sponsor them under the Family Visa. While this visa type application takes 10 years students would have the benefit of paying the in district tuition.

Math major Urmil Patel was able to come to the US on a visa because he had family living in the US already. His reason for coming is the same for most international students. Not only did he come to America for the job opportunities but because it was easier for him to get into and stay in college. For Urmil, India is more competitive and the market is becoming more saturated. Also "it is common that people have masters and Ph.D so having a bachelors degree just doesn't work anymore in India where here in this country as long as you have a bachelors degree you can still survive. And you can still have a variety of opportunities."

Urmil goes on to say that while it may be easy for some to go to college, "it is even more difficult to stay in because of the competitiveness." Urmil is very thankful to his parents for sacrificing the upper middle class lifestyle they had in India in order to ensure a quality education and successful career for Urmil. Urmil adds that he found Oakton very resourceful and helpful. He took advantage of the tutoring center often and feels that he got a lot out of it. He also found the faculty and the advising center very resourceful. Urmil says that he "highly recommends Oakton to new comers, especially if you are an immigrant."

Presidents Lee supports this delegation. Demand for it is very high. There is much difficulty Indian students face getting accepted into an Indian university. President Lee sites that there is only "1 seat for every 2000+ eligible applicants for admission." According to the American Association of Community Colleges' "fast facts" website, an association that oversees 1,202 institutions, 39 percent of international students attend a community college (approx. 100,000).

President Lee learned that education is given great priority in India. "I had no idea that 55% of the population in India is under 30 of years of age..." said Lee. She continues that "education is valued so highly in India that parents will skip a meal to save for the possibility of making and/or supporting their children's access."

President Lee brought back from the trip a reference that US Republican Karen Hughes made toward community colleges, that, according to Lee they "take people from where they are in their lives to where they want to be." This reference rings with Oakton's slogan "Start here. Go anywhere."

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