COD’s Community College Initiative Program, sponsored by the US Department of State, gives international students the opportunity to study at the college and further develop their education, leadership, and professional skills while becoming familiar with the English lan- guage. For one year these students take a full set of courses.
The 12 CCIP students at COD this year are from Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and South Africa and are studying applied engineering, business, computer information technology, architecture/ building technology and MPTV.
This year, CCIP asked staff members if any of them would like to volunteer to be a “social host” for one of the students, which means they would commit to one or two days of contact with the student each month, which might include a home-cooked meal, a local outing or an invitation to a holiday or family celebration. Philosophy and religious studies teacher for seven years now, John Santiago decided he would reach out and be a social host.
“It’s a great way to provide a connection for them to the holidays and give them a deeper sense of life here,” commented Santiago, who has his Ph.D. in philosophy from UIC.
Santiago was happy to become friends with 22 year-old international student, Tshediso Berries who arrived in Illinois on Aug. 2 from Free State, South Africa.
Berries earned his scholarship to study at COD during his last year in college at Goldfields FET College in Welkom, Free State, South Africa, a college similar to a community college. Within the next two years, he will earn his Bachelor’s degree in engineering. He is current- ly enrolled in a heavy load of courses including Building Material, Construction Methods, and Entrepreneurship.
“One of my biggest dreams is to have my own construction business and contribute to the economic development of South Africa,” said Berries when asked on where he sees himself in the future.
Berries enjoyed his first Thanksgiving with the Santiago family last week and was in awe of all of the delicious, traditional Thanksgiving foods.
“The food was amazing! I’ve never been so stuffed.”
He also really admired the sense of family he felt with the Santiagos and appreciated the family values they projected.
“I learned that Thanksgiving is a holiday where American families celebrate what they have and live in the moment,” added Berries.
“I was overwhelmed with all of the generosity and kindness.” Berries is living in an apartment near the college with three other boys from CCIP. During their free time they like to play soccer together and watch movies. They’ve also attended concerts, plays, visited Navy Pier,and went to a corn maze for Halloween. He also mentioned how all 12 of the CCIP students are a very close group of people.
There are a few things about America that stand out to Berries.
“Where I’m from, only people with decent jobs own cars and there is usually one per family. Here, it seems that every member of the family has there own car,” explained Berries.
“In my town everyone gets around by bicycle.”
The city was exceptionally special to visit for Berries, because he is passionate about engineering and what he’s studying.
Overall, America is much better than he expected and he is looking forward to spending Christmas with the Santiagos along with other family gatherings. Santiago is very much into race car driving so the two are excited to go to a race track together sometime soon.