For International Education Week, meet a winner of the World Citizen Scholarship

Abdoulahi Ndiaye, an MCC-Penn Valley student from Senegal, won the World Citizen Scholarship in 2014. International students are sometimes surprised at how expensive it can be to live in the United States.

The idea behind Metropolitan Community College’s World Citizen Scholarship is to help MCC international students deal with unforeseen challenges.

Like, in Abdoulahi Ndiaye’s case, getting his car fixed. Buying a laptop for school. And paying the last installment on his tuition. “I was in a critical situation,” he says.

That was in 2014, and the World Citizen Scholarship — which required an essay on “How will an MCC education help you make a difference in the world?” — got Ndiaye over the hump.

Nov. 13-17 is International Education Week, “an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.” At MCC, it’s also a good time to salute our 187 international students and encourage giving to the World Citizen Scholarship.

Julianne Jacques, international student counselor at MCC-Penn Valley, created the scholarship through the MCC Foundation in the early 2000s. Used to be, only the wealthiest students could live and study in another country. But study abroad broadened to students of different income levels.

Jacques says there were quite a few students that year beset by unexpected family circumstances, natural disasters and other difficulties, and as a result they had trouble paying their MCC tuition. International students’ tuition is more than twice what MCC in-district students pay.

“I was looking for a way to create a legacy that international students could tap into,” she says. She seeded the money, “and we have been quietly fundraising for it ever since.”

Now, Jacques and other advocates of MCC’s international students would like to do some louder fundraising.

The amount of the World Citizen Scholarship, awarded annually, depends on interest rates, but it’s never been enough to pay for even one semester of tuition. Jacques would like to see the fund grow enough to make “a significant difference for an international student” — such as a year of tuition (about $7,000).

“That means we need to raise about $25,000,” Jacques says.

Abdoulahi Ndiaye on the job at MCC-Penn Valley’s enrollment center

Abdoulahi (aka Abdul) Ndiaye can vouch for how expensive it is to be an international student. He’s a friendly, welcoming presence at the front desk of the Malcolm T. Wilson Enrollment Center at MCC-Penn Valley — that’s one part-time job. And he works overnights as a stocker at a Hy-Vee grocery store, where he is also a management intern.

During his time here, his family has faced unexpected financial hardships. He applied to the government for permission to work off campus, and his petition was granted. He has taught French and math at Academie Lafayette charter school, was a driver helper at UPS and washed dishes at a hotel. He also worked at a Penn Valley computer lab.

He arrived in Kansas City from Senegal and became a student at MCC in 2013 but hasn’t been able to save enough money to return to his homeland for a visit. Ndiaye, who had already earned a bachelor’s degree in Senegal, chose KC because a sister lives here. She told him he’d have greater opportunities in business, whether here or back home, with an American college degree.

His first challenge, however, was learning English. Although Ndiaye, now 33, could speak four other languages when he landed in the United States, he didn’t know enough English to ask directions to the restroom. “I was trying to force everybody to speak French” because that’s one of the languages he grew up speaking.

At MCC “they sent me right to basic, Level 1 English,” he says, praising his “wonderful” instructors, who helped him in class and out of class. He remembers Jacques encouraging him to watch cartoons, among other things, to help him with English. And he spent so much time in the tutoring center it was “like my everyday workplace.”

Once he finished ESL classes, he started taking computer science courses but decided he doesn’t really like math, even though he’s not bad at it. He switched to business administration.

This semester is his last at MCC. Although he’s still finishing up a couple of classes and the internship, he was able to walk at MCC commencement last spring with “all accessories” — full academic regalia including high honors. During his time here he has been a Student Ambassador and a peer mentor at Penn Valley.

Although a career in business is still the plan — he worked at a car import/export company in Senegal — he could also see himself becoming an academic advisor for international students.

First, though, he plans to move on to either UMKC or Park University to earn an MBA. Before that, he hopes to be able to work for a year. He has applied to the government for Optional Practical Training (OPT), which would allow up to 12 months of temporary employment in his field before completing studies.

At MCC, he learned how to be successful, he says. Leaving here “is going to be very painful for me.” He has family in Senegal, but he has family at MCC, too.

“Abdoulahi is a wonderful ambassador to the MCC-Penn Valley community,” Jacques says. “He has a gift for making connections with other students and employees.”

Click here to make a contribution to MCC’s World Citizen Scholarship. MCC employees who’d like to give through payroll deduction can find the form here.

Some of MCC’s international students this year, pictured in September at MCC-Penn Valley