This week we celebrate International Education Week (IEW) with the goal to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from study abroad, learn and exchange experiences. This celebration evolved from work of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to share the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.

As we immerse ourselves in our own professional and personal workspaces, we may not often consider the way everything we do is interconnected with those around the world, but the links are everywhere. In our Purpose and Belonging weekly blogs, for example, we continue to find international themes linked through sustainability and the Global Sustainability Goals, the center for peace and conflict studies, technology and distance education, the Latinx success initiatives and others.

Within our own institution, in addition to nearly 300 international or non-US citizen students at ACC, we have a number of employees with international origins – a few are listed here:

    • Dr. Erasmus Addae, Associate Vice Chancellor of Distance Education, Ghana
    • Dr. Shirin Khosropour, Peace and Conflict Center Director & Professor of Psychology, Iran
    • Angela Hodge, Vice Chancellor of Finance, England
    • Juan Molina, Professor of Mathematics, Guatemala
    • Dr. Susan Thomason, Associate Vice Chancellor Teaching & Learning Excellence, Ecuador
    • Dr. Liz Pintar, Professor of Anthropology (Retired), Argentina
    • Alejandra Polcik, Director of Hispanic Student Initiatives, Mexico
    • Dewi Antony, Director of Analytical Data Warehouse, Indonesia
    • Irena Klaic, Riverside Campus Head Librarian, Croatia

The global pandemic also taught us many things, and one of the lessons that stand out is the expansive connection of networks around the world that proved we don’t stand alone in the international environment. As quickly as the virus spread from country to country, the efforts to stop the spread, research a vaccine, manufacture and move critical supplies, and shifts in business and industry to support the needs of citizens in every single country grew exponentially. For many of us, it was the first time we’d seen the entire world sequestered in lock-down and also the entire world in solidarity with a common purpose to help one another across borders and fight the spread of this deadly virus.

Leveraging international experiences – externally or internally – can help us support student outcomes through purpose and belonging in the future of education and the future of work.

The Purpose of International Experiences

In the ASDC (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) article, “Why Global Education Matters,” by Ariel Tichnor-Wagner, we learn that global education not only supports the best practice of experiential learning, broadening perspectives, and connections and collaborations across cultures, but supports student outcomes that lead to academic success and student well-being. These are many of the same focus areas we have pursued at ACC in our student success:

“Student Engagement – Research shows that when students learn content through authentic tasks and real-world experiences, they are more likely to engage, which in turn leads to higher attendance and achievement.

College and Career Readiness Our economy is global, with over 40 million U.S. jobs tied to international trade. By providing students with opportunities to understand the wider world and the diversity of people, cultures and perspectives in it, schools are also giving students a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Social-Emotional Learning – Global education helps develop self-awareness of one’s own identity, culture, beliefs and how those connect with the wider world; social awareness including empathy, perspective-taking, appreciating diversity, and respecting others; and relationship-building skills with diverse individuals and groups through effective communication and collaboration.

Student Empowerment Global learning enables students with agency to take purposeful action to improve their own lives and to positively influence the world around them. When students are provided opportunities to investigate issues they deem important (be it gun violence, access to clean water, or human rights violations), unpack why these issues exist, and come up with solutions to make them better, they become empowered to be the catalysts of the changes they wish to see.”

In addition, the benefits that international experience (including international students in our classrooms) brings to our local students here in Austin makes them more rich and inclusive. The sharing of experiences, cultures, traditions, and perspectives from international students supports our equity, diversity, and inclusion goals inside and outside of the classroom.

Unfortunately, the recent pandemic effect has had a significant impact on international programs in higher education. Karin Fischer’s post on What Matters in Global Education and Why concurs that 2020 was a bad year for international educators:

“International enrollments fell 15 percent in fall 2020, according to the just-released Open Doors report, the largest one-year tumble in the 72 years the Institute of International Education has been publishing the annual international-student census. By comparison, foreign-student numbers declined cumulatively by less than 4 percent in the years following 9/11. For the first time since the 2014 academic year, the number of international students studying at an American college dipped below one million.

The financial impact was also unprecedented for campuses’ bottom lines and college-town economies. NAFSA: Association of International Educators reported that the contribution international students make to the broader U.S. economy plummeted 27 percent in 2020, to $28.4 billion.”

What we have learned through our Purpose and Belonging research about a sense of belonging extends to creating such spaces for our international students. The Global Belonging Collaborative expands on belonging as a fundamental human need and the importance in human health and behavior:

“Human beings have a core sense of, and need for, belonging that is intrinsic and universal, and that transcends culture, religion, race, and location. This fundamental need governs our brains, immune systems, and behavior, and it is a cornerstone of healthy individuals, communities, and societies. Indeed, whereas having a strong sense of belonging can help people feel confident, connected, satisfied, and safe, not belonging can lead to negative thoughts about the self, others, and future, as well as to feelings of isolation, alienation, hopelessness, and distrust that portend the development of maladjustment and emotional issues in addition to serious mental and physical health problems including anxiety, depression, suicide, and disease. Despite the central importance of belonging for human health and behavior, however, increasing belonging is rarely a focus of individuals and organizations. Moreover, we still lack a basic understanding of how belonging affects individuals and how we can use this information to enhance belonging and help individuals realize their best health, wellbeing, and potential.”

The impact of purpose and belonging has a long history and has been increasingly focused on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the future of education and work, particularly the social connections that were affected and are sorely missed. Harvard University’s perspective, “How Universities Can Move Society Forward Post-Pandemic: 5 Drivers of Academia’s Future,” speaks to both purpose and belonging in two of the drivers. The first one, ‘Solving the world’s toughest problems demands both broad and deep thinking, often at the intersection of disciplines,’ is in line with the development of purpose in life and how to connect with and strive for something that will impact humanity and the world in a positive way. The second driver addresses the need in education to blend technology and social connections as a catalyst to solve those tough problems in our world.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities article, “International Students’ Sense of Belonging,” highlights that international students can face bias-based or discriminatory experiences around locality, relationships and power. Far from home and navigating educational bureaucracies means that higher education leaders need to understand that “inclusion recognizes and embraces the need for all members of the institutional community to have a sense of ownership in the institution and a place of belonging.”

Bar Chart: US and International Students’ Response to the Survey Item, “I feel I am part of a close and supportive community of colleagues and friends.”

Literature also focuses on the role of the International Office in higher education. The Association of International Educators (NAFSA) provides Four Ways to Create a Culture of Belonging in the International Office emphasizing the need to include diversity, equity and inclusion frameworks in their services and support and also focus on diversifying the field. Andrew Gordon, founder and CEO of Diversity Abroad, states, “DEI is an area for leadership development in international education as a whole…really looking at the entire operation and understanding how we as leaders are championing diversity, equity, and inclusion in what we’re doing, who we’re hiring, and how we’re training our staff.”

Research and Equity Focus

US Higher Education Internationalization Through an Equity-Driven Lens (2020)

“We articulate the potential for research on US higher education internationalization to be equity driven and offer considerations for how researchers and practitioners can center power and equity as they engage in investigating or implementing internationalization processes. We recommend interrogating how, by whom, and for whom internationalization is defined; using a structural lens that bridges internationalization to its primary driver – globalization – and viewing internationalization as the amalgamation of multiple complex practices.”

Seeking a Sense of Belonging: Social and Cultural Integration of International Students with American College Students (2019)

“International students studying at higher education institutions in the United States experience challenges as they adjust to new environments. Social connectedness to American college students could mitigate such challenges and assist international students with social and cultural integration. This study, using qualitative data from interviews, examined international students’ experiences and their sense of belonging on an American college campus, including the factors that contribute to or deter from it.”

Related Pathways

Global Studies

The mission of the Interdisciplinary Studies AA degree in Global Studies is to prepare students to be successful global citizens with global awareness, a global perspective, and a passion to make the world a better place. Students should always consult with an academic or Interdisciplinary Studies faculty advisor regarding transfer to a specific college or university.

The Global Studies focus examines the diversity, complexity and interdependence of the world community. It also provides a broad knowledge base for understanding and analyzing the political, economic, social and cultural aspects of current world problems and issues. The Global Studies program at ACC fosters the development of skills that furthers the ability of students, faculty, and community members to participate in an increasingly global society. Through its official curriculum, special events, and service work, the program provides opportunities for students to expand their understanding of and engagement with global citizenship in a variety of ways. These courses and events promote critical thinking about the individual’s role in the world with the overall goal of creating a culturally responsive citizenry.

Other Interdisciplinary Studies Programs

African and African Diaspora Studies Program Map

Mexican American Studies Program Map

Mexican American Studies Field of Study Curriculum

Peace and Conflict Studies Program Map

International Business

The Associate of Applied Science Degree in International Business provides students with the technical skills for entry-level positions as specialists in exporting and importing for the significant and growing international trade community. Most students pursue careers in import-export trading, international transportation and logistics, global supply chain management, international marketing, or various international business support services. The degree offers courses that can prepare students to take the National Association of Small Business International Trade Educators Certified Global Business Professional (NASBITE CGBP) exam.

The International Business Certificate is designed for students currently employed in the field of international business or for students who have completed college-level work in another field and want to acquire specialized skills in international business. Most students pursue opportunities as entrepreneurs in international business or careers in import-export trading or management, international transportation and logistics, global supply chain management, international marketing, or various international business support services. This certificate can also be applied toward the requirements for the ACC International Business Associate in Applied Science Degree. The certificate program includes material covered in the National Association of Small Business International Trade Educators Certified Global Business Professional (NASBITE CGBP) exam. The certificate is not designed to meet the two years of college-level study requirement for those taking the exam without prior commerce work experience.

Foreign Languages

The decision to pursue the study of a foreign language may prove one of the most rewarding choices of your academic career. The potential personal, professional, economic, and social benefits of learning a foreign language are considerable. The mission of the ACC Foreign Language Department is to provide foreign language courses that assist in developing communicative skills and awareness of other cultures and that provide students with a basis in a foreign language that will prepare them for a successful transfer into a baccalaureate degree-granting institution. We believe that all students should have a continuing opportunity to enhance their understanding of foreign languages and foreign cultures. This belief requires student-centered instructional strategies and high academic standards.

We offer courses of study in the following languages:

Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Russian, Spanish.

English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

ACC’s ESOL program is an excellent choice for students who want to prepare for a degree program at Austin Community College or to transfer to another college or university. Our courses are designed to prepare non-native speakers for success in reaching their educational and professional goals. Although ESOL classes were created for degree-seeking students, professionals who have completed degree programs in their native countries can improve their English skills for greater success in their career fields.

Because the ESOL program is designed to develop academic-level proficiency, prospective students should have a basic understanding of English before enrolling in courses. We offer four levels of classes, high-beginning to advanced.

Continuing Education

Continuing Education programs include bilingual courses, courses that support language learning, and teacher training courses to teach English as a second language.

Introduction to Welding Course

Introduction to oxyacetylene and arc welding techniques. Safety is an important focus of this class. Note: (CE) WLDG-1000 + (CE) WLDG-1043 = WLDG-1405 (4 Credits) Course instruction is Bilingual (English/Spanish) and includes all required personal equipment.

Teaching English as a Second Language and Bilingual Learners

This course is designed to prepare teachers to instruct learners whose primary language is other than English. The course emphasizes language concepts and best instructional practices for facilitating English language proficiency. Instructional techniques for both literacy and oral language development focus on social and academic language skills. In addition, the course prepares the candidates for managing the ESL program, ESL classroom, working with families, and drawing upon community resources.

  • Court Interpreting Skills – Part I
  • Basic Interpreting Skills
  • Basic Translation Skills
  • Conversational Spanish IV
  • Conversational Spanish III
  • Conversational Spanish II
  • Conversational Spanish I

Adult Basic Education

Internationally Trained Professionals

These free classes are open to adults with degrees from non-U.S. countries who are authorized to work in the U.S. Students must have a diploma and school transcripts. F1, F2, B1, and B2 visas are not accepted at this time. Sign up online during the registration period. All students enrolled in the ITP class will receive one-on-one support from an Adult Education Coordinator.

English as a Second Language (ESL)

ACC’s free ESL courses help non-native speakers learn basic English to support student goals for career advancement, college, High School Equivalency (HSE), and family and community. Students advance at their own pace through four levels of classes that teach writing, reading, listening, speaking, and pronunciation. Small class sizes and fun activities provide plenty of opportunities to practice what you learn.

Programs, Organizations, and Events

Faculty-Led Study Abroad Programs

Faculty-Led Study Abroad Programs at ACC currently listed for 2022 enable students to explore countries and cultures around the globe. These programs are managed by the International Programs Office. Benefits of studying abroad:

  • Add a global perspective to your education and resume
  • Strengthen your foreign language skills
  • Experience and learn from different cultures
  • Develop skills essential to succeeding in the workforce

Argentina – Spanish IV

Austria – Art Appreciation

Austria + England – Psychology

Costa Rica – Environmental Science

Costa Rica – Sustainable Tourism

Cuba – Percussion

England – Archaeology and Physical Anthropology

England + France – Humanities

France – Fashion

France – Government

Germany – Welding Technology

Ireland + United Kingdom – British Literature

Italy – Art History

Japan – Japanese II

Jordan – Arabic II

Romania – Social Psychology

Board of Trustees’ Study Abroad Scholarship

The Board of Trustees’ Study Abroad Scholarship awards $1,000 to be applied to the recipient’s program fee. Students applying to non-ACC study abroad programs are eligible to apply as well.

To request an application, contact International Programs at

International Students at ACC

The International Student Office shares countries represented by non-US citizen students at ACC.

Albania 1 Honduras 7 Rwanda 4
Bangladesh 1 India 37 Singapore 2
Belize 1 Iran 2 Solomon Islands 1
Brazil 10 Israel 1 South Africa 3
Burkina Faso 2 Italy 1 Spain 6
Cameroon 2 Japan 4 Sri Lanka 1
Canada 4 Jordan 3 Switzerland 2
China 23 Kenya 3 Taiwan 4
Colombia 7 Korea, South 15 Tajikistan 1
Congo 3 Lebanon 1 Trinidad & Tobago 2
Cuba 1 Malaysia 1 Turkey 4
Ecuador 2 Mexico 34 Turkmenistan 1
El Salvador 1 Nepal 2 Ukraine 6
Ethiopia 2 Netherlands 1 United Kingdom 4
France 4 Nigeria 8 Venezuela 14
Gabon 4 Pakistan 5 Vietnam 25
Germany 2 Paraguay 1 Yemen (aden) 1
Ghana 1 Peru 1 Zimbabwe 2
Greece 1 Philippines 5 Other Foreign 2
Guatemala 1 Romania 1 Unknown Origin 1
Guyana 1 Russian Federation 2

Distance Education

Refer to last week’s blog on Technology and Distance Education to see the global reach of students taking classes internationally.

Global Austin

“What started in 1960 as a simple program to welcome international students to the University of Texas campus, is now part of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). We’ve connected thousands of international visitors with those in Austin who forge our economy, architecture, environment, city government, technology, and entrepreneurial, innovative culture. In a single year, we host hundreds of leaders and professionals from dozens of countries through our Global Ties network.” ​

Global Austin – Great Decisions

Want to talk about foreign policy AND learn more about geopolitics? Join a Global Austin “Great Decisions” discussion group. Joining one of these groups is a great way to learn more about the critical issues facing America and develop friendships with others also interested in world affairs. Each group meets eight times a year to discuss today’s most pressing international issues, using the topics and related materials developed by the National Foreign Policy Association.

Freedom in Creation – Global Village Education

The Freedom in Creation – Global Village Education programs serve the world with a tangible understanding of the global village while enriching classrooms and communities with interdisciplinary, participatory, and service-learning. We connect the classroom with the real world, anchoring classroom theory with relationships and personal experience. The basis of Global Village Education is that there is a fundamental gap in the classroom that is between theory and real-life relationships. Textbooks and studies based on quickly changing environments are soon-to-be outdated, confusing, and often lack human connection. Connecting our ongoing interdisciplinary programs in Uganda with international classes provides important, engaging, real-life experience-based data which bridges international divides and motivates students to better identify with the realities of existing relationships. We believe the fruit of these personal connections is greater empathy through a sense of reciprocity and increased responsibility.

ACC Innovation Grant: Coppersmithing Exchange Program in Mexico (2004-2005)

Funded by IDS, now TLED, this grant was designed to establish an exchange program with a coppersmithing program at Secati 166 in Santa Clara del Cobre, Mexico to study with some of the best known international coppersmiths in the world. There was a jewelry class as well as a welding class and coppersmithing class making it a good opportunity for students to study and learn from this experience. The first year, 23 students and professionals in the field participated in the program. Many were attracted to the program, exceeding the original expectations due to the unique opportunity it afforded. The program continued for two years beyond the grant and was a successful cultural, social and craftsmanship exchange.

Global Belonging Collaborative

Our mission is to enhance belonging worldwide by providing scientists, teachers, practitioners, and the general public with information, tools, resources, and opportunities to collaborate, network, and share research and resources related to belonging. By conducting this work, we aim to cultivate a universal understanding that belonging is a fundamental need that should be celebrated and promoted by all people and organizations worldwide.


To accomplish our mission, we engage in activities that seek to:

  • Foster belonging-related academic interactions and collaborations worldwide
  • Conduct research on the topics of belonging and belongingness
  • Create educational and training opportunities for promoting belonging
  • Engage with organizations, communities, and the public to understand the importance of belonging and how to enhance it
  • Share and disseminate information on the science and practice of belonging

Export Assistance and the State Trade Expansion Programs

The Office of the Governor works with a variety of entities to ensure that Texas companies are represented abroad. The programs help Texas companies expand into foreign markets with opportunities for companies to promote their products and services to international buyers and partners through trade missions, trade shows, seminars, and inbound buyer missions. The Office of the Governor Business Assistance team also connects companies with trade counseling and training programs.

American and Swiss Officials Sign Agreement to Expand Apprenticeships

In addition to International Education Week, this is National Apprenticeship Week and on November 18, 2021, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves, and Switzerland’s President Guy Parmelin signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to expand apprenticeships among Swiss companies and Swiss-invested companies in the United States and to promote job creation in both countries. Swiss companies actively invest in U.S. manufacturing and directly support more than 500,000 U.S. jobs, with an average annual salary of $101,800. The deal is intended to increase job-training opportunities at Swiss companies in the United States. Apprenticeships are common in Europe, and Switzerland is a leader. American colleges have been urged to embrace such programs.

Austin Sister Cities

The program fosters friendly relations and understanding between the people of Austin and our sister cities around the world. They cultivate global relationships with Austin’s sister cities that engage our communities in citizen diplomacy while offering educational, cultural, and economic benefits to all – one individual, one community at a time.

It’s a Wonderful World

Some of you may know that I am a third culture kid. This term was “coined by US sociologist Ruth Hill Useem in the 1950s for children who spend their formative years in places that are not their parents’ homeland.” My parents were a bi-cultural and bi-racial couple who lived around the world before retiring. My personal journey was truly a melting pot of cultures and experiences – my mother was from Panama, my father was from the Northeast United States, my maternal grandmother from Colombia, I was born in Ecuador, my first language was Spanish, I went to high school in Indonesia, lived in 7 countries before starting college in Virginia, and once got lost in Corsicana.

I was also exposed to several international opportunities early in my career at ACC and had the good fortune to collaborate and connect with faculty members that I still work with today. I attended an International Education and Economic Development Conference in Mexico with Mike Midgley; was invited to represent ACC on a Latin American Recruitment trip to Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil; helped lead a European Learning Tour of automotive, construction, and IT industries in Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and Germany joined by Mary Kohls, Department Chair of Computer Science; Hector Aguilar, Dean of Continuing Education; Amardeep Kahlon, Professor of Computer Science; and Warren Dunworth, Professor of Welding; and I worked with Mathematics professor Juan Molina to develop and host a hybrid Distance Education workshop in Torreon, Mexico.

I share this because I have learned first-hand the importance of a global education and lived experiences overseas and how this exposure can change one’s perspectives for the better. But whether we travel or are exposed to these opportunities locally, international connections can provide us with purpose and belonging in ways that will forever change our view of the world, our communities, and ourselves.

In shared purpose and belonging,

Susan Thomason in collaboration with

Jessica Alfaro, Manager/PDSO, International Student Admissions and Enrollment

William Hayden, Director of International Programs/Study Abroad

Terry Barksdale, Professor and Reference Librarian

Dr. Erasmus Addae, Associate Vice Chancellor of Distance Education

Are you harnessing the power of purpose and belonging in your work at ACC?

We’d love to hear from you! Contact for opportunities to be featured on our website and blog.