How International Students Adapt to Life at DVC


Kyle Glenn

Photo by Kyle Glenn

Jordi Tedja moved to the U.S. from Indonesia in the fall of 2021 and chose to attend Diablo Valley College because he wanted to follow in his sister’s footsteps.

“I thought it was a good idea to go to the same college as my sister,” who had attended the school five years earlier, he said.

But the process of getting admitted to the country wasn’t so simple. As an international student, Tedja had to wait weeks to complete the immigration process and struggled particularly with the written component: submitting an application letter in a language that wasn’t his own.

“The hardest part of it was the writing,” he said. “I was not used to writing in English.” 

Now a 21-year-old computer science major at DVC, Tedja has applied to UC Berkeley and Irvine and plans to transfer to a four-year university in the fall. He is one of more than 600 international students currently enrolled on campus, and his experience mirrors the challenges so many of them faced in order to attend school here.

For example, all foreign students are required to take an English assessment test that deems them ready to enter college-level academics. Students who aren’t yet adequately prepared can seek help from a variety of language schools that partner with DVC.

The immigration process requires all international students with an F-1 visa to be enrolled in at least one fully in-person or partially online class as part of the minimum 12-unit full-time course load that allows them to stay in the U.S. 

Beyond academic hurdles, it’s often common for international students to live with “host families.” Tedja explained that he and many of his Indonesian friends live in an apartment complex near campus called “The Crest,” which is owned by an Indonesian landlady. But finding group housing like that isn’t always so easy.  

The director of the International Students Office, Drew Gephart, said foreign students like Tedja are guaranteed assistance through specialized counselors who can guide them toward a four-year transfer. The department is also responsible for transferring all immigration paperwork to the students’ chosen universities. 

Additionally, international students can receive help from a support group provided by the school’s wellness counseling and mental health services.

Gephart said homesickness and the challenge of building relationships are among the biggest struggles facing foreign students. However, like for many other communities at DVC, there is a club where international students can connect and support each other. 

“When I first got here, the International Students Club was pretty big. I would meet with a lot of international students,” said Tedja, and “that’s how I met with my circle of friends.”

Those meetings take place every Wednesday and people who aren’t international students can also join. 

Gephart said it’s easy to make international students feel at home on campus. “Just be welcoming,” he said.

“If you see an international student,  just say hi,” Gephart added, “and if they seem lost, just help them.”