You are welcome here!

The Rice University English as a Second Language Program is taking part in the #YouAreWelcomeHere movement. This national social media campaign is spreading a friendly welcome message from U.S. higher education to international students around the world. We have welcomed students from more than 115 countries into our ESL programs. We value each and every one of them, as well as the unique views they bring with them.

Our program is located in Houston, one of the most diverse cities in the U.S.  The energy and cultural diversity of the Houston community, including our students, contribute to making our city a rich, vibrant and exciting place to be.


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A Cooler-Than-You-Think Visit to the Museum of Fine Arts


Intensive English students in front of Cloud Column, a monumental sculpture by Anish Kapoor

Rice University ESL students enjoyed experiencing the vibrant and growing arts community in Houston, beating the heat to cool off in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. One of the largest museums in the United States, the MFAH holds a vast collection of art and artifacts from all over the world. One of our ESL teachers gave us a wonderful tour of the American collection of the museum, from early colonial art and furniture to the modern era. After exploring the museum, students walked through the sculpture garden to the newly completed Glassell School of Art and took pictures with the Cloud Column, Houston’s counterpart to Chicago’s Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”), created by artist Anish Kapoor.

Author: Laura Lynch, Enrollment Coordinator


Students learned about some of the pieces in the Modern and Contemporary Art collection


Part of the Joris Laarman Lab: Design in the Digital Age exhibition


Lunch at the MFA Café


Students admiring part of the museum’s Native American Art collection



Students walking through The Light Inside, an installation by James Turrell


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Fireworks at the Bingo Table


ESL students celebrated the “Red, White and Blue” at Rice University, enjoying American staples like hot dogs, chili dogs, and veggie burgers. America’s biggest holiday, Independence Day, celebrates the day the American colonies declared themselves independent of the British Empire. Americans typically celebrate with picnics, concerts, games, and fireworks. Here in the Intensive English Program, we jammed along to American music and played a rousing game of Bingo – with two winners taking home some great Americana. What a fun way to kick off the new class session!

Author: Laura Lynch, Enrollment Coordinator


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Rice ESL Students Roam the Houston Zoo


Rice University intensive English students enjoyed a shady day at the Houston Zoo Tuesday, where they marveled at lions and elephants and beat the heat at the aquarium. Nestled in Hermann Park, just a short walk east of Rice University campus, the Houston Zoo is a great attraction to visit – and our students get to see it for free! Some loved the playful sea lions best, while others were drawn to the curious meerkats or lounging gorillas. We can’t wait to go back!

Author: Laura Lynch, Enrollment Coordinator

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Perfect Spring Weather for a Picnic on the Lawn

IMG_2390BYesterday our ESL students made the most of Houston’s beautiful springtime weather and had a picnic on the lawn! Lounging in the shade of Rice University’s trees, students spread out on blankets to enjoy the warm breeze, fresh sandwiches, cold drinks, and chat with their classmates and teachers. It wasn’t all sedentary though – there were rousing games of kickball and badminton to cheer on!

Author: Laura Lynch, Enrollment Coordinator


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ESL Students Get Their Boots on for the Rodeo!

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The sun was shining and the weather was perfect for learning to line dance Wednesday! Every year we take students to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to experience the largest rodeo in the world and something truly Houstonian. To get everyone in the spirit, we kick off the day with Texas chili, iced tea, and line dancing. Guests from the Houston Rodeo come to teach us how to move to the “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” and kick it to the “Cupid Shuffle.”

Later than evening we loaded up on the bus to experience the rodeo and try out our new moves at the OneRepubic concert. Burritos, fried food, and cotton candy kept our students full while we watched incredible bull riding and barrel racing, followed by old crowd favorites that were new to many of our students – mutton bustin’ and the calf scramble. Everyone loved seeing the kids get right back up and wave at the cameras after falling off their animals! OneRepublic rocked a crowd of nearly 71,000 at NRG Stadium, and especially our students – everyone knew the words and sang along. Can’t wait to come back next year!

Author: Laura Lynch, Enrollment Coordinator

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ESL Students Watch the Houston Rockets Work Their “Magic” on Orlando


Our students watched history being made on Tuesday night as the Houston Rockets took on the Orlando Magic and Houston’s star player, James Harden, broke league records left and right! We enjoyed an incredible game, watching Harden score a record 60 points in 46 minutes and the first 60-point triple double in NBA history! But the game was not all we enjoyed: Clutch, our Houston Rockets mascot, put on a great acrobatics show with the Rockets Power Dancers and one of our awesome teachers taught us all how to “rock it” at halftime. Go Red Nation!

Author: Laura Lynch, Enrollment Coordinator


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Playful Costumes Set the Trend at Our Halloween Party

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On Tuesday, we had our traditional Halloween Costume Contest and Pizza Party. From the comical to the playful, the costumes we saw this year were more cute than scary. Just to give you an example, our contest winner this year was dressed as a hot dog. The general atmosphere was joyful and animated as students and teachers alike munched on pizza and lots of Halloween candy!

Happy Halloween from all of us at Rice University’s ESL Program!

Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director



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ESL Students “Strike” Up New Friendships at Bowling Night!


With classes meeting four hours daily for seven week sessions, we often think we know our Intensive English students very well by the middle of the session…but sometimes they still surprise us! Last week, we discovered that a number of our students are EXCELLENT bowlers when we took them to Dave & Buster’s for a bowling night. Who knew we had such talent in our program?

We were also delighted to see that our students are truly committed to meeting each other and practicing their English outside the classroom – students intentionally mixed and matched themselves so that each team was made up of different nationalities, language families, beginner, and advanced students. Some of them loved showing off their bowling skills (or lack thereof), but all of us cheered loudly for students who bowled strikes and spares AND for students who spent the night rolling gutter balls.

Author: Savannah Burch, Enrollment Coordinator




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Alumni Spotlight: Lucas Viana

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Ever since he started his undergraduate studies in Brazil, studying in the U.S.A. had been Lucas’s dream. He knew he needed to learn English, but studying the language in Brazil was not as effective as he wanted because he didn’t have the opportunity to practice outside of class. Enter Ciência Sem Fronteiras, a scholarship program sponsored by the Brazilian government to send students to the world’s best universities. He could choose the country where he wanted to study (he chose the U.S.A., of course), but they would choose a university for him. The program included six months of intensive English courses to get participants ready to start studies related to their field. That’s how he and seven other students from different areas of Brazil ended up at the Rice University Intensive English Program. In Lucas’s words, “We could not have been luckier.”

Lucas was the only student in the Ciência Sem Fronteiras group who was placed in level 3 of our six-level program. Everybody else started in levels 4 or 5. He worked so hard to excel in level 3, that his teachers recommended he be allowed to skip level 4. This is an exception very rarely made in our program, yet, Lucas was approved to move on to level 5. “I always remember this victory and take it as an example to myself whenever I think I am not capable of doing something.” According to Lucas, “Learning English was crucial to my academic and professional life and the best experience I have ever had in my life. Before starting at the Rice University Intensive English Program, I was not able to understand daily conversations, to speak, or write in English. After two months taking ESL classes, I noticed an unimaginable improvement of my skills. In the end, I became able to read texts thoroughly, to speak better, to write papers, and mainly to understand (which was the hardest part for me).”


Lucas (first from the left) with his classmates in a bowling social activity

The Intensive English Program also helped Lucas develop the skills he needed to succeed in the Rice University academic program. Since his undergraduate major, surveying and cartographic engineering, is very specific and not very common, “despite being very important and one of the most ancient areas of engineering”, it was not offered at Rice. He did take general engineering courses that complemented his curriculum well. He also took one advanced English course tailored to Brazilian students and one Spanish course. He was amazed at Rice University’s unique residential college system, where students are assigned a college where they live, dine and socialize for the duration of their studies. Speaking of socialization, while studying in Rice’s academic program, Lucas and one of his friends from the sponsored group founded the Brazilian Student Association (BRASA). The two founders went back to Brazil at the end of their year of academic studies, but BRASA is still very much alive and a very active group within Rice’s student organizations, with the purpose of spreading Brazilian culture to the university community.

Lucas at Rice

Lucas (first from the left) with the Ciência Sem Fronteiras group in front of Lovett Hall, Rice’s oldest building

Living in Houston certainly enhanced the whole experience for Lucas. He especially liked the fact that, because it is one of the most populated cities in the U.S. (4th largest), you can find anything here and there is so much to do, from outdoor fun to cultural activities, to sports events. Better yet, a lot of the events are free and open to the public. “You never get bored in a city like Houston!” Lucas found that Houstonians in general are kindhearted and humble. “Almost everyone I met was very kind and patient with non-native English speakers. They even encourage you by talking slowly and explaining anything you may not understand.” Lucas also enjoyed one of the things that certainly brings many people to Houston: its multiculturalism. Interacting with people from many different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs was one of the highlights of his experience here. “When you have contact with all this diversity, you become a better person for sure. Once you open your mind and learn about other cultures, you also learn how to be more tolerant.” Lucas would tell any student who is considering studying in the U.S. to do it if they have the opportunity. “You are going to learn much better and faster because you will need to use your skills all day, every day. Once you get there, take advantage of it. Make friends and hang out with them, practice as much as you can and do not be shy. I am sure you will improve your skills surprisingly quickly!”

Just last January, Lucas earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Surveying and Cartographic Engineering at the Federal University of Viçosa (UFV), in Brazil. He is now pursuing a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering, specializing in Spatial Information, also at UFV. At the same time, he’s taking courses and doing research in bathymetry and adjustment computations. In very simple terms, this means he is studying the topography of the floors of bodies of water, such as oceans, rivers or lakes. He would like to pursue a doctoral degree in Canada, where there are outstanding programs in his field of study. He eventually plans to become a professor in Brazil and sees himself learning a third language; more than likely, Spanish.

Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director

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