Alumni Spotlight: Levent Karabulut

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Levent_1 - CopyLevent came from Turkey 12 years ago with a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and a remarkable eagerness to learn English. When he searched for English programs, he looked specifically in Houston because his cousin lived here. Looking back, he considers himself very lucky that his cousin’s city of residence led him to enroll in the Intensive English Program at Rice University. Levent had always wanted to study and work in the U.S. He thinks one of the things that contributed the most to his academic and professional success was to have a solid English education at Rice. “I can’t thank this program enough! Teachers, directors and staff were perfectly awesome, friendly, well-educated and they knew what they were doing!”.

In addition to learning English in the classroom, Levent also seized all available opportunities to practice his language skills, such as exploring Houston, attending program-organized events, watching sports and socializing within the program and outside of it too. He liked the city so much that he stayed after he finished his English studies. “It is the fourth largest city in U.S.A. and not expensive at all when you compare it to other big cities like New York or Chicago.” His favorite things about Houston remain its affordability, diversity, entertainment opportunities and the food (not necessarily in that order).

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Levent, center, poses with two of his classmates. He still keeps in touch with them, mostly through social media.

After completing his English studies, he obtained a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. Two weeks before his graduation, he had a job offer from a big petrochemical company in Houston. He was hired as a junior commercial trader and his job was to increase sales volume in the West Africa market. After two and a half years working there, he accepted a job offer from another company. This time he became a regional sales manager for Turkey, Europe and parts of Africa, and held this role for three years.

After working as an engineer for six years in the oil and gas industry, Levent decided it was time to start making his own dreams come true. Five years ago, he and his wife established Karabulut International LLC, an e-commerce business importing high-quality products from foreign markets. This allowed him to earn a living doing two of the things he loves the most: business and traveling.

Whenever teachers remember Levent, the words that always come up are energetic, enthusiastic and confident. Not surprisingly, now he is a young entrepreneur with a steadily growing business, a father, a runner of marathons, a basketball and soccer enthusiast and a food lover (not necessarily in that order).

To anyone considering studying English in the U.S., he says, “Dream big! Rice University will help you make your dreams come true!”


Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director


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ESL Students Watch Houston Rockets’ Close Win

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The Rockets played the Dallas Mavericks Friday and, once again, our students enjoyed all the excitement a Houston Rockets home game has to offer. While passing giant buckets of popcorn, they joined in the “Let’s go, Rockets” cheer, helping our section compete for the title of “noisiest fans”. During timeouts, we were very much entertained by the dance cam, a giant screen where the best and funniest dancers in the audience were displayed.

The Rockets were in the lead for the whole game, but the score got uncomfortably close in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter. We were on the edge of our seats until the very end! Much to our students’ delight, the Rockets didn’t disappoint, holding on for a 128-121 victory!

Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director

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Chilly and Sparkly at the Spectacular Houston Zoo Lights

IMG_4733The last social activity of the year for Rice Intensive English Program students was a holiday party followed by a trip to the Houston Zoo Lights. We closed the year with a bang! Students gathered in the Dean’s Commons to eat pizza and sing holiday carols. After a collective rendition of “Jingle Bells”, a group of energized students hit the dance floor and moved to Latin rhythms like merengue.

The celebratory mood carried on when, one hour later, students and teachers boarded a classic yellow school bus that took them to the Zoo Lights. For some students, it brought back childhood memories of riding the school bus in their home countries, while for others it was a symbol of the American way of life. The bus ride was a perfect opportunity to share special stories and celebrate togetherness. There were sparkles of joy and anticipation in the cool December air.

IMG_4534 - CopyThe Zoo Lights were spectacular! Throughout the holiday season, over 24 km of LED lighting illuminate the zoo’s historic oak trees, line its pathways and bring to life curious animal shapes. A remarkable group of over sixty students and teachers managed to stay together while they meandered across the monumental structures and shimmering designs. Students at the beginner levels of English were leading the bunch with their vibrancy and cheer. The chilly weather provided the perfect ambiance for the holiday-themed activity and made it a necessity to indulge in a cup of hot chocolate. As a perfect close to the festive evening, students met Santa and Mrs. Claus. A few may even have told him what presents they want to find under the tree!

When asked what was his favorite thing at Zoo Lights, one student said, “I saw a giraffe with wonderful friends”! What more can one ask for? From all of us at the Intensive English Program, we wish all our friends and followers a wonderful and magical holiday season!

Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director

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Two Unicorns and a Woman Riding a Flamingo

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A student dressed as Sherlock Holmes (fourth from left) won second place in the costume contest.

October is here and so are the cooler temperatures, fall festivals and…our traditional Halloween Pizza Party and Costume Contest! Intensive English students and teachers alike wore very original costumes with a wide variety of themes. Among the usual witches and other ghostly characters—La Catrina! A woman with a (rubber) knife through her head!—, we had superheroes and villains, a famous detective (Sherlock Holmes) and a famous dog (Scooby-Doo). Also joining us were two unicorns, two hippies and a woman riding a flamingo. All of these creatures, from the fantastical to the macabre, coexisted in the same room while devouring frightening amounts of pizza and candy. Three of our teachers agreed to serve as judges for the costume contest. They couldn’t make up their minds between Batman and Catwoman, so they both won first place! To wrap up the party, students and teachers danced to “Thriller”, the Halloween-themed super hit from the 80’s.

Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director

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A student in a steampunk-themed costume (left) won the third place.

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Batman and Catwoman both won the first place!


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Diorgenes Borges do Brasil

diorgenes_headshot_cQuando a companhia de Diogenes o transferiu para Houston, era so por um curto período. Depois de apenas alguns meses trabalhando meio expediente e estudando inglês em nosso programa, a empresa decidiu dar a ele uma posição permanente em sua subsidiária em Houston.

Sete anos e três promoções depois, Diogenes compartilha sua experiência em nosso programa e o que a melhora no ingles fez pela sua carreira.

(Interview first published in the Study in the USA website, “Experiências dos Estudantes e Entrevistas” section, on June 29, 2019.)

Por que você resolveu estudar nos Estados Unidos?

Eu escolhi estudar nos Estados Unidos porque a empresa que eu trabalhava na epoca tinha um escritorio em Houston, Texas.

Como você escolheu o seu curso intensivo de inglês?

Um amigo me passou information a respeito do programa de Ingles como Segunda Lingua na Universidade de Houston e apos algumas pesquisas e coletando mais information sobre o curso, sabia que era o melhor programa comparado com outras opcoes disponiveis em Houston.

Do que você mais gosta sobre o seu curso ou a sua universidade (escola)?

Os professores com certeza foram a melhor parte do programa. Eles eram habilitados a ensinar e entender como lidar com estudantes de diferentes experiencias e nacionalidades.

Do que você tem mais saudade ou sente mais falta?

Minha familia e amigos.

Há quanto tempo estuda nos Estados Unidos? O seu inglês tem melhorado? Você acha que este curso vai lhe ajudar nos seus estudos em um universidade dos EUA?

Eu fiz aulas por 6 meses and me ajudou muito para desenvolver meu ingles. No meu caso, o meu objetivo era desenvolver minhar carreira. Estudar e trabalhar nos Estados Unidos definitivamente mudou minha carreira e ajudou no meu crescimento no mundo corporativo.


Diorgenes, quinto da esquerda, com alguns de seus colegas em seu último dia no programa

O que mais lhe surpreendeu em relação à vida e educação nos Estados Unidos?

Eu me surpreendi com a rapidez em fazer amizades e crescer minha rede de conexao em um curto periodo de tempo. Enquanto estava estudando eu tive a chance de conhecer muitas pessoas de diferente lugares e mesmo que tinhamos diferente historias, quando trabalhando para alcancar os mesmos objetivos descobri que cultura e lingua diferente passam a nao serem barreiras mais.

… sua maior decepção?

Nao tive nada especifico.

Como você administra:

… as diferenças no idioma?

Eu me expus o maximo que podia para conversar com outras pessoas, especialmente Americanos, para que pudesse praticar e desenvolver meu ingles. Eu nao tinha medo de dizer algo errado e sempre prestava atencao como outras pessoas conversavam e adicionava isso nas minhas conversas.

… as finanças?

Como eu estava trabalhando antes, eu fui capaz de me preparar financeiramente com antecedencia.

… sua adaptação ao sistema educacional americano?

O fato das universidades ja lidarem com muitos estudantes internacionais, isso faz com que a transicao seja mais tranquila.

Quais são suas atividades? (Mencione clubes, atividades esportivas, atividades familiares, atividades especiais ou viagens patrocinadas pela sua escola)

Minhas atividades principais sao relacionadas a esportes e atividades em grupo em geral. Eu me mantenho ocupado jogando futebol, volley de quadra ou de areia, jogos com amigos, e fazendo trabalho voluntario. A cidade de Houston tambem oferece muitos eventos durante o ano como o rodeo, basket, futebol, futebol americano, basebal, shows, etc. Tambem viajar nos Estados Unidos e otimo para relaxar e conhecer mais sobre cultura e historia.

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Diorgenes, segundo da esquerda, passeando pelo campus da Rice University com seus amigos

Foi fácil ou difícil fazer amigos nos Estados Unidos?

Fazer amizades pode ser um grande desafio para muitas pessoas, mas apenas e necessario apenas um simples passo como dizer “oi” para alguem, se apresentar, falar um pouco sobre o seu passado e uma conversa para se transformar em amizade. A forma mais facil de fazer amigos e atraves de fazer coisas que voce goste e entao encontrara pessoas com os mesmos interesses e isso ajudara para criar uma conexao. No meu caso eu fiz muitas amizades praticando esportes e conheci muitos estrangeiros pelo fato de termos passado por coisas parecidas. Tambem e importante estar aberto para dizer sim quando pessoas convidam para eventos e dar a chance para outras pessoas te conhecer e tambem para conhecer outras pessoas.

Quais são suas metas profissionais ? A sua educação nos Estados Unidos será importante para atingir essas metas e  para as necessidades de seu país?

O meu objetivo para mina carreira e atingir uma posicao de alta gerencia, e minha educacao nos Estados Unidos tem contribuido diretamente para o meu desenvolvimento. Os meus estudos tambem me proporcionaram troca de experiencia com outros estudantes e que me ajudam com os meus objetivos pessoais e ideias de como fazer coisas de maneira diferente.

O que você aconselharia a outros estudantes do seu país que estejam pretendendo estudar nos EUA?

Estudar em um outro pais parece intimador, mas o que voce pode ganhar e inestimavel. Para nos, vindos do Brasil, a cultura nao e muito diferente e a lingua nao e dificil de aprender, especialmente comparado a outras origens como estudantes oriundos da Asia, ou do Oriente Medio. A comida e os costumes sao muito faceis de se adaptar. Os Americanos de modo geral sao muito amigaveis e motram interesse em aprender sobre o Brasil. Se voce esta pensando em estudar nos Estados Unidos, faca uma pesquisa previamente sobre a universidade, a cidade em voce estara localizado, os custos de vida e prepare-se para mergulhar totalmente no programa. Eu totalmente recomendo nao apenas pelo que voce vai aprender na escola, mas tambem pela experiencia de vida. Estudar no exterior e uma oportunidade unica para explorar um novo pais, novas cidades, experimentar novos tipos de comida, conhecer pessoas interessantes e tambem se autoconhecer.

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Alumni Interview: Diorgenes Borges from Brazil

diorgenes_headshot_cWhen his company in Brazil relocated Diorgenes to Houston, it was only for a short period. After just a few months working part time and studying English in our program, the company decided to give him a permanent position in their Houston subsidiary.

Seven years and three promotions later, Diorgenes shares his experiences in our program and what improving his English did for his career.


(Interview first published in the Study in the USA website, “Student Experiences” section, on June 29, 2019.)

Why did you decide to study in the USA?

I chose to study in the USA, because the company that I was working for at the time had an office in Houston, TX.

How did you choose your intensive English program?

A friend of mine told me about the ESL program at Rice University, and after doing some research and learning about the program, I knew that it was the best fit compared to other options offered in Houston.

What do you like best about your program or university?

The teachers, for sure, were the best part of the program. All of them had the skills to teach and understand how to deal with students from different backgrounds and nationalities.

What do you miss most about home?

My family and friends.

How long have you been studying here? How has your English improved?  How has this program helped you to handle future study at a U.S. university?

I took ESL classes for 6 months and it helped me to improve my English skills tremendously. İn my case, my goal was to develop my career, and studying and working in the USA definitely changed my career and helped me to move up the corporate ladder.


Diorgenes, fifth from the left, with some of his classmates on his last day in the program

What was your biggest surprise about U.S. life and education?

I was surprised of how fast I was able to make friends and grow my network in such a short period of time. While I was studying, I had a chance to meet a lot of people from different places. Even though we came from different backgrounds, when you are working on achieving the same goals you find out that different culture or language is not a barrier anymore.

… your biggest disappointment?

I did not have any specific disappointments.

How have you handled:

… language differences?

I exposed myself as much as I could to talk to other people, especially Americans, in order to practice and improve my English skills. I was not afraid to say something wrong, but was always paying attention to how others speak and tried to apply that in my conversations.

… finances?

Since I was working before, I was able to prepare myself financially in advance.

… adjusting to a different educational system?

The fact that the universities already have so many international students makes the transition very smooth.

What are your activities? (clubs, sports, student associations, travel, homestay programs, special activities or trips sponsored by your program)

My main activities are related to sports and group activities in general. I keep myself busy playing soccer, indoor volleyball, sand volleyball, game night with friends, or volunteering at various events. Also, the city of Houston offers a lot of great events to attend throughout the year such as the rodeo, concerts, and sports events like basketball, soccer, American football, baseball, etc. In addition, traveling around the U.S. is a great way to relax and learn more about its culture and history.


Diorgenes, second from left, strolling around the Rice University campus with his friends

How easy or difficult is making friends in the USA?

Making friends can be a big challenge for a lot of people, but it only takes a simple step: saying “hi” to somebody, introducing yourself, talking about your background or starting a conversation that might lead to a friendship. The easiest way to make friends is when you are doing something that you like, and find other people with the same interests, which helps to build a connection. In my case, I made a lot of friends playing sports, and met a lot of foreigners since we have similar struggles sometimes. Also, it is important to be open to saying yes when people invite you for events and to give others the chance to get to know you, and you can get to know them as well.

What are your career goals? How is your U.S. education relevant to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?

My career goal is to achieve a high-level management position, and my education in the U.S. has contributed directly to my development. Also my studies in the U.S. gave me the opportunity to exchange experiences with other students and that helped me with personal goals and ideas of how things can be done differently.

What is your advice to other students from your country who are considering a U.S. education?

Going to another country to study might seem intimidating and costly, but what you can gain is priceless. For us, coming from Brazil, the culture is not too different and the language is not hard to learn, especially compared to other backgrounds like students coming from Asia, or the Middle East. The food and customs are very easy to adapt to. Americans are in general very friendly, and show interest in learning about Brazil.

If you are considering studying in the U.S., you should do some research about what the university can offer, the city where you will be located, the living costs, and prepare yourself to fully immerse in the program. I totally recommend it, not just for what you can learn at school, but also for the life experience. Studying abroad is a unique opportunity to explore a new country, new cities, try different kinds of food, meet interesting people, and also learn more about yourself.


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Türkiye’den Asya Özkizilcik

Asya photo Now-1Türkiye’den Asya Özkızılcık, Rice Üniversitesi’ndeki İngilizce Dil Eğitimi (ESL) programında İngilizce öğrendi ve Arkansas Üniversitesi’ne bağlı Biyomedikal Mühendisliği bölümünden doktora (Ph.D.) diplomasını aldı.

(Interview first published in the Study in the USA website, “Öğrenci Deneyimleri ve Söyleşiler” section, on June 13, 2019.)

Neden Amerika’da eğitime karar verdiniz?

Turkiye’de doktora ogrencisi oldugum donemde ingilizce makale yazma ve okuma becerilerimi gelistirmek icin cesitli yollar aramaktaydim. Ayni zamanda ingilizcemi gelistirmemin bana kariyerimde de bircok kapi acacagini dusunuyordum. Bu yüzden Turkiye’de Ingilizce kursuna gittim, ancak dilbilgim ne kadar gelişse de dinleme ve konuşma becerilerimin gelismesi cok daha yavas gerceklesiyordu. Bu sureci hizlandirmak icin yurt disinda yabanci dil eğitimi almaya karar verdim. O donemde Ingilitere’de, Malta’da, ve ABD’de eğitim goren arkadaslarim vardi. Onlarla konustuktan ve internette genis kapsamli arastirmalar yaptıktan sonra ABD deki farkli butcelere hitap eden dil okulu cesitliligi sebebi ile ABD’ye gelmeye karar verdim. Buna ilaveten ABD’deki akademik firsatlarin sayica cok olmasi da ABD’ye gelmem icin oldukca motive ediciydi.

Yoğun İngilizce programınızı nasıl seçtiniz?

O zamanlar Houston’da yasayan yakin bir arkadasim Houston bolgesindeki dil okullarini arastirmamda yardimci oldu. Rice Universite’sinin ESL programi egitim kalitesi sebebi ile en cok tavsiye dil okullarinin basinda gelmekteydi. Internetteki arastirmalarimi ve onceki Rice Universitesi ESL ogrencilerinin tavsiyelerini degerlendirerek, Rice Universite’sinin dil okuluna gitmeye karar verdim.

Buradaki eğitiminizin en çok neyini seviyorsunuz?

Burdaki eğitim sistemi bir konuyu derinlemesine öğrenmenize ve önceki bilgi birikimlerinizi yeni öğrendiklerinizle bagdastirmaniza cok yardimci oluyor. Bunun disinda, ABD’deki egitim sistemi sizin yeni fikirler uretmenizi ve diger akademisyenlerle ortak is yapmanizi tesvik ediyor. Buna ilaveten istediğiniz bir cok akademik yayina kolaylikla ulaşabiliyorsunuz ve bu da akademik dunyadaki hedeflerinize ulasmanizi kolaylastiriyor.

En çok neyi özlüyorsunuz?

Ailem ve arkadaslarimla geçirdiğim zamanlari birde tabi ki yemekleri cok ozluyorum.

Bu program ileride bir ABD üniversitesinde eğitim almanıza nasıl yardımcı oldu?

Oncelikle ESL programi suresince cok iyi ogretmenlerim oldu. Bize Amerikan universite sistemiyle ilgili cok guzel rehberlik yaptilar. Profesyonel dilde email atmayi, mulakatlardaki onemli noktalari, ozgecmis ve CV hazirlarken dikkat etmem gerek konulari ve bunun gibi daha bircok profosyenel yasamdaki anahtar noktalari ogrenmem de Rice Univertisindeki hocalarimin katkisi cok buyuk. Bunun disinda, ESL programinda aldigim egitim üniversitede akademik makale yaziminda cok buyuk katki sagladi.

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Asya, soldan yedinci, sınıf arkadaşlarıyla

ABD’deki yaşam ve eğitime dair sizin için en büyük sürpriz ne oldu?

Supriz diyebilecegim cok farkli birseyle karsilasmadim. ABD’de insan iliskilerinin geldigim ulkeye gore daha mesafeli oldugunu gormem biraz sasirticiydi. Egitim ile ilgili olarakta derslerde ogrencilerin daha katilimci oldugunu gordum.

Peki, en büyük hayal kırıklığınız ne oldu?

ABD’deki saglik sisteminin pahaliligi en buyuk hayal kirikliklarimin basinda geliyor.

Dil farklılıklarını nasıl hallettiniz?

Sabirla, kendimi surekli motive ederek ve pratik ile  diyebilirim.  ABD’ye ilk geldiğimde ingilizce dinleme ve konuşma yeteneklerim cok zayifti. Arkadas edinmek, haber kanallarini dinlemek ve ingilizce konusulan dizileri izlemek dil becerilerimin hizla gelismesinde cok yardimci oldu.

Yaşam masrafları yüksek mi?

Yasam masraflari kaldiginiz eyalete ve sehire gore cok degisken. Her yerde olduğu gibi buyuk sehirlerde yasam masraflari daha yüksek ancak yine de sehirden biraz uzaklaşarak uygun fiyatli evler bulabilmek mumkun. Ev arkadasi edinerek kira masrafini da kolayca düşürebilirsiniz.

Toplu tasimacilik birçok sehirde gelişmiş değil. Bu yüzden mutlaka bir araç almaniz gerekiyor. Guzel olan ise idare edebilecek bir arabayi cok uygun fiyata alabiliyorsunuz. Benzin fiyatlari da bizim ülkemize gore cok daha dusuk oldugu icin araba kullanim masraflarida daha kolay karsilabiliyor.

Market alisverisi için yine cok seçenek mevcut. Temel besin ihtiyaclarinizi makul fiyatlarla karşılayabiliyorsunuz.

Masrafli diyebilecegim seylerin arasinda saglik sistemi basta gelmekte. Dis ve goz muayene genellikle cok pahali ve bircok firma sigortalarina dis ve goz sigortasini dahili etmeyi secmiyor.Bunun disinda, sigortaniz olsa dahi genellikle muayene veya ilca masraflarinin bir kismini odemek zorunda kaliyorsunuz ve bu fiyatlar gercekten cok yuksek meblaglar olabiliyor.

Farklı bir eğitim sistemine alışmak zor oldu mu?

ABD’deki egitim sistemine alismam cok zor olmadi. Kendi ulkemdeki egitim sistemiyle kiyaslarsam, burada ogrenciler daha aktif bir sekilde derslerde rol aliyorlar, daha cok soru soruyorlar ve derse daha cok katkida bulunuyorlar. Klasik konu anlatimi yaklasimi yerine, derslerde ogrencilerin daha aktif oldugu bir ogrenim sekli esas aliniyor. Bu egitim yaklasiminin da benim kisisel gelisimimde cok onemli bir rol oynadigini dusunuyorum.

Ne tür aktiviteler yapıyorsunuz?

Hafta sonlari dag yuruyusleri yapıyor veya bisiklete biniyorum. Duzenli olarak da spor yapmaya calisiyorum. Bunun disinda muzik festivallerine katilmak, kamp yapmak, kanoya binmek ve balik tutmak sevdigim aktiveler arasinda.

Burada arkadaşlık kurmak kolay mı ya da zor mu?

Arkadaslik kurmak oldukça kolay. ESL programinda ve program sonrasindaki donemde arkadaslik edinme konusunda hic sikinti yasamadim. Universiteler ders disi aktivitelere onem vermekte ve bu aktivitiler arkadas edinmeyi oldukca kolaylastiriyor.

Asya Ozkizilcik, Student, Doctoral Student, lab

Fotoğraf Üniversitesi İlişkileri, Arkansas Üniversitesi

ABD’deki eğitiminiz kendi kişisel hedeflerinizle ve ülkenizin ihtiyaçlarıyla ne kadar ilgili?

Benim oncelikli kisisel hedeflerim arasinda oz guvenimi arttirmak, bildiklerimi sorgulamayi öğrenmek ve başka fikirlere olabildigince acik olmak oldu. Amerika’da almis olduğum eğitimin bircok farkli ülkeden insan tanimamda ve farkli fikirlere saygi duymayi öğrenmemde payi cok buyuk. Bunun disinda, her yastan insanin dusuncelerini özgürce ifade edebildigini ve saygi çerçevesinde tartisilabildigini gormek beni cok mutlu etti.

Dogru kabul ettigim bilgilerin her zaman dogru olmayabilecegini ve sorgulamanin ne kadar faydali birsey oldugunu ogrenmemde de buradaki egitim sisteminin payi cok buyuk.

Ulkemin ihtiyaçlarına gelince, benim ülkemin yeni fikirler üretebilen girisimci insanlara ve onlara deger veren kurumlara ihtiyaci var. ABD’de buludugum universitede girisimcilik universitedeki cesitli programlar tarafindan desteklenip, ogrenciler girisimci olmalari konusunda motive ediliyorlar. Bu da ABD ekonomisinin ivmeli bir sekilde buyumesinde buyuk rol oynuyor.

Diğer öğrencilere ne tavsiye edersiniz?

Ingilizce kursuna gelmek isteyen öğrencilere oncelikle bütçelerine uygun olan sehri ve okulu tercih etmelerini öneririm. Bu tur bilgilere forumlari ve sosyal medyayi kullanarak kolayca ulaşabilirler.

Bunun disinda, ozellikle kisa süreliğine Ingilizce kursuna gelme hedefi olan arkadaslara, gittikleri sehirde ingilizce ana dili olan insanlara vakit gecirmeye ozen gostermelerini tavsiye ederim. Yeni insanlarla tanışmaktan, bol bol Ingilizce konuşmaktan, ve söylenilenleri anlamadiklarinda tekrar tekrar sormaktan çekinmesinler. Son olarak da her ülkenin kendine ait kulturu var ve bu kulturlere saygi duymayi kesinlikle ihmal etmesinler.

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Alumni Interview: Asya Ozkizilcik from Turkey

Asya photo Now-1When she first came to the United States from Turkey,  Asya was planning to stay for only six months. She wanted to improve her English quickly. Now, seven years later, Asya obtained a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from University of Arkansas.

Two years ago, Asya agreed to share with us her experience studying in the Rice University Intensive English program and how developing her English skills impacted her academic career.

(Interview first published in the Study in the USA website, “Student Experiences” section, on June 13, 2019.)

 Why did you decide to study in the USA?

My first reason for wanting to come to the USA was to enhance my English skills. I was a Ph.D. student in Turkey, and my English skills were limited when it came to academic reading and writing. I firmly believed that English skills could open many doors in my career. I enrolled in an English program in Turkey, but then I realized that my speaking and listening skills were developing very slowly compared to my grammar skills. Therefore, I decided to go abroad to advance my language skills. At the time, I had friends who were studying in England, Malta, and the USA. After talking to them and doing extensive web research, I decided to come to the USA. First, the USA offers a variety of language schools, so I could choose the option that best fit my budget. Second, in my eyes, the USA is one of the best places to gain comprehensive multidisciplinary academic experience.

How did you choose your intensive English program?

One of my close friends, who was living in Houston, helped me explore language schools in the Houston area. The ESL Program at Rice University was one of the most recommended language schools in the USA. After considering its education quality and previous students’ experience, I decided to enroll in the ESL program at Rice University.

What do you like best about studying here?

The education system here helps you to develop a more in-depth understanding of a subject, and it encourages you to link your prior knowledge to new information. Also, it allows you to create innovative ideas and provide opportunities for collaborative research. Additionally, most of the academic resources are readily available, which helped me a lot in achieving my goals.

What do you miss most about home?

I miss spending time with my family and friends. Also, I miss the food, a lot!

How long have you been studying here? How has your English improved? How has this program helped you to handle future study at a U.S. university?

I have been studying in graduate school for six and a half years. My English skills have improved dramatically, because I have been a teaching assistant for the past six years, and I have taken courses, written papers, and trained a lot of undergraduate and graduate students in research.

I was fortunate that I had outstanding instructors in the Rice University ESL program who encouraged, prepared, and guided me in the U.S. university system. They trained me on email etiquette, resume building, interview preparation, and many other vital aspects of professional life. Additionally, my instructors in the ESL program provided very detailed and constructive feedback on my essays, and this has helped me incredibly to write better academic papers in the university.

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Asya, seventh from the left, enjoyed going to the movies with her classmates.

What was your biggest surprise about U.S. life and education?

It was a little surprising to see how personal relationships are more distant, compared to how they are in my country. When it comes to the education system, classes are more interactive and student-oriented in the U.S.

… your biggest disappointment?

I think the expensive health care system was one of my biggest disappointments.

How have you handled:

… language differences?

I would say with patience, self-encouragement, and practice. My listening and speaking skills were minimal when I first came to the USA. Then, I made friends and encouraged myself to talk with them even though it was very challenging to express myself. Besides, listening to news and watching TV series have speeded up my learning curve.

… finances?

I sought out teaching assistantship positions since the department or advisor pays your tuition once you have a TA position. This helps you to save thousands of dollars per semester. Additionally, you can stay at an affordable apartment and may consider having a roommate.  To further reduce your expenses, you can shop at low-cost grocery stores.

You may need to purchase a car since public transportation in most U.S. cities is not well developed. The good news is that used cars are much more affordable here than they are in our country. It is also important to note that gas prices are very reasonable.

The health care system in the U.S. is costly. In addition, dental and vision insurance are not provided by most companies or institutions insurance plan. Even if you have health insurance, you may still need to pay a significant part of the cost.

… adjusting to a different educational system?

It wasn’t difficult to adjust to the U.S. educational system for me. In the U.S., students are more involved in class discussions, and they also contribute more in class by making presentations and asking questions. In brief, I would say the education system in the U.S. is more student-oriented, and it has helped me a lot in my personal growth.

What are your activities (clubs, sports, student associations, travel, homestay programs, special activities or trips sponsored by your Intensive English Program)?

I like hiking, biking, and canoeing. I try to exercise regularly. Also, going to music festivals is one of my favorite activities.

How easy or difficult is making friends in the USA?

It is very easy to make friends in the USA, especially in the university environment, since universities provide many activities that encourage students to form friendships.

Asya Ozkizilcik, Student, Doctoral Student, lab

Photo by University Relations, University of Arkansas

What are your career goals? How is your U.S. education relevant to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?

Improving my self-confidence, gaining critical thinking skills, and becoming a more open-minded person have been my personal life goals.

Experiencing the U.S. education system has allowed me to learn about different cultures from all over the world. Seeing people freely present their thoughts regardless of their age, race, and sex encouraged me to express myself more freely than before. I also become more aware of the importance of critical thinking.

I would say my country needs more entrepreneurs and an environment that better encourages entrepreneurial activities. Students in U.S. universities are more motivated to become entrepreneurs, since there are numerous entrepreneurial programs provided related to their field of study. As a result, these activities help the U.S. economy to grow steadily.

What is your advice to other students from your country who are considering studying English in the USA?

I recommend they do extensive research about the city and the program they plan to go to. The living cost, the quality of the program, and transportation availability should be evaluated in detail while choosing the language school. There are numerous resources available on the internet. I also recommend them to use any opportunities to meet and talk with native speakers. Besides, when students don’t catch what is said the first time, they should not hesitate to ask people to repeat themselves. Every country has its own distinct culture, and I suggest students respect all of them.

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Deepak Uniyal’s ESL Story

1 (2)Deepak Uniyal was a student in our Intensive English Program almost three years ago. He recently earned his third master’s degree: an MS in Human Resource Development from University of Houston.

Deepak, we are so proud of your accomplishments and are delighted that you chose to share your most recent success with us!


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Deepak (sitting in front) gathered with his Rice ESL teachers and classmates to celebrate his birthday.

“I am working as an Instructional Designer at Lincoln University, Missouri. I design, develop and implement online courses for the university. I must say that enrolling in the Rice University ESL program was the best decision I made in the first three months after arriving in the United States. Little did I know that this decision would change my career completely. The ESL Program at Rice has impressive learning resources—i.e.: brilliant teachers, teaching materials, cutting edge education technology, learning environment, cultural events—and a diverse pool of international students and staff that made studying here an unforgettable & unique experience.

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Deepak proudly poses next to University of Houston’s mascot, a cougar named Shasta.

The advanced learning classes equipped me with active reading, coherent writing and sound communication skills that incredibly prepared me for the GRE, TOEFL, and academic writing. My favorite part was learning about the American culture, which helped me acclimatize in the United States. Nonetheless, it was the guidance I received from the teachers on the selection of the correct major and the college what placed me at the top of my academic career. The fact that I graduated from the University of Houston with a 3.92 GPA and was able to secure a job before graduation, defines the impact ESL made in my life.”

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Meeting and Greeting on Independence Day

IMG_4037_BOn July 3rd, the Intensive English students at Rice University were invited to an early 4th of July celebration. The 4th of July or Independence Day is a holiday when the United States celebrates the day it declared its independence from Great Britain. Our students got a taste of the holiday’s traditional eats, such as hot dogs and burgers, while all-American music played in the background and fireworks flashed on the common’s video screen. Students learned about some of our Independence Day traditions, as well as some interesting facts about the holiday—Who knew that around 150 million hot dogs are consumed in the U.S. each year on July 4th?

This lively student activity was hosted only three days into the summer session, so it was a great opportunity for new students to learn a little bit about American culture and meet their classmates. We have a great group of students this session, and we can’t wait until our next social activity!

Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director


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