When she first came to the United States from Turkey, Asya was planning to stay for only six months. She wanted to improve her English but didn’t have a lot of time, so she needed to find a program that would give her the basics of the language quickly. “I heard that based on the quality of the instructors, the size of the classes, and the cost of tuition, the Rice University Intensive English Program is one of the best offered in Houston…where the living costs are also very decent compared to other big cities”. Speaking of costs, Asya was awarded one of the program’s merit-based scholarships, which helped offset the cost of her tuition.
While studying in our ESL Program, Asya decided to pursue graduate studies in the United States. “I had to take the required exams, such as GRE and TOEFL, to enter to a graduate program. This was the first time that I applied all of my language-related skills that I had gained from your program, and it was really exciting to see how I could use my knowledge…”. Now, a little over five years later, Asya is a PhD candidate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at University of Arkansas, and focuses her research on biomaterial science and regenerative medicine.
Besides the quality of the instruction in the program, Asya really appreciated the multicultural aspect of Houston. “I think I like its diversity the most. Houston has a lot of people with different cultural and geographical backgrounds, and communicating and sharing ideas with those people teaches you to empathize and respect others’ decisions.” The vast array of cultural and recreational activities available was another feature of the city Asya enjoyed, including museums, parks, concerts and the theater. Asya is also thankful that the program introduced her to “friendly, kind, helpful and amazing instructors…who become your lifelong friends”.
As far as advice for international students who would like to study English in the U.S., Asya has several valuable recommendations. First, when choosing a program, “the cost of living can vary significantly from one place to another. Therefore, it is important to consider living expenses, location, transportation, and safety in that city before deciding on the language program.” For those students who start their studies in the U.S., “if you want to improve your language skills in a short time frame, you have to push yourself to meet and speak with students from other nationalities. If you have a chance, I would recommend having a roommate whose native language is not the same as yours.” Lastly, “practice, practice and practice! Even though it is frustrating to understand or speak a foreign language in the beginning, do not be afraid! Always remember that you will be learning another language, and this process is not easy. So, start being proud of yourself and always push your limits.”
Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director