Alumni Spotlight: Guillermo Riera

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Guillermo3cropGuillermo Riera’s brother studied in our program in 2009. Seven years later, Guillermo decided to follow in his big brother’s footsteps and study English in the U.S. After looking thoroughly at the different ESL programs available in Houston, his father again chose the Rice University Intensive English Program for his son. When he came to us, Guillermo had just graduated from high school in Venezuela. He started in level 5 and, after completing the 6-level core program, went on to take Advanced Level courses on Reading and Writing for Academic Purposes and Business English. These were particularly appropriate for his future plans: He wants to obtain a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and Economics from a renowned university in Texas. You see, despite his young age, Guillermo is very determined to reach his goals. He is currently pursuing an Associate of Arts in Business to complete core curriculum courses at Houston Community College and then transfer to a four-year university. At the same time, he is working on applications to Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at Austin, University of Houston and Rice University. He is planning on transferring to one of these in the fall of 2018.


Guillermo enjoying a study break with his classmates

After completing the program, Guillermo finally felt comfortable calling himself bilingual.  He now finds himself having more thoughts in English than in Spanish, which made him realize that he has mastered “what is probably the most important language in the world”. To others seeking to learn English, he recommends that they speak the language as frequently as they can, as if it were their first language, and also that they both accept and learn from their mistakes. He encourages anyone who is considering studying in the U.S. to follow their dreams, to not forget who they are and where they come from, and to learn from anyone they meet. “Coming with an open mind is crucial when trying to succeed in this country, as you are going to face many challenges when following your dreams, but it is always possible to make them come true with the desire to do so, and the right mindset.”

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Guillermo learning how to line dance before the visit to the rodeo

The thing about Houston and the program Guillermo enjoyed the most was definitely the diversity. Meeting people from numerous countries was a very interesting and eye-opening experience that has helped him easily relate with people from different backgrounds. Actually, he still keeps in touch which some of the friends he made in the program. Guillermo is still very good friends with a Brazilian former classmate and they recently met when this friend visited Houston. Due to the city’s diversity he doesn’t feel like a foreigner in the U.S. Something Guillermo thinks is really special about the program is the people who work here. “From the directors and office staff, to the teachers, to even the front desk hosts and the custodians”, everyone was always friendly and willing to help. “Even though this might not be a big deal for some people, it was for me, as I got that positive energy that everybody had and used it to motivate myself to be better.” He’s especially grateful to his teachers for everything that they taught him. He says the Intensive English Program at Rice feels like home to him.

After completing his bachelor’s, Guillermo would like to return to Rice University, this time to pursue an MBA. His ultimate goal is to become a successful trader or banker, just like his father.

Authors: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director, and Savannah Burch, Enrollment Coordinator

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