Alumni Spotlight: Firdevs Ilci

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Firdevs now

Firdevs already spoke English before coming to the Rice University Intensive English Program. “Before I came to the U.S., my English was not so bad, but I was too shy to speak.” She was hired by Turkish Petroleum Corporation, Turkey’s national energy company. Before she started working there, she was sent to the U.S. so she could improve her English language skills and then complete a master’s degree. Turkish Petroleum sponsored her English studies in our program, and then her graduate studies at Pennsylvania State University. Today, Firdevs is working as an occupational safety engineer for the oil and gas company. In the not too distant future, Firdevs aims to become a senior engineer. She would also like to start doctoral studies, probably related to petroleum engineering.


Firdevs on her graduation day at Penn State

Even though she only studied in the Rice University Intensive English Program for two sessions, the experience made all the difference to Firdevs when she was in the process of applying to U.S. graduate programs, three years ago. Her teachers and friends encouraged her to speak, helping her build her self-confidence. She says this helped her communicate effectively with the admissions committees of the universities she applied to. She felt very much at ease when she was expressing her goals and interests to interviewers and professors. Within three months she was accepted into three American universities. She ended up choosing Penn State, an institution with a very high ranking among U.S. universities. After studying in our program, Firdevs went on to obtain a Master’s Degree in Energy and Mineral Engineering from Penn State. Incidentally, Firdevs found that her advisor there was a Houston native who had received his master’s degree at Rice.

As far as the program’s location, Firdevs loved to be in a big and international city, with so many options for things to do. One of her favorite places to visit was Galveston, a “small and cute” island just one hour away from Houston. She loved “the beach, restaurants and the atmosphere of the city”. She also enjoyed going to Hermann Park, an extensive public park that is within walking distance of Rice University. Like most of our students, she really enjoyed the opportunity to meet people from different nationalities. While she was studying in our program, she developed a close friendship with an Iranian classmate. “Turkey and Iran are next to each other geographically, so I was estimating we’d have some things in common; but I was not expecting (we would have so much)…I learned a lot about language, people and culture.”

Firdevs then_crop1

Firdevs with one of her teachers

She also fondly remembers how friendly the Houstonians were. “When I was walking on the street or waiting at the bus stop, they smiled at me or said ‘Hi!’. I was so happy to start my day on a positive note.” To this day, she still keeps in touch with some of her teachers and classmates, and some other friends she made in Houston. She even says some of her former teachers still help her when she is writing a paper and has a language-related question. Firdevs thinks that, for a student who is looking to study English in the U.S., it would be as important to choose the city they want to be in as it would be to choose the right program for them. As we say here in the U.S., “it’s all about location, location, location”.

Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director

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