Alumni Spotlight: Asya Ozkizilcik

Alumni Spotlight Header_thinAsya 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 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”.

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Asya with two of her classmates at the movies

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

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Alumni Spotlight: Priscilla Araya

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Before coming to our Intensive English Program, Priscilla had studied business administration and marketing in Costa Rica. She started in level 2 of our six-level core program and studied with us for ten months. Now she is a global administrative assistant at IBM Costa Rica, giving support to executives in the U.S. and Canada and spending at least 80% of her work day speaking English. Regarding her experience at her current job, Priscilla said: “It is great to know that with English as your second language you will be able to communicate with people from many parts of the world.”

Among several other reasons, Priscilla chose the Rice University Intensive English Program mainly because of “the educational prestige that Rice holds. It is one of the best ranked universities in the U.S.” She added that “another factor was the university location which is near to downtown and other important places in Houston. . . . Finally, it was [Rice ESL’s] social media…showing the students and professors having a great time.” After spending several sessions with us, Priscilla’s smiling face became one of the regulars on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

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Priscilla with her teachers and classmates

The cultural experience was what Priscilla enjoyed most while living in Houston. “Houston is a city with wonderful multicultural aspects which makes the experience more enriching. The Rice ESL program takes this Houston essence to its classes. Students are clear in their desire to learn a language, but in the end you can acquire more than you had previously thought. You will have an expanded perspective to understand other cultural environments and thoughts.” While studying with us, Priscilla took advantage of all the socializing opportunities and cultural activities the program had to offer, from professional sports events to a Houston Zoo visit, our annual Thanksgiving luncheon, karaoke nights and line dancing! “Actually, the friends I made in the program became like my family, and the nice thing is that we still have communication with each other. . . . Now, it doesn’t matter how far apart we are, I know that I have friends in different countries.”

When asked what advice she would give to international students who are considering studying English in the U.S., Priscilla said: “If you have the opportunity to study in the U.S., do it! It is a decision that you will never regret. You will fill your life with unforgettable experiences, people, and at the same time your world perspective will expand and definitely new opportunities will come to you!”

Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director

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Alumni Spotlight: Rice University Intensive English Program

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We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies (GSCS) and of our Intensive English Program this year. For the last 50 years, GSCS has been providing personal and professional development opportunities to the Houston community, as well as to English learners from all over the world.

We would like to join in the celebration by featuring some of the many accomplished students who have studied in our Intensive English Program over the years. We have had students from more than 115 countries and from many different fields of study. Our student community, past and present, is a beautiful manifestation of the richness found in diversity.  Be on the lookout for our first featured alumnum very soon!

Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director

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Line Dancing Lessons Get ESL Students Rodeo Ready!


When you’re driving along a main street in Houston and find yourself surrounded by horseback riders and covered wagons, you know it’s time for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo! As Houstonians, this is one of our favorite events to attend with our Intensive English students. We started our festivities early in the day with a line dancing lesson from a couple of Houston Rodeo volunteers. Students learned the four corners line dance so they could “Boot Scoot,” and then circled up for “Cotton-Eyed Joe.” Those who weren’t quite brave enough to join in the dancing could take pictures in our rodeo-themed photo booth, or snack on traditional chili, a staple of Texas cuisine.

After class later that day, everyone loaded up the bus and rode down the street to NRG Park, where the Houston Rodeo is held every year…where we had even more fun! ESL students got to visit the carnival, see the animals at the AGventure exhibits, taste a little bit of deep-fried anything (Jalapeños! Oreos! Cookie dough!), and of course, watch the world-famous Houston Rodeo. The high energy of the bronco riding and barrel racing events were very popular, but as usual, the unanimous favorite was the mutton bustin’. To top it all off, we enjoyed a musical performance by pop star Demi Lovato…a perfect night at the rodeo!

Author: Savannah Burch, Enrollment Coordinator

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ESL Students Cheer on Rockets for Another Win!

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Our Houston Rockets are currently ranked 3rd in the NBA Western Conference, so our ESL students were ready for a good game when we watched the Rockets take on Orlando Magic last Tuesday! Watching the game was entertaining for our die-hard basketball fans, but there was plenty of entertainment for those of us that maybe don’t follow sports so closely. Dance teams performed during time-outs, the fan cam caught all the funny faces in the stands, and an energy-charged performance by the incredible Prairie View A&M Marching Storm Band brought fans to their feet during halftime! Students also witnessed the City of Houston honor legendary NBA champion Hakeem Olajuwon. To top it all off, the Rockets beat the Orlando Magic 128-104. Go Red Nation!

Author: Savannah Burch, Enrollment Coordinator

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Gifts and Games Galore at the Rice Intensive English Holiday Party!


‘Twas the night before finals and all through the city,
ESL students were studying most intently.
They needed a break or their tired brains were done,
So we were off to Dave & Buster’s to have well-earned fun!’

Yesterday was our last social activity of 2016, and it might have been one of the best we did all year! Intensive English students paused from their studies to celebrate the holidays with dinner, a gift exchange, and lots of arcade games at Dave & Buster’s! Students who participated in the gift exchange were excited to receive chocolate and coffee accessories and one darling little plushie Christmas mouse! After eating lots of nachos and sliders and unwrapping gifts, we discovered that our students were surprisingly good at racing games and skee ball…but not so good at air hockey. Thankfully, with classes ending next week they will have some free time to practice!

We want to wish our students a very happy holiday season, and look forward to seeing them back in class in 2017!

Author: Savannah Burch, Enrollment Coordinator




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Not the Same Old Song and Dance: ESL students add flair to the annual karaoke party!


It’s always fun to see our students show off their many varied talents, and one of the best opportunities for them to do so is our annual karaoke party! This year was especially fun, as we had students perform songs in English, Arabic, Spanish, and Turkish. We had several group performances from students AND teachers, including a moving rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.” Even more entertaining than the singing was the dancing! Students learned some of the typical American line dances like the cupid shuffle and the cha cha slide, but by far the best dancing happened when the song “Footloose” came on. A couple of students kind of danced…but one student hopped out of her chair and started MOVING. She kicked her feet and waved her arms just like they did in the original movie and had everyone clapping and cheering for her. It was the most energetic and fun dancing we have ever seen at our karaoke party, and we can’t wait to do it again next year!

Author: Savannah Burch, Enrollment Coordinator


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Rice ESL Students Do the Zoo!


Although the first day of fall in Texas isn’t quite cool enough for sweaters, Thursday was sunny and breezy, PERFECT weather for a trip to the Houston Zoo. ESL students spent the day wandering around Houston’s 55 acre zoo, thoroughly enjoying the antics of the monkeys, the graceful sea lions, and one very attention-hungry brown bear, who put on quite a show for us! All of the animals (with the exception of the big cats, who are, after all, cats) were active, and students had fun watching them and searching out animals from their own countries.

Author: Savannah Burch, Enrollment Coordinator



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Ice Breakers and Snacks at the Fall Meet and Greet

dsc_0018_bHere at the Rice University Intensive English Program we’ve started a brand new session, and almost half of our currently enrolled students are new to the program, so we hosted one of our new session Meet and Greets! Both new and returning students enjoyed light snacks and made friends from different levels. We played an ice breaker name game, and our students turned out to have fantastic memories! Some students were able to go around their table and name all eleven other students, along with what country each of them were from, although all of our students did a really great job learning their classmates’ names. We are looking forward to another great session with the best group of ESL students!

Author: Savannah Burch, Enrollment Coordinator


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Movie Night with Friends, Popcorn…and Dinosaurs!


We’ve had a few rainy afternoons this week in Houston, and one of the best things to do when it’s raining is settle into the couch and watch a movie…so that’s what our ESL students did on Wednesday. We stayed cozy and dry in front of the big screen in the dean’s commons watching one of the best rainy day movies: Jurassic World! Part thriller, part sci-fi, part adventure, it had something for all of our students to enjoy, plus, who doesn’t love a good dinosaur movie? Students snacked on popcorn and candy and had fun watching the movie (and their friends’ reactions to the movie!), while the rain slowed outside, stopping just as the credits rolled and it was time to go home, a happy ending both on screen and off!

Author: Savannah Burch, Enrollment Coordinator





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