Alumni Spotlight: Firdevs Ilci

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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.”

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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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Alumni Spotlight: Saka Yoshikawa

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If you ever find yourself reading about the genetic significance of the Ryukyu wild boar, it might be thanks to Saka Yoshikawa and a small group of his fellow researchers. Now in the last year of his studies to complete a master’s degree in agriculture, Saka’s research centers on the genetic analysis of this endangered boar subspecies that only inhabits the Ryukyu Archipelago in Japan. This dwarf boar has generated so much interest as a potential genetic resource, that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is attempting to encourage its conservation and promoting applied research on the subspecies. At this point, the available information on the Ryukyu wild boar is limited, and Saka would like to contribute to the creation of more data about the small mammal.

Two years ago, Meiji University, where Saka is a graduate student, sent him to the 95th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists in Jacksonville, Florida, to present his research. He remembers that he could not communicate with others while he was at the conference. “In Japan we just learn grammar; we do not often use English in conversation. I was depressed because of my lack of English skills.” That’s when he decided he would come to the United States to improve his communication skills in English. He knew that, as a graduate student working on research, he needed to learn something beyond general conversation. He chose the Rice University Intensive English Program because he wanted to learn “professional English”. He learned about structure in writing and how to organize his sentences when constructing a paragraph. He also learned how to give oral presentations. Now, less than a year after completing the program, he has written several papers in English and has been able to present them in front of English-speaking audiences. One of his papers in English was even published in an international academic journal. Saka is looking forward to September, when he will be presenting his research at the 68th Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science (EAAP), in Tallinn, Estonia.

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Saka, third from the left, with classmates in the student lounge

Besides improving his English language proficiency, Saka enjoyed meeting people from diverse cultures and learning about many different customs from around the world. One thing that surprised him was how different cultures view time and punctuality. In Japan, people tend to be very punctual, while other cultures seem to be much more lax with time and schedules. He does keep in touch with several former classmates who became his friends. Last month, a classmate from Brazil was in Japan and they were able to meet. Next month, he plans to go to Taiwan to visit classmates from Taiwan and Korea. Being in a new country while he was studying in the Intensive English Program at Rice, Saka also decided to try something new: he went skydiving. He says it was very exciting and it should be experienced at least once. It must be said, though, that skydiving is not a mandatory social activity for our students! In the future, he would like to work in a foreign country where he can put his English skills to good use. He knows that, in order not to lose his English knowledge, he needs to practice the language. To others thinking about studying English in the U.S. he says, “It is very hard to make the decision to study abroad. However, I am convinced that you will definitely learn not only English skills but various decision-making skills too. Have the courage to take a step forward.”

Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director

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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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Magic and Popcorn at Intensive English Program Movie Night

On Wednesday our ESL students experienced what nerds across the world have known for years: Harry Potter brings people together. Just like magic! The newest installment of the Harry Potter movie franchise, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, did just that. We held our annual Intensive English Program movie night this week, and students from all of the major language families represented in our program settled in with boxes of popcorn to watch the blockbuster. The movie drew the perfect balance of laughs and gasps from students and teachers alike, with larger-than-life special effects and the ridiculous capers of its magical creatures. By the time the credits rolled, we were all thoroughly enchanted.

Author: Savannah Burch, Enrollment Coordinator

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Alumni Spotlight: Vítor Andriotti

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Vitor2_cropAs a kid in Brazil, Vítor was always surrounded by American culture. Most of the movies, TV series, cartoons, comics and games he enjoyed were produced by English speaking countries. When he was 14, he became interested in software development and realized that most of the related terminology and coding were in English. Once he defined his career interests in computer engineering, he knew he had to be fluent in English. He felt that the only way to achieve fluency was by being exposed to an environment that required him to speak English.  That’s why he decided to study abroad and, in his second year of undergraduate studies, applied for a government scholarship program in his country, Ciência Sem Fronteiras (Science Without Borders). He had to choose the country where he wanted to study and three preferred universities within that country. The program offered a full scholarship to study the language of the country of choice for six months, and then spend one year as a visiting student at a university there. “I chose the U.S.A. because it is one of the most advanced countries in computer engineering. Since Rice University was ranked among the best universities in my area of study and it is a prestigious institution, I chose it as one of the three preferred schools. I was thrilled when I received my letter of acceptance!”

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Vítor (fifth from the left) with the Ciência Sem Fronteiras group in front of Rice’s iconic Lovett Hall

That’s how three years ago, Vítor started in level 5 of our 6-level Intensive English Program. The program helped him improve his writing and speaking skills, which have proven essential to his success as a software engineer and an entrepreneur. After completing our core program, he went on to take Advanced Level courses. The Oral Presentation class was particularly helpful for Vítor, since it required him to do more advanced and elaborate presentations every day, which elevated his language proficiency to a much higher level. It was at this point that he noticed he was thinking in English, as opposed to thinking in Portuguese and then translating before speaking. When he completed the Intensive English Program, Vítor was not automatically admitted into the Rice University Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. He had to take the TOEFL, a test of English proficiency, and he passed with flying colors. So he spent a year as an exchange student in that department, during which he took classes with renowned professors and had the opportunity to work collaboratively on various hands-on projects. At the end of his exchange program, he was encouraged to seek internship opportunities. During a career fair hosted by Rice University, he was invited for an interview with Alert Logic, a cloud security provider, for an internship as a software engineer.  After a few weeks of eager expectation, he was selected for the position. “I accomplished a goal that I wasn’t expecting to accomplish; I took my first steps towards my career path as an engineer.”

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Vítor (third from the left) with two of his Brazilian classmates in Space Center Houston (NASA)

Before deciding to participate in the exchange program, Vítor wasn’t sure if the experience would be worth delaying his graduation one year and a half. “I didn’t know how much I would benefit from this experience at the time. If you have the same doubts I had, I would advise you to just go for it. Studying English at Rice isn’t just about learning English, which of course you will; it is an experience that changes you deeply. You will interact with people from all over the world with different backgrounds and views and engage in conversations about politics, religion and cultural differences. You are going to make lifelong friends from several countries and open a new range of opportunities for your career at the same time.”  Vítor was impressed by Houston’s size and diversity. He very much enjoyed the wealth of choices of restaurants, coffee shops, museums, theaters and various cultural activities that gave him a taste of the American and Texan cultures, but also allowed him to savor cultures from all over the world. The low student-teacher ratio allowed for a closer relationship with teachers, who didn’t skimp on tips for living in the U.S.

Today, Vítor is working as a remote contractor for Alert Logic, the very same company that offered him an internship a year ago, and finishing his computer engineering degree at the same time. Between work and study, he somehow found the time to launch a startup company! Before coming to the U.S. to study, he and his classmates had founded Redware, a provider of website hosting and email solutions. Once he was back in Brazil, the young founders changed the company’s mission to respond to their clients’ needs for an innovative way of measuring employee satisfaction. They are currently developing a software tool to help organizations monitor how their employees are feeling on a daily basis, which in turn impacts productivity. They officially opened their office last year. Eventually, Vítor would like to complete an MBA in Project Management. Besides his professional plans and aspirations, he would also like to learn other languages. He already started learning Japanese and would like to study French next.

Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director

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Alumni Spotlight: Erhan and Reyhan Basaran

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Erhan, Reyhan and son_cropWhen they came to the Rice University Intensive English Program, Erhan and Reyhan were newly married. Besides getting used to their new life as a married couple, they were both trying to adjust to life in Houston and dealing with the stress of preparing to take the TOEFL and GRE exams. For both of them, the main reason behind attending our Intensive English Program was to eventually be accepted at Rice University for graduate studies. This was the right move, since it gave them the opportunity to make connections with the right people in Rice University’s Departments of Earth Science and Religion, respectively. The young couple wanted to pursue graduate degrees from Rice because it is one of the best ranked universities in the U.S. Erhan had a B.S. in Geophysical Engineering from Turkey and had received a full scholarship from the Turkish Petroleum Corporation to continue his education in the U.S. Reyhan came to Houston with a B.A. and an M.A. in Religion, both obtained in Turkey. Today, Erhan has an M.S. in Subsurface Geoscience from Rice University and is working as a processing geophysicist at Turkish Petroleum. Reyhan is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Religion Department at, you guessed it, Rice University. She is about to complete her doctoral dissertation. They are both very proud of their Rice education.

Joining the Intensive English Program at Rice gave them the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. The program also helped them “overcome the difficulties of cultural shock”. For instance, the differences in the attitudes regarding personal space were disconcerting at first. The new student orientation they took before starting their English classes really helped them understand the American culture. Their teachers encouraged them to participate and even joined them in countless cultural and recreational activities, both on- and off-campus. They were introduced to students and families from Houston who were native English speakers, to practice and sharpen their language skills. Regarding the city, Erhan says, “Houston is a multicultural and always dynamic city that is great for a student to live in. It is also a dream place for an earth scientist, being the energy capital of the world. As a geophysicist, I had the great chance to work with some of the major oil companies in the world. Being a Rice graduate, people from the energy industry always showed me respect.” Erhan did several internships with oil companies as well as with Rice’s Earth Science Department. He feels that the experience he gained from living, studying and working in Houston is something no amount of money could buy.

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Erhan (third from the left) and Reyhan (fourth) enjoying a meal with their classmates and teacher

Living in Houston has been an unforgettable experience for Reyhan. “Adjusting to a new country, language and culture was not as hard as I had thought it would be. However, building a social life was not an easy process. Houston’s multicultural quality conveniently enabled me to fit into this new environment.” What she loves most about Houston is the harmony of people with different ethnicities, languages and cultural backgrounds. She never felt like a foreigner here. On the contrary, she felt like a welcome part of Houston’s community. These days Reyhan lives in Turkey, where she is conducting field research, but the Ph.D. dissertation she is working on brings her to Houston often.

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Erhan and Reyhan visited the Grand Canyon, in Arizona, while they were studying in the program

Once they were well on their way to attaining their academic and professional goals, Erhan and Reyhan had a son, who is now almost two years old. Someday, Erhan would like to be part of a group that discovers a major oil or gas field in Turkey. Reyhan wants to become an associate  professor of religion at a prestigious university in Turkey. And speaking of future plans, the couple has some advice for students who plan to study in the U.S.: “Never ever hesitate to come to the U.S., especially Houston and Rice University. We are sure that you will find more than you expect. You will have friends from everywhere in the world. You will have the best education and experience and you will never regret it. We came to Houston as husband and wife, but then our family has become bigger with a son and a lot of good friends, both in Houston and all over the world.”

Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director




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Alumni Spotlight: Michiyo Mikage

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If you had known Michiyo when she was studying in the Rice University Intensive English Program, you wouldn’t have been surprised to know that she had been a radio and TV personality in Japan for 12 years. Her bubbly and lively personality is indeed perfect for a career in media and entertainment. She used to appear on all kinds of programs related to news, travel, food, sports, music, and even documentaries. She moved to Houston when her husband was relocated for work, but didn’t feel confident in her English skills. Most of the Japanese friends she had already made in Houston suggested she take English courses in the ESL Program at Rice. Six years ago, she started in level 4 of our 6-level core program. “The first week of the session”, she recalls, “I realized that I could hardly understand what the teachers and classmates were saying. Seven weeks later, I was surprised that I could talk with them naturally, without hesitation.”  By the end of each level she saw her English skills improve. Michiyo went on to complete level 6 and two additional sessions at the Advanced Level, where she focused on specific skills, such as listening, speaking, reading, writing, vocabulary and pronunciation. One session, her outstanding performance was recognized with a merit-based scholarship awarded by the program.

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Michiyo with two classmates and friends

Not surprisingly, Michiyo easily made friends with teachers and classmates from all over the world. She enjoyed preparing Japanese dishes for her classmates and friends. She was surprised that all of them loved edamame, but not all of them liked seaweed or raw fish. In turn, they taught her about their different cultures. This opened up a whole new world for her. She was fascinated with the various customs, foods and points of view of her classmates, especially the Arabic and Turkish, since she seldom had a chance to meet people of these nationalities in Japan. She also remembers all the activities the teachers organized to motivate students, including in-class games, singing and collaborative group work. In one class they even made a music video! (As you might suspect, this project was right up Michiyo’s alley.) She also has fond memories of the birthday parties that classmates organized for each other, which often offered a well-deserved break from their intensive studies. Drawing from her own experience, she has some advice for international students learning English in the U.S.: “Do not hesitate to interact with people. No one will laugh at your English as long as you make an effort to communicate.” The truth is most people actually admire in others the determination to learn a foreign language.

Michiyo currently is a stay-at-home mom and lives in Tokyo with her husband and two children. She has had her own blog since 2005 where, while living in Houston, she often shared her impressions of the city, the differences between the U.S. and Japan (from the astonishing to the hilarious) and her experiences as an English student in the U.S. These days she writes about her everyday life and her adventures as the mother of two young children.  So as not to lose the skills she acquired in our program, she has enrolled in a course at the NYU School of Professional Studies, Tokyo to brush up on her English skills. She starts next week! In the future, she wants to create infant massage classes for international new mothers in Japan. When she gave birth to her first child in New York, she joined an infant massage class where she connected with other foreign moms and exchanged information about baby care and going through new motherhood in the U.S. This was very helpful and comforting in a time when she felt anxious about having a baby in a foreign country with no family or support network. She would love to provide the same opportunity and welcoming space to others in the same situation. She shared with us that she would also like to volunteer as a tour guide for visitors to the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. The classes she’s about to start to further polish her English will no doubt come in handy when she’s guiding English-speaking visitors through the city that is now her home.

Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director

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ESL students admire art from their own countries at the MFAH


Houston is home to dozens of great museums, ranging from the educational (Museum of Natural Science) to the eclectic (Art Car Museum!). This week, our Intensive English Program students had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, one of the largest and most widely recognized museums in the United States. On Thursday, students spent the day wandering through galleries featuring art from all over the globe, including several stunning pieces from their own countries: large prayer rugs from Turkey, intricate pencil drawings from Korea, and countless pieces of gold jewelry from the ancient Americas. The women of our group were impressed (and a little alarmed) at the size and weight of some of the earrings on display, while the men spent a lot of time studying the crowns and headpieces made of hammered metals from a broad range of cultures. One of the best parts about the MFAH is that Rice students, including our ESL students, can visit for free! Several students are already making plans to come back to visit their favorite pieces, and to view some of the exhibits we didn’t have time to see this time. With so much to see, they can come back dozens of times and still have new areas to explore.

Author: Savannah Burch, Enrollment Coordinator



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Alumni Spotlight: Natalia Laverde

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Before moving to Houston, Natalia used to work as a communication consultant and corporate photographer for the oil industry in Colombia. When her husband was relocated to the Bayou City for work nine years ago, she was determined to improve her English and searched for the best ESL program in town. Not only did she need it to be able to communicate in her new home, but she also had some professional goals of her own. She arrived in Houston with a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications and an MA in Organizational Communication, both from the University of La Sabana in Colombia. Natalia completed levels 4 to 6 of the Rice University Intensive English Program. Several years later, after returning to Colombia, she earned an MA in Social Anthropology from the University of Los Andes. To be accepted, she needed a certain level of English, since the program of studies was mostly in this language. All the articles and research she had to read were written in English. She felt very comfortable reading entire books and articles on anthropology and philosophy. Adding to the list of things she has accomplished in her second language, three years ago, Natalia published a bilingual version of her first children’s book (in Spanish and English, of course), a fable titled ¡Chuik, Tac, Chuik! or Frog’s Leg. “When you study another language”, she says, “you are broadening your cultural spectrum.” By publishing a bilingual book, she also managed to broaden her audience.

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“Frog’s Leg”, bilingual edition

Natalia ended up living in Houston for five unforgettable years. During that time, she made wonderful friends and connected with amateur and professional photographers. Before relocating to Houston she did analog photography, but then she discovered the marvels of digital photography while taking several workshops in the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies at Rice University and the Houston Center for Photography. English allowed her to communicate and create strong bonds with a fantastic community of photographers in Houston. These associations helped her grow as a photographer and have afforded her the opportunity of participating in several collective exhibitions in Houston. She stills belongs to a photographic group in Houston, which brings her back often for various projects.

Predisposed by her visual sensibility, one of the many things Natalia enjoyed about Texas was its vast plains. “Coming from a country where mountains are all around you, plains seemed to me very exotic and beautiful! I love the immensity of Texas and the Houston horizon and sky!” Actually, the Colombian photographer published a book of photos she took while living in Houston, titled Houston: Del sol a la luna (Houston: From the Sun to the Moon). She refers to this publication as her tribute to Houston, her second home.

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Natalia with her classmates and teacher

Currently Natalia has a photography studio where she develops projects for the private and the public sectors, as well as working on her own fine art photography. Her favorite subjects are nature and landscapes, both natural and urban. Her work has been shown in several exhibitions in the United States and Colombia. Consistent with her commitment to nature conservation, she belongs to the board of directors of Resnatur, a non-governmental organization that enables people to develop environmental and sustainable projects in Colombia. Natalia also volunteers there as a photographer and communicator. In the future, she sees herself focusing on her own natural reserve near Bogotá and applying photography and anthropology to work on social projects in her home country. Natalia isn’t finished broadening her horizons yet. Now that she is proficient in English, she would like to learn Italian.

Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director

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Alumni Spotlight: José Adrián Viloria

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José Adrián is an architect by trade, and the Intensive English Program at Rice University helped him pursue his dream of becoming…a chef and restaurant owner! Here is how the story began for this Venezuelan entrepreneur: Even though he always had wanted to improve his English to get better professional opportunities, it was someone else who decided for José Adrián. Five years ago, at a time when he was unemployed and a little lost, a family member offered to pay for one year of English studies abroad. They picked the Rice University Intensive English Program and, when he came to visit Houston and Rice’s campus, it was love at first sight.

After taking the placement test, he was placed in level 4 of our six-level program. “I’ve got to be honest now, I thought it would be easy but after the first day of class I went back home crying. Although I was able to understand everything the teacher and my classmates said, I couldn’t speak fluently and I felt depressed. But quickly I got myself together and started to improve.” Once he realized how fast he was progressing he started to have new goals and dreams. He studied hard for the GRE and TOEFL and obtained excellent scores. He was admitted to a master’s degree program in construction management at the University of Houston. Unfortunately, he couldn’t afford the tuition and living costs, so he went back to Venezuela.

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José Adrián with classmates from his first session in the Intensive English Program at Rice

In José Adrián’s perception, “the magic” happened later. While studying here, he applied for an on-campus job at the Rice University Faculty Club. Students typically get jobs there as waiters, but he wanted to work in the kitchen, since his greatest passion has always been cooking. Everybody told him, “No way!”  This would be impossible, because the chef was very protective of her kitchen and very cautious when hiring. So he started to work as a waiter. He worked hard and showed his skills and good attitude, and one day the chef invited him to cook by her side. And now, the story’s happy ending: A couple of months after returning to his country, he opened his own restaurant, Guacamole Mexican Food. In only three years he opened three restaurants in different cities in Venezuela. “ESL at Rice is not only about what you learn in classes, it is a bunch of enriching experiences, if you really want to live them, to live the dream.”

José Adrián enjoyed everything about living in Houston, but one of his favorite things was walking everywhere. “Then I started to run, like Forrest Gump, which allowed me to get fit and healthier. The weather, the food, the lovely people that I met from different places…one part of my heart remains in Houston.” Actually, when asked where he sees himself in five years, he said: “In Houston. Why not? I beg life takes me back there, at least for a couple of days.” To international students considering studying English in the U.S., he says: “Do not even think, just go there. Take it seriously, learn, live and grow. There are no limits. If you choose to live such a wonderful experience, take advantage [of it]. Make it a turning point in your life.”

Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director

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