SMALL BUT CONSISTENT STEPS TOWARDS GRADUATE DEGREE AND BETTER FUTURE.
I decided to study in the United States because I wanted to improve my English skills to the level required to apply and study in a graduate program in a U.S. university and to communicate in an international work environment.
How did you choose your intensive English program?
I considered different factors to choose the intensive English program at the University of Texas at Austin (UT). First, the program offers English courses for international students interested in improving their English skills for academic and career purposes. Second, the program is offered by a high-ranked U.S. university, which has graduate programs related to information and technology fields in which I am interested in applying. Third, the city of Austin has a growing tech hub, nice weather lakes, and it is surrounded by parks. I had the opportunity to visit Austin before moving here for studying, and I loved it.
What do you like best about studying here?There are a variety of aspects that I like about studying at the intensive English program at UT; however, what I like the best is that I have lived the in-person experience of studying English attending classes in a U.S. university campus, with U.S. professors, and students from different countries. Moreover, I like that I have always had orientation and help from classmates, professors, and all the staff from the English Language Center.
What do you miss most about home?
What I miss the most is sharing with my family. Although I can see them by video calls, it is not the same as it would be if I were there with them in person.
How long have you been studying here? How has your English improved? How has this program helped you to handle future study at a U.S. university?
I have been studying English in the U.S. for two years, and I think that my English has greatly improved. Currently, I feel more confident speaking in English with any person, I can read and write informal and academic writing, and I am familiar with most of the English grammar rules. All these improved English skills have helped me with my future goal of studying at a U.S. university because I can write essays, resumes, and emails for applications to graduate programs, communicate with professors, and prepare for the TOEFL and GRE tests.
What was your biggest surprise about U.S. life and education?
My biggest surprise about U.S. life and education was the large diversity of people and cultures from different countries in the world living and thriving in the U.S. For instance, you may easily find international restaurants and markets as well as different international student groups or U.S. students whose relatives are immigrants and keep their immigrant traditions.
... your biggest disappointment?My biggest disappointment about U.S. life was the mobility. I use the city transport system to commute to the university, and the bus routes I take often delay frequency and increase ride times due to traffic jams or few bus drivers available. However, bus rides are free for all University of Texas students and staff, and there is a big city transport project going on to improve mobility in Austin.
How have you handled:... language differences?
In the beginning, I could neither completely understand what people outside classes said, nor did I clearly speak with them, which was frustrating but a necessary experience to learn and ask for help from English professors to know how to improve my speaking skill in English. Following the suggestions, I started to expose myself to speaking more, listening more, and trying to imitate U.S. pronunciation. This was important for me because there are some keywords in sentences that should be pronounced correctly to help listeners to understand the whole idea. Currently, I am still learning how to handle language differences, especially when I speak, but now I feel more confident speaking in English.
I planned how to spend my savings, and I received financial support from my family for studying in the U.S.Moreover, while studying, I save money cooking at home and bringing my lunch and snacks to the university; also, taking buses that are free for the University of Texas students.
... adjusting to a different educational system?
I think that university orientation sessions related to U.S. educational system and U.S. student life were important to adjust to a different educational system. Furthermore, staff and professors clearly explained the methodology, content of the classes, semester goals, the grading system, and answered my additional questions related to the educational system and life in the U.S.
What are your activities?
Although the pandemic reduced the number of social activities that the English Language Center and UT usually sponsored, I could enjoy different social activities available when it was possible, such as visits to museums and the Capitol building, tours to South Congress Avenue and on campus, kayaking in the lake, ice cream, pizza, bingo, talks, games, weekly language exchange meetings with a UT group called PALS, some UT student fairs and events. Moreover, I applied and won a partial scholarship that the intensive English program at UT offers to students who want and need to continue their English studies with them. Additionally, I love that the English Language Center actively promotes the participation of its students in university and city events sending information by emails and publishing them on social media and on its blog.
How easy or difficult is making friends in the USA?
I think that studying in a country with a different culture and language may initially discourage international students to interact and make friends, but in the end, making friend become one of the best parts of living and studying an English program in the U.S. In my case, studying the intensive English program in the U.S. has facilitated me to interact with other English learners and with English speakers outside classrooms. Currently, I have friends from other countries who I met in intensive English classes. I think that once a student knows the basics of U.S. culture and feels confident to speak and interact, it is easier to make friends in class and outside classes.
What are your career goals? How is your U.S. education relevant to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
My career goals are to acquire proficiency and fluency in the English language, obtain a master’s degree related to information and technology fields from a U.S. university, and work for a local or international company in the U.S. Studying the English language at UT was a relevant step I took to pursue my career goals because I have reached an advance English level, I could contact departments and professors from the graduate programs of my interest in the university, and I received important tips for applying to graduate programs in the U.S. Additionally, there is a growing tech hub in the city of Austin which may offer possibilities to find internships and obtain work experience. In the future, I would like to bring my expertise and knowledge to help with the adoption and development of information and artificial intelligence technologies in Colombia.
What is your advice to other students from your country who are considering studying English in the USA?
I suggest the students from my country consider the opportunity to study English in the U.S. Although the cost of living in the U.S. is higher than in Colombia, I think that to study in an intensive English program in the U.S. is a great personal and career investment, and a life-changing experience. Moreover, I suggest planning the finances, searching for English programs in different U.S. cities and institutions, choosing the best options according to your interest and goals, and preparing documents for the applications in advance. Also, I suggest talking to people who have taken intensive English programs in the U.S. and contact to international advisors of English programs.