Transition Into New Year & New English Learning Environment
CU Denver’s ESL Academy Supports Students’ Success
“Moving into the heart of the CU Denver and into the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences? We love it!” exclaimed ESL Academy student Abdulraham Morelli. Morelli, whose home country is Syria, enthusiastically dove into English speaking, writing, and grammar classes when he arrived in Denver last year, and now “everything has become easier and my grades are higher.” His dream job is to be a biomedical engineer, and his “second dream” is to continue his higher education studies at the University of Colorado Denver.
The transition from 2018 to 2019 brought even more exciting happenings for Morelli and his ESL classmates. The international students’ circle of friends and supporters expanded with a January move onto campus and into a university academic unit. Classes began in ESL’s new home in the spacious, modern Auraria Library, with additional classrooms in the Business School’s Executive MBA suite.
From the viewpoint of Chinese student Chen Zhang, the changes will “absolutely” benefit ESL students. Zhang said the ESL students will be taking part in more of the activities with American students and will be able to explore more of Denver.
He also noted that many of the ESL international students are experiencing living in the United States for the first time. “They don’t yet have many friends, and moving into the CU Denver campus is a great opportunity for them to make more American friends.”
“They can also enjoy student clubs and understand more about American culture.”
In December, the Office of International Affairs (OIA) and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) hosted an informative tour of campus for the ESL students. Only steps away from the library, they visited the Tivoli Student Center, Learning Resource Center, bookstore, food court, and study spaces, and the new 85,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center, which offers a variety of fitness classes as well as prayer and meditation rooms.
Following the tour, the students were treated to a delicious lunch, complete with a a meet-and-greet with Dean Pamela Jansma, faculty, staff, and members of Peer Advocate Leaders (PALS), and photo opportunities with everyone’s favorite lynx, Milo.
“The ESL Academy has always made me feel welcomed,” said Angelica Gutierrez Perez, who is from Colombia. “I used to get nervous and shy when speaking English in public, but the ESL Specialists have helped me a lot by teaching me how to be more fluent in presentations.” Perez specifically appreciated learning different study strategies such as creating an outline for practicing her speeches and understanding how to use writing styles suitable for her future career in Education.
December celebrations also continued with an ESL Level 5 Graduation ceremony. To successfully complete this academic top English language level, students are required to conduct research, write a 10-page paper using APA formatting, and present in English. With the help of their teachers, the international students tackled difficult subjects ranging from artificial intelligence to water scarcity in the U.S. to antibiotic resistance.
The guest speaker at the ESL graduation event, CLAS Dean Pamela Jansma, welcomed the students and shared her own international experiences. Jansma was born in Japan and lived in the Netherlands as well as Puerto Rico as a child before coming to the U.S.
“Each time my family moved to a different country, I had to learn a new language,” said Dean Jansma. “Although it was interesting, it was also challenging, especially when it came to childhood games on the playground that involved word call-outs and counting during a fast game of ball toss!”
ESL Level 5 graduate, Haejung Jung, spoke about her learning experiences at the ESL Academy, the support given by her ESL teachers, and the chance to meet students from many different countries.
“In Korea, I learned that American culture is a ‘salad bowl’,” said Jung. “It means it is a mixture of different cultures, and each adds something special.”
The second student speaker, Ignacio Moreno, thanked all of the teachers and student volunteers who welcomed him every morning and “pushed me in my studies.”
“I would also like to thank my father, who put the fear into me to do well,” said Moreno. “My father said, ‘If you don’t make over 90%, you will be on the first flight back to Argentina!”
Ahmad Abusabaeen, a recent alumnus of the ESL Academy who volunteered to help with many of the ESL activities as an OIA Student Global Ambassador, is now earning his undergraduate degree at CU Denver in the medical physics field. His educational goal is to learn more about radiation treatment therapies to help patients with cancer. From his point of view, the move of the ESL Academy onto the CU Denver campus and into the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will significantly help the international students as they interact more frequently with domestic students, join more events on campus, and use their English language skills more often outside of the classroom.
“Because English is my second language, I am learning a new word almost every day with every class I take and each person I meet,” he said.
Coming from Saudi Arabia, Abusabaeen had lived in another American city for several years before moving to Denver. His advice to other international students is: do not hesitate to study abroad and consider CU Denver.
“If you are looking for a good place in the U.S., come to Denver, Colorado, which I consider as my second home,” said Abusabaeen. “It has the nicest people I have met, the most breathtaking nature I have seen, and the best friends I have met in the U.S.”
In this new year, the ESL Specialists and staff join together with the CLAS faculty and staff to further support the ESL students’ academic success and to provide a great educational experience at CU Denver.