Q: What do you call a group of seven students from seven different countries?
A: We call it an ELI class.
Studying in a program like University of Bridgeport’s (UB) English Language Institute not only provides international students the opportunity to learn English and develop academic skills in a nurturing environment, but also offers the chance to learn about other countries and cultures and truly gain a greater appreciation for the world.
New ESL students arrive on campus filled with both excitement and apprehension. Their friends and families are thousands of miles away and the language is often unfamiliar. Although some students arrive with a friend or acquaintance in the area, many do not know anyone initially. They might have only seen images from the UB website and emails from the Admissions team. That is why it is so important to have a support network in place.
As a result of decades of experience caring for international students, at UB we have an action plan to help them settle in quickly:
- Instructors facilitate interactive classroom activities from the very first day in order to “break the ice.” Consequently, students become more than mere classmates quickly and tend to become “flash friends.”
- ELI staff immediately introduce new students to Bridges: Friends of Internationals, a nonprofit group that welcomes international students in southern Connecticut. Bridges maintains a regular presence on UB’s campus — with regular gatherings, fun events, and many other opportunities to connect with fellow students and the local Bridgeport community. Although it can be hard for students to meet people when they first arrive in the US, Bridges is a place they can belong to and feel cared for while studying here.
- Students are also invited to actively participate in the weekly Greater Bridgeport Toastmasters chapter meetings. Toastmasters provides yet another safe environment to develop speaking and presentation skills and the opportunity to meet friendly and supportive native English speakers.
The English Language Institute curriculum, carefully developed over the years with the help of undergraduate and graduate faculty, prepares students for the academic rigors of their program of study. However, we always remember first and foremost that is imperative that new students feel comfortable in their new “home.” Then, they can put forth their best effort and succeed at UB, and beyond.
Steven Rashba, ARM, is the Director of Modern Languages and the English Language Institute and currently teaches Advanced ELI 140 (Research Writing for ESL Students). Rashba has been affiliated with UB for 23 years and is one of the world’s approximately 3.95 billion bilingual (or more) speakers. A dedicated runner and cyclist, Rashba and his students are active members of Greater Bridgeport Toastmasters and Toastmasters International.