Students from abroad immersed in English at Oswego

group photoForty-eight students from such countries as Brazil, China, Japan, Turkey and Puerto Rico are on SUNY Oswego’s campus to improve their language skills through the Summer Intensive English Program.

At sessions coordinated by the college’s International Language and Education Center, learners spend about four hours of daily classroom time honing their English skills during either six-week or three-week sessions. Evenings and weekends include activities like traveling, poetry readings, teaching salsa dance and working with conversation partners and tutors from the campus and community.

Attendees include a range of students and professionals. Turgut Ercan, from Turkey, is a geophysical engineer building language skills as he enters Oswego’s MBA program. Minori Bouchard, a pharmacist from Japan, wants to polish her English so she can pass the New York state licensing test. Wenchang Qien and Xuewen Deng are among seven Chinese students starting at SUNY Oswego this fall.

Just being immersed in the country has helped, said Brazilian Karin Vancini. “During the days, we speak a lot, listen a lot, and make new friends,” she said. “I’m improving a lot in my English.”

With ever-improving English, Raul Rosa Pizarro from University of Puerto Rico’s International School of Tourism and Hospitality Management at Carolina hopes to find a better job. “I think the program helped me to lose my fear of speaking English and helped me learn the essence of the language,” he said.

Francellies Otera, from the same institution, will become rooms care manager at the Marriot Courtyard in Oklahoma City. “I want to become fluent in the language. I need more vocabulary, better order of my sentences, words, paragraphs, all that,” she said. Otera loved the campus and would like her oldest son to consider attending Oswego.

Another Puerto Rican student in hotel and restaurant management, Michelle Santiago, said learning more than one language is important in her field. “Before I came here, I could not hold a conversation with other people, and now I can,” Santiago said. “The education here is very personal. The professors are concerned if you learn or not.”

Learning English and gaining new experiences appealed to Gabriela Santana, a Puerto Rican student interested in finishing her master’s in psychology in the United States. “I feel very, very, very happy for the program,” she said. “Oswego is very good. The people are very beautiful.”

Mariana Lopez from the University of Puerto Rico noted differences in the learning environment. “In Puerto Rico, the professors don’t know our names. Here, they treat us like family,” she said.

“I like the professors, the way they teach, using different tools like movies, video and music,” said Lismary Vila, entering her fourth year at Metropolitan University in San Juan. “And we are not studying all the time. On the weekends, we have time to do something else, to meet new people.”

While Jessica Laurion hails from Alaska, the hearing-impaired student knows American Sign Language but wants to learn conversational English. “The grammar is different than English grammar. It’s actually closer to French grammar,” she said. “I’ll be a senior in high school, so my mom wanted me to see what college is like for when I graduate.” Laurion also would like to study in Japan, so she is happy to learn about other cultures.

For longtime program tutors and conversation partners like retired teacher Mary Ann Hogan, working with other cultures is part of the draw. “We get to meet wonderful students,” she said. “We get a new understanding of different cultural concepts. You help them become comfortable speaking aloud. It opens the doors to other parts of the language.”

Program assistant Kate Depentu, a master’s in elementary education student at Oswego, tutors and converses with students and took some to Boston to share the city’s historic and cultural experiences. “It’s amazing to see how much they’ve improved in the few weeks they’ve been here,” she said.

- END -

PHOTO CAPTION: ‘Intensive’ experience—Student enrolled in the Summer Intensive English Program at SUNY Oswego ham it up on the steps of Sheldon Hall.

CONTACT: Gurdeep Skolnik, 312-5660,

(Posted: Jul 22, 2008)