A good foundation in English is the first step towards a successful education abroad.
No one knows this better than Salem State University (SSU) student Trang Vu. Originally from Vietnam, Vu moved to the United States where she lived with her grandmother and aunt, both of whom only spoke Vietnamese. Naturally, English was never her first language.
Looking to improve her English language skills and transition straight to an undergraduate program, Vu enrolled in SSU’s Intensive English Language Program (IELP) after hearing about its reputation for quality.
The IELP is a 15-week program offered in the fall and spring semesters to help students prepare for university, sit for the TOEFL iBT exam or to reach advanced levels of English for their careers.
The core curriculum, 15 weeks to strengthen oral communication, academic reading and writing, is supplemented with optional four to six additional hours in elective courses for pronunciation, vocabulary or grammar. Students also have the option to pursue English studies for specific professions such as business, healthcare, science and technology.
Wanting to experience American campus life, Vu opted for the summer program which runs between three and 12 weeks in the summer.
Students attend 10 hours of weekly instruction to build and practice language and eight to 12 hours of activity-embedded culture courses, to help students build confidence in reading, writing, listening and speaking while exploring the historic, artistic and contemporary sites of Salem, Boston and beyond.
Vu struggled in the beginning, especially with the American style of communication.
“Americans use quite a lot of slang, idioms, expressions, etc. … and they talk fast! When I first arrived, I thought my speaking and listening skills were too low, which made me nervous whenever I had a conversation,” she said.
Today, she’s a vision of confidence answering phone calls and student questions at her job in English on campus without struggling. She credits her quick accomplishment to the professors in IELP who were always ready to help her with her pronunciation and accent.
As her campus life grew busier, so did her chances to communicate in English, which led to the quality of her language skills improving by leaps and bounds.
“There is a fair and friendly relationship between the professors and students which is rarely seen in my country. This makes the educational process easier and more comfortable because we can share our opinions without any embarrassment,” Vu said.
Another student on SSU’s IELP summer program Hoang Minh Tran experienced similar difficulties as Vu in the beginning.
Tran had wanted to complete the program so he could get started with his major at SSU.
But the more he learned, the more he realised there was so much more he did not know about the English language. He decided then to extend the length of his program and today has no regrets doing so.
“Completing the summer program has helped me be able to pronounce more correctly, understand more easily, and enrich my vocabulary to communicate with others more naturally. I feel more confident to achieve my professional goals,” Tran said.
A huge part of the IELP’s strength comes from its unique approach to English language learning. The curriculum at the American Language and Culture Institute at SSU uses leadership and culture to help students develop strong English language and problem-solving skills.
Students are encouraged to explore and seek solutions to local and global issues. By pairing the IELP with community-based service activities, students get to apply their language skills in the real world and be actively involved in making a difference, one step at a time in the Salem community.
To promote cultural awareness and meaningful classroom interaction, SSU brings them around campus or the historic community of Salem. Places like the Salem Maritime National Historic Site not only makes history come alive but also enhances students’ listening skills as they participate on a walking tour.
This is then followed by lunch in Salem Lyceum Hall where Alexander Graham Bell made the first long distance phone call before hopping over to the Peabody Essex Museum, the oldest continuously operating museum in America, ranked in the top ten percent of art museums in the nation.
All of the above is a just a fraction of what Salem has to offer to SSU students.
Located just five stations from downtown Boston, international students have the famous cosmopolitan lifestyle practically at their doorstep without compromising the small and safe community at Salem as their home base. With more than 40 universities within 16 kilometers of the city and over 80 universities in the state, it’s no surprise international students love Massachusetts.
Add these benefits to the affordable price and quality of the American Language and Culture Institute, and SSU is a choice that’s surely hard to pass over.
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