West Chester University contracted a terrific program in June 2016 to have international students come to the university to learn and speak English. This program is called English Language Learner (ELL), which entails students from all over the world to come to the United States to learn English for whatever reason they please, such as wanting to work here or teach the language themselves.
This program is a great way to grow our university’s diverse population because it is a way for students who are academically qualified to attend this university but do not meet the English Language proficiency requirement. The students live in either Schmidt or Brandywine Hall in the North Campus dormitories, or they live off campus in apartments or with host families.
The students take a placement test once they arrive at the university to see what level they place in. There are 12 levels: Beginner, which consists of levels 101-103; Intermediate, which consists of levels 104-16; Advanced, which includes levels 107-109; and Masters, which includes levels 110-112. At the beginner level, the student is expected to communicate at a basic level and understand English when it is spoken slowly and clearly.
In the Intermediate level, a student is expected to carry a normal conversation at a normal speed. In the Advanced level, the student is expected to be able to grow their accuracy in reading and writing as well as understanding idioms. At the Masters level, which is the final level, they can speak and write English with ease and they are able to satisfy professional and university requirements.
I had the privilege of meeting one of the students, Saho Takeshita. Nineteen-year-old Takeshita flew over to Pennsylvania from Shizuoka, Japan where she attended Kindai University. She was studying writing, reading and the English language, which stemmed her interest in coming to the United States to finish her English studies. She had never been to Pennsylvania before, which led her to find and take interest in attending West Chester University. “My motivation to continue to speak and improve my English is to eventually live and work here,” said Takeshita. She also wants to continue to make friends in the United States to eventually come back and visit them as well.
While currently on the Intermediate level, Takeshita spends her time playing on the Women’s Club Lacrosse team and hanging out with her friends. When Takeshita first arrived at the university, she had an initial interview with Heather Light, the center director, about her interests and goals for the program. Light passes the information on to Program Advisor Pamela Trowbridge and she watches over the students in the program throughout their time here.
Takeshita expressed her interest in lacrosse, which led her to join the club team and meet me and the rest of my teammates. ELL also offers VOICE (Volunteers Offering Individual Conversation in English). This program connects the ELL students with WCU students based on their interests. Takeshita connected with a student on the club lacrosse team, Erica Conner.
I also met with Trowbridge to learn more about the program. “The students learn how to talk to someone just as intelligent, but in a different language,” Trowbridge said of the program. This part of the program is to get the international students comfortable with conversation as well as make friends in the process. Trowbridge also mentioned, “International students can now walk down the sidewalk with 16,000 students and say hi to them. The students are friendly to them and the international students make so many friends.”
Takeshita took part in many activities during her time here in Pennsylvania. Aside from relaxing in her dormitory room, she got to experience the King of Prussia Mall around Christmas time, went to Times Square for New Year’s to watch the ball drop and go skydiving. Takeshita has made tremendous progress with her English and has created great relationships with students to visit when she comes back to the United States.
Marie Bray is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. ✉️ MB822035@wcupa.edu.