Through the Eyes of an International Student

Gwendolyn G. DeRosa

As a new TESOL instructor, I learn as much from my students as they learn from me.  The students that I teach are adults and they have much insight into language learning and the educational environment.  Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my students, Yating, about her experience as an international student.

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Why did you want to study in the U.S.?



I come from China. My hometown is in the middle of China named Anhui Province. It is also the location of a famous scenic spot, Mount Huangshan, which attracts loads of foreign visitors every year. As we all know, the USA is a center of education, finance and art in the world.  About half of the world’s top 100 universities are in the USA. That is the reason why I want to study here. In addition, I can acquire both special academic knowledge and language skills here since English is also an important worldwide language.

We’d like to know about your experience with the English language. When did you begin studying English? What were your classes like? Did you get many opportunities to speak English in your classes?

I began to learn English when I was an elementary student . In the class of elementary school, we began to learn it by ABC, simple words, vocabulary games, and simple dialogues. The primary aim is to inflame students interest in language learning . We need to read the textbook every morning, then we have grammar courses, and new vocabulary words daily. Our homework is based on the contents we learned in class. With each new grade level, the difficulty of class and vocabulary increases dramatically in order to pass the standard test like when students are in college. There are a few foreign teachers in elite schools and exclusive schools because the distribution of educational resource in the world is unfair. So most students have few opportunities to practice English with a foreign teacher. The Chinese English educational system seems not to concentrate on English speaking, but on vocabulary and grammar. Often students never have a speaking test except IELTS and TOEFL.

What was one of the most difficult aspects of the English language for you?

Ever since I was young and studying in a city, I have liked watching Hollywood film and listening to English music. For me, the weakest aspect of the English language is grammar.

As current or future English teachers, we want to learn effective strategies for teaching English. What was one of the things that most helped you learn English?

I think that would be reading magazines, novels, newspapers. Also, listening to the VOV English while writing the main idea when you listen it, and then point out some main vocabulary and speak or practice it. That is very helpful. The most important thing is to cultivate your interest and enthusiasm for English by any way.

What did you do to prepare to study in the U.S.?

I brought some English learning reference books from China because it has Chinese annotations that make it easy to understand. I also had some tutorial classes, and I investigated the geography and weather in different states, and even researched the histories and customs of the USA before I came here.

What surprised you when you arrived in the U.S. and began your studies?

Students are very independent and most teachers are very helpful, perhaps because English is our second language. They are very patient when you ask questions and talk with them. They even encourage and praise you to ask more questions . They treat students as their friends; that is very different from my country where we must show our respects and obey the discipline every moment.

What advice would you give to a student who wanted to study at an American university?

Come here. It is a good place for working and studying. Practicing and learning English as much as you can before you come here, that way you will have more fun if you understand their jokes.

What advice would you like to give to new ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language) teachers?

I think you can organize more interaction after class, For instance, you could organize a movie club, English speech, singing English songs, or have an excursion. And, I think you can invite some native students who are studying in ODU to make friends with us and hang out after class. That will be more fun because we have common interests. They can give us more information about the USA.

Sculpture by Yating.

Sculpture by Yating.

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