For international students, Institute a terrific tune-up for fall

ESL Summer InstituteThe halcyon days of summer are perhaps a bit less so for the nine students in Eric Shockley’s summer class.

On a recent Friday morning, the students kicked off their day with a fast-reading exercise and subsequent discussion, followed by group work on summaries that followed a lesson from the day before.

“I haven’t done this reading,” said Shockley, a UW-Green Bay instructor, prompting his students to participate. “Explain it to me.”

Still, it wouldn’t all be work. The next morning, the class would be off to Chicago for visits to the Museum of Science and Industry and other landmarks — along with a sampling of some Windy City cuisine. It’s all part of UW-Green Bay’s ESL Summer Institute, a 6-week experience that helps international students practice their English and prepare for the semester ahead. After a half-decade hiatus, the course is back — and its students are grateful.

“I take this course because it’s good for me, for fall, to prepare,” said Mian Li, a junior from Beijing who plans to study Business. “If I just came here and (was) beginning fall courses, I would feel a little nervous and afraid.”

Easing those nerves is one goal of the Summer Institute, Shockley said. The course — actually two classes taught together — also prepares students culturally and gets them ready for the rigors of academic life. From lecture structure to specific expressions and engaging oneself in class discussions, the Institute helps students get ready for what’s next.

“Most of the students are academically strong,” Shockley said. “They’ve survived rigorous testing in their country and made it here, and the biggest issues we face are linguistic and cultural. … (I’m) seeing good progress in terms of willingness to speak, and actually taking risks with the language.”

Most of the Institute’s students are new to UW-Green Bay, but some — like 21-year-old Turki Alshammari — are returnees who see the course as another opportunity to practice and polish their English.

“It’s improving my skills,” said Alshammari, a Human Biology major about to begin his second year at UW-Green Bay. “(Sometimes) I forget to practice the fast reading. “(We’re) improving our discussion skills and making speeches.”

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The course runs from 9 a.m. until noon daily, with afternoon or evening activities scheduled about three times a week, Shockley said. In addition to the Chicago trip, the students have gone out to eat, visited Bay Beach Amusement Park and experienced other facets of American — and Green Bay — life. Institute students say they’re pleased not all the lessons are academic.

“Before I came here, I wasn’t interested in American football,” Alshammari said with a smile. “But now I’m a Packers fan.”

Click here for more information on International Education at UW-Green Bay.

Photos by Eric Miller, photographer, Office of Marketing and University Communication