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English Language Center Prepares Student For Graduate Degree in U.S.

  • Oct 21, 2020
  • Suvi Bhalgat

When Sujin Park’s husband was admitted to a postgraduate program at UT Austin, she accompanied him to the U.S. from their home country of South Korea. Self-conscious about her English skills and seeking ways to engage with U.S. culture comfortably, Park reached out to the local Korean community and her international peers at her church in Austin, who told her about the English Language Center

She enrolled in the Academic English Program and says while she was initially nervous, the instructors and community helped her grow her confidence in the language. With the use of discussion groups and social activities, Park experienced U.S. culture while also practicing her English writing and pronunciation. 

Now finished with the program, Park plans to use her newfound confidence and enhanced abilities to pursue her second master’s degree in the U.S. She is preparing to complete the GRE and has already received a 4.0 on the writing session of the test, scoring higher than over half of test-takers. 

Why did you choose to study at the English Language Center (ELC)?

I came to Austin in September 2019 because my husband enrolled at UT Austin. At that time, I met some Korean friends who were coworkers with my husband and some international friends. I asked them how I could improve my English skills to prepare for graduate school. They recommended UT’s English Language Center to develop my English skills as well as to experience various activities in the U.S. 

What have your virtual classes been like?

Virtual classes helped me improve my speaking and listening skills. I usually only conversed with one friend who was from a country near my nation during classes, because she was most familiar to me and we always sat together. However, when I take virtual classes, teachers make breakout rooms randomly, so I can talk with new friends in every class. At first, these discussions made me so nervous. However, after a few months, I became more proud of speaking and listening to English thanks to these random discussions.

a zoom gallery of students at the elc

How has the ELC helped you reach your English proficiency goals?

When I came to the U.S., I was not proud of speaking English. For example, when I went out with my husband and someone asked me something, I hid behind my husband or told him to answer instead of me. Fortunately, at the AEP program in the ELC, all my teachers were professional and hospitable and my classmates were friendly. It helped me become proud of speaking English. Additionally, I was able to learn what kinds of words were used in the U.S. and academic writing skills for graduate school, which helped me earn a score of 4.0 in the writing session of the GRE!

What are your career goals?

My career goals in the U.S. are to earn a master’s degree and a doctorate in civil engineering. For this, I needed to improve my English skills which were essential to take classes and conduct research in a graduate school setting. At the ELC, I studied grammar, writing rules for the academic field, how to read quickly and effectively and how to present in a graduate school setting.

What is your advice to other students from your country who are considering studying English virtually?

I strongly recommend that students from my country take virtual classes. In virtual classes, I have gotten more chances to interact with various classmates through random discussions in every class, which has helped me build confidence in speaking English. In this pandemic circumstance, trying to take online classes can help you gain new experiences and improve your English skills by communicating with U.S. teachers and international friends. It is much better than English conversation classes in my country where we interact with people from the same country.   

Learn more about the English Language Center’s Programs.