Smoothing the Transition: The Summer English Immersion Institute

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The Center for Diversity and Inclusionis open to all students but is a resource predominatly for international students and students of color. KEISUKE OHTANI

Over 12 percent of the DePauw University student body is comprised of international students. The Summer English Institute gives international students an opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the English language each year. 

The application for the teaching assistant (TA) positions closes on March 12, and the position provides a way for students to foster their teaching skills and connect with new students on campus. The application can be found on the Summer English Immersion Program website.  

“I think [this position is] for anyone who’s thinking of education in some way as a career, is interested in a Fulbright or simply wants a kind of really meaningful experience that puts them in touch with new students,” program coordinator, Lynn Ishikawa said.  

Summer English Institute TA and senior, Jingbin Cao, went through this program as a student before he was a TA.

“I had fun with other students from around the world as we learned English together. As an international student, first coming to the United States we do not have families we do not have friends and we just have ourselves,” Cao said.

Before the program starts in the summer, the TA’s teach students not only English skills, but also how to adapt to college life.

“We need to teach one hour [of class] to new students, such as how to read a syllabus or how to make friends.” Cao said. 

In a study on the academic and cultural experiences of Chinese students at American Universities, researcher Wenli Yuan found that all the Chinese students she interviewed identified English as their biggest obstacle at school, which can lead to a lack of confidence in the classroom. “English education in China mainly relies on written tests to evaluate students’ performance with less emphasis on speaking and listening skills,” Yuan said. 

TA and senior, Melissa Browning, started with the Summer English Institute because she had an interest in teaching. 

“That was one of the few experiences on DePauw’s campus that kind of gives you direct teaching experience. I work with a lot of international students in the  [writing] center and as a mentor, so I was really interested in more opportunities that I could work directly with international students,” Browning said. 

To immerse students in English, Browning said students are required to speak English during class time.

Not only does the Summer English Institute focus on everyday skills, but they also host social events for students to acclimate students to campus and their peers.

“Having a ton of social events where these students get to meet people from their country and from other countries and from America really helps them feel comfortable on campus before the school year gets going,” Browning said.

Ishikawa noted the impact of a teaching assistant position has on students.“You are really helping these new students and really connecting with them.” Ishikawa said. “And I think that just makes it a very meaningful job.”