Gonazalo Leon FloresAs a college student in his native country of Mexico, Gonzalo Leon Flores completed a degree in business administration. When he decided to return to school to study accounting he faced a new challenge--at the age of 40 he would not only be older than most typical college students, he would also be attending school in a country where he did not speak the language. Undeterred, Gonzalo started classes at OCC in the Spring of 2006 and found a wonderful support system through the ESL program.
Anna Ryu found out about the OCC ESL program from a former student – her father. Anna’s family came to the United States from Korea. While Anna attended high school for two years, her father attended classes at OCC to improve his communication skills. In 2005, when Anna was ready to go to college she took the MTELP test. Her score placed her in the highest level of ESL, and required her to take one semester of ESL before beginning her studies. Disappointed at first, she now says that that without those classes she knows she would have had a much harder time beginning her studies for a Liberal Arts associate degree. She is now almost ready to graduate and is looking to transfer credits to Eastern Michigan University to pursue a teaching degree.
"I thought that being in the States for two years was enough to learn English, but now that I am done with the ESL program and am in regular classes I cannot imagine how I could’ve taken any other classes without taking ESL first. Those classes completely prepared me," she says. She credits the academic counselors and student advisor Elise Roman with helping her personally succeed. "The counselors are the most giving people, ready to help; And Ms. Roman is like a mother figure to all international students. She helps students out with everything including immigration status. She attends students’ family event and becomes part of their lives."
The ESL program has also given Anna some teaching experience as she is now working as a supplementary instructor in the very first course she took at OCC – an ESL writing class. Her experience with the OCC ESL program has also led Anna to bring five friends to enroll in OCC. She tells them, “ESL at OCC is so organized and well-developed – if you want to be successful in your career, you’ve got to come to OCC!"
Enise Kizilaslan was a math teacher in her native country of Turkey. By taking ESL
classes at OCC she hopes to pass the TOEFL exam and continue the career she loves
She looked at other schools for ESL, but chose OCC because of the professional level of offerings.
"I could tell there was a level of quality at OCC,” she says. “And it has proven true – you do not waste your time at OCC. You definitely learn how to read and write if you are taking a reading and writing class, and you definitely learn how to pronounce words if you take a pronunciation class. The college is very serious about teaching you English."
Enise’s goal is to apply to a master’s program in education and mathematics at Eastern Michigan University and teach math once again. OCC is helping her reach that goal.
"I recommend OCC to all ESL students who want a great academic English experience and do not want to waste their time. OCC-ESL has very much helped me in reaching my goals."
Having lived and studied in Turkey, Canada and London, Sammy Basaran knew his OCC ESL pronunciation teachers would have a challenge. But what he found was that they were more than willing to help.
"I was a Turkish native who spoke French with a London accent – I was a mess. But the OCC instructors were very wonderful, they didn’t give up. Also, the ASE lab was incredible, always willing to give students like me individual attention."
Every class he took at OCC was intense, he says, but the sense of accomplishment he feels is tremendous.
"I took ESL courses in Canada and it can’t compare with OCC. The work is hard but there is so much encouragement and they really make sure you are ready for the next level. It’s very hard for people who leave their country because they have no support systems, but you have to take steps and interact and you’ll find the support. The OCC environment for ESL students is very family-like. I take pride in being an OCC student."
For one former OCC ESL student a return trip to his native country this summer was
not just a visit, it was a job.
Pierluigi Erbaggio returned to the city of Torre del Greco, Italy as a teacher in a summer program offered by Wayne State University. It was just two years ago that Pierluigi came to the United States. Not speaking English, and not knowing much about the US college system, he relied on his girlfriend’s parents’ advice to start at OCC because of the location and affordable tuition. He excelled in the ESL classes and after just six months transferred to Wayne State to complete a Master’s Degree in Italian. Since starting his studies at Wayne, he has worked part time as an instructor of Italian at the university. He credits his success with his start at OCC.
"The teachers I had at OCC are incredible individuals," he said. "OCC also permitted me to work part-time in the bookstore and I found it very important at that point in my life. I was coming from Italy with no English skills and it seemed to me I was suddenly living the 'American dream'. I strongly recommend OCC to other ESL students."
Pierluigi continues to teach part time at WSU and plans to pursue a Doctorate.