Category Archives: Learning advice

A Stranger in India

By Alina Volper, ELP Lecturer

As an American, I forget what it is like to be a complete foreigner and stranger in another country. The experience of feeling like a complete outsider occurred for the first time when I visited India in 2012 and 2015.

I went to India because my husband is from there and I wanted to visit his family and his country. While his family was extremely welcoming and embracing, I felt like an alien specimen in the country itself. People were constantly staring, pointing, and asking to take pictures with me and of me. I sensed that I was under a microscope and being examined and studied everywhere I went. This was a very difficult feeling that I had not experienced in any other nation. In addition, India is a country that overwhelms you with the sounds, smells, crowds, and colors that permeate every activity and interaction. While this was eye-opening and incredible, it was also a very exhausting experience. I had to learn to embrace being a stranger and subject of curiosity for people. Traveling to India has made me less self-conscious because I stopped wondering why people were gazing at me and began to ignore the looks as much as I could.  I started to enjoy the nonstop sensory overload that one can experience in this perplexing, bright, overpowering, and wondrous land.

If you are an international student at Chatham or an American thinking of studying abroad, I would advise you to embrace the experiences that you have, both positive and negative. It is normal to have a variety of occurrences when you are in a new place and the important aspect is not to let any undesirable experiences cast a shadow on the wonderful memories that you’ll surely have in the country. Don’t let any strange, bad, or unexpected situations ruin the amazing privilege and gift of studying abroad.

Competitiveness, Motivation, and Opportunities in Language Learning

By Linh Phung, English Language Program Director

Vietnamese Ao Dai
Vietnamese Ao Dai

I started to learn English in middle school in Vietnam when I was 11 years old. My class specialized in English, so I had more English lessons than any other subjects. During my middle school and high school years, I was extremely competitive and determined to be the top student in class, and so I studied with great intensity. I maintained my number one ranking throughout my high school years and won a third prize in the national English contest, which allowed me to choose a university to attend without having to take the much-feared national entrance exam to universities. I chose the College of Foreign Languages at Vietnam National University to continue my specialization in English. In college, I had more opportunities to communicate orally in English through class discussions, debates, and presentations. However, I was still very exam-oriented. I spent a significant amount of time on studying test preparation books, including TOEFL and IELTS, because course exams were often similar to the exercises in those books. In addition, I listened to the news on BBC or VOA, watched American movies, and read English magazines, few authentic materials that I could find in Vietnam at the time.

With high scores in the TOEFL and GRE tests, I moved on to do a Masters degree in the U.S. My language development continued through interactions with others in English. During my MA, reading articles in the field was difficult because of the new content, as was following group discussions. I was mostly quiet in the first year of my MA. I knew I needed to continue to improve my English. I found chatting useful, so I made friends online and chatted often. I also watched popular TV shows like Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond. When I had to write papers for classes, I spent time reading and taking detailed notes. I earned As in all but three classes because of my papers.

Now as a professional living in the U.S., I use English comfortably for a variety of purposes. I know that my English is still changing as I continue to learn new words and learn new ways to talk about certain topics in my field and relate to other people. I have more confidence in many professional circles, and I’m more outspoken. I’ve never made it my purpose to sound like a native speaker, but I do wonder how my English will evolve after years of living in the U.S.

Looking back, I realize that my competitiveness gave me motivation to study English, and my motivation pushed me to seek more authentic and interesting materials in English than any of the classes at school or in college could provide me. Apart from classroom work, these materials fostered my love for English and developed my skills beyond doing mechanical exercises. In language learning, practice (in the sense of doing exercises) alone does not make perfect. Reading and listening to interesting materials and using English to communicate ideas makes perfect!

Language Learning Strategies

By Oksana Moroz, ELP Intern and Instructor



“The more languages you know, the more times you are a person,” said a Ukrainian philosopher. However, before knowing a language, you should learn it. Learning a foreign language can be a tricky, frustrating, annoying, and time-consuming process. But it also gives you enjoyment, satisfaction, and the world of opportunities. In this post, I will elaborate on my strategies to learn a new language, and maybe some of them will be useful for you.

  1. Ask yourself why you want to learn a foreign language.

Always have a goal in mind. Is it for traveling, shopping, communicating with other people, or understanding the words of your favorite song? The purpose will make your learning meaningful.

  1. Do not learn a language alone.

Learning a language on your own is boring. Find a friend or a conversation partner that you can talk to and practice the language with. Together, you can help each other to improve.

  1. Mistakes are OK.

Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Do not let those mistakes discourage you from speaking. The more you speak, the better your language becomes. If your tongue becomes numb and you are unable to open your mouth to produce a sentence because you do not want to make mistakes, think before you speak. Speaking slowly will also help to avoid mistakes.

  1. Immerse yourself in the language.

Try to surround yourself with the language you learn as much as you can. Watch movies, videos, listen to the music, read short novels, news reports, and so on. All of these activities will contribute to your language learning.

  1. Practice, practice, practice!

Language needs to be used in order to be remembered. If you stop practicing, you’ll lose it. Practice a language you learn every day and wait for that “aha” moment when you master a foreign language.

Academic Cheating: Is It That Dangerous?

In the 21st century almost every student is ill! An epidemic of students’ cheating in education throughout the world is expanding at a frantic pace.  All around the world, many children now perceive cheating as integral part of a quiz, test,  or exam. A particular form of cheating, plagiarism – using other people’s ideas without proper acknowledgement, is also very common. “Statistics shows that only 5% of students prefer writing their own original works, while the other 97% more or less often plagiarize other works” (Dr. Scott Hamilton). In the U.S., plagiarism is a serious matter. Students who commit plagiarism may get 0 for their assignment, fail a course, or even get expelled from their school.


There are ways to avoid plagiarism. Here are some that may be useful for students, especially those who are not familiar with the U.S. education system.

  • cite, paraphrase, quote, or reference any words, phrases or sentences that  have been said by someone
  • write from your notes of the main ideas instead of copying and pasting from your readings
  • ask your instructor to understand what is acceptable
  • go to the library to learn about how to cite sources
  • go to the writing center at your university to receive feedback on your assignment

In conclusion, continued cheating will  lead to intellectual and moral degradation of individuals and even the decline of nations. If cheating and low educational standards are tolerated, the intellectual level of future educators, doctors, engineers, and other professions will decrease.

Why Study a Foreign Language?

By Martina Wells, Coordinator of Modern Languages Program, Chatham University

Without a doubt, learning a foreign language comes with many benefits for students. While some of them may seem quite obvious, others may strike you as a surprise. Perhaps of greatest and most immediate importance are those related to your prospect of finding that perfect job after graduating from college.

In an increasingly interdependent world, proficiency in a foreign language will give you a competitive edge on the job market. Not only will it allow you to communicate effectively with people from around the world in your business interactions, but it will empower you to better understand other perspectives and adopt a broader view about all kinds of issues. An important factor for employers operating in the global marketplace, global awareness and cross-cultural competence often translates into a higher paycheck even at the entry level of a career.

All of these benefits are actually the result of changes in your cognitive processing abilities. When you study a foreign language, you learn to think creatively, as functioning in another language teaches you to be flexible and mentally agile in the meaning-making process of communication. Sharpening your analytical thinking capabilities also means becoming a better communicator in your native language – and that’s not all: research shows that polyglots are less prone to develop Alzheimer’s. But, before you worry about Alzheimer’s, enjoy the benefits of learning a foreign language and practice your skills on your Study Abroad trip, your next vacation overseas, or with inter national students on campus.