Category Archives: Student Essays

Graduation Speech: Improve English and Deepen Knowledge We Need to Be a Person

By Natsuki Sakagami, Joyce Nguyen, and Chika Kitagishi, ELP Students

Conversation Hour, Summer 2017

Good afternoon, our beloved teachers and international friends. We’re Natsuki, Joyce and Chika. It seems like just the other day we were awkwardly going inside the classroom. I cannot believe how time flies so fast. We feel very accomplished to complete the summer ESL course. We all came from different places and overcame so many things together. However, we cannot forget that it is all thanks to our experienced, sophisticated, and energetic teachers here at Chatham University. Today we would like to express our gratitude to all our teachers, Ms. Sylvia, Ms. Linh, Ms. Mina, and Ms. Trisha.

Firstly, Ms. Sylvia, we really appreciate all you gave us. You have always given us a lot of useful tips such as American culture, slang words, and some sites where we can study English ourselves. Actually in the beginning I did not have much confidence in speaking English in your class, but you always praised me when I said something in the class, and created a comfortable and enjoyable atmosphere, so I was be able to be confident. You are so kind, and we feel you are like a real mother to us.

I would like to say thank you to Ms. Linh, because she has helped me a lot since I first came here. It was particularly an incredible moment for me when I realized I would be taught by a Vietnamese professor. Whether she remembers or not, the first question she asked me was “Are you getting used to eating American food?” I was truly moved by her understanding for a completely new student like me. As we see her having a command of English which is not her first language, she showed us the possibility that we can succeed in learning language.

Next, we would like to appreciate Ms. Mina. Thank you for giving us a lot of homework that made us stay up late, but we know that you always believed in our potential. All the assignments and work in class were very challenging for us; however, it definitely made our skills improve and we feel confident about moving forward on to the next semester, thanks to you. You were always caring about us individually so that we could feel like we can always count on you. We thought of you not only as a greatest professor, but also like a sister we can always feel free to talk to.

Finally, I’d like to thank Ms. Trisha. I’d like to say both sorry and thank you to Ms. Trisha. Sometimes we froze in the class, especially when you taught us how to quote from the articles. We even often moaned like children, complaining about how long we have to write in a final essay. However, you always kindly accepted all of our complains and crazy ideas, like writing an essay about Twinkies. It is not too much to say that all the funny stories you gave us to wake us up were the highlights of this summer course.

Ms. Sylvia, Ms. Linh, Ms. Mina, and Ms. Trisha, we cannot thank you all enough about everything you have done for us not only to improve our English, but also to deepen the knowledge we need to be a person of the world. It is the end of the summer semester, however, and at the same time, it is the beginning of a new stage again. Chatham international friends, let’s promise to all our greatest teachers here that we will grow up more and more to be someone who can make them proud of us! Thank you very much.

Graduation Speech: New and Life-Changing Experiences

By Seina Maeda and Mohammed Alsharif, ELP Students

Orientation, Summer 2017

Hello everyone, we are Seina and Mohammed. Before starting our speech we congratulate all of you on graduating from the ELP. I hope you had life changing experiences. Because we did.

At first, I am going to talk about my experiences. This is my first time to come to the U.S., and everything was a challenge for me, especially when I spent my time outside using English. When I went to a restaurant, I was very nervous not only because I did not know how to order a dish but also because I could not imagine what kind of dishes written on the menu. What is that? How can I order it? What is a tip? I had many questions in my mind. Moreover, shop assistants spoke very fast in English. I could not understand them. One day, I went to Starbucks and I ordered one tall Caramel Frappuccino. Before I ordered it, I practiced how to order it in my mind like this, “Okay, I just say ‘Can I have tall Caramel Frappuccino?’ and I told myself I can do it.” And then I was served two tall Caramel Macchiatos. I didn’t know what happened, and I was very shocked because my English skill did not work. But I didn’t care about these mistakes, because I thought that the only way to learn is by practicing and making mistakes. New experiences always make us grow even if they are bad ones. If we keep trying something new, we can learn anything from it.

We can say the same thing about the experience with the ELP. It was not so easy to read and understand American culture, to recognize the grammatical rules, to listen and convey our own ideas, and to compose comparing and argumentative essays. However, most of them were our first experiences. It was natural to feel frustrated because we were trying to improve. Fortunately, we had an amazing learning environment which simplified all challenging tasks. Moreover, studying at Chatham enhanced our English skills and our information about American culture. We met many friends who are from other countries. The reason why we kept trying regardless of the adversities that we faced is to prove to ourselves that we can overcome our weaknesses. We can develop confidence if we keep trying something. How many points would you give yourself? Keep experiencing new things and give yourself a hundred points. These outstanding experiences and stories will last in our memories for the rest of our lives, but in the meanwhile, we should prepare ourselves for the next step. Some of us will go to the next level at Chatham and meet new friends. And some of us, like me, will pursue a master’s degree in information system management and some will pursue their dream job anywhere in the world. Whatever we are going to do we are going to face various adversities. To overcome any life adversities, we need to believe in ourselves. I want to remind you that we have a lot of teachers who believe in us here at Chatham. As Miss Mina always says “you can do it guys, I believe in you”. Likewise, I believe in you guys too, so let’s go conquer the world.

Finally, I would like to thank all our wonderful teachers who were patient with us and guided us for the past three months. Thank you Ms. Trisha for your help inside the classroom and for the great time we spent with you outside the classroom. Thank you Ms. Sylvia for enlightening us about the American culture and history, and making our reading class more interesting.  Thank you Ms. Mina for your supporting messages that you gave to us every time and for believing in us to do our best in every task. Thank you Ms. Linh, you showed us how to improve our grammar and to use more advanced academic words. Finally, I would like to thank you my lovely classmates. My time here at Chatham wouldn’t have been so great without you. I hope for all of you a successful future and happy life.

Graduation Speech: Appreciation to Our Teachers, Classmates, and Parents

By Rumi Horibe and Nagisa Fujimoto, ELP Students

End-of-Term Celebration, Summer 2017

Hello everyone! I’m Rumi and I’m Nagisa. We are in the upper level this summer. We are so happy to see you all today. Also we are so proud of having graduated from the English Language Program at Chatham University. I cannot believe today is the last day of the ELP program, and I’m so surprised at how fast time flies. Looking back over this 2 and a half months, although I faced many difficult or tough times, there were a lot of fun times.

Throughout the program, I certainly grew up and learned so many important and wonderful things. Above all, what added color to this two and a half months and made my life livelier and fuller were our unique and interesting classmates and our fantastic teachers. We made it! So we’d like to review each of our four classes.

First, in the US culture, Ms. Sylvia taught us belief, religion, and education in the U.S. The class made me think deeply about American culture that were different from my country. What was the most interesting for me was American people are patriotic and proud of being American.  Also I found out the same thing in my daily life. When I came to the U.S. for the first time, I was surprised that a lot of American houses had national flags. And on July 4th, their independence day, I went to see fireworks with American friends, which was so amazing. Then I realized the independence day is a big event and meaningful for people here. The more I learned about American culture, the more I came to like America.

Next, Nagisa is going to talk about Ms. Linh’s class. We mainly learned English grammar in this class. Even though I’ve studied English since I was in junior high school with a focus on grammar, thanks to this class, I recognized many grammar mistakes I was making when writing in English. The most memorable assignment was writing a speech about human rights issue in the world after watching the famous speech by Dr. King. I’ve never experienced writing a speech about social issues, so I was not sure how I would write it. But through feedback from my classmates and Ms. Linh, I was able to write an effective speech. And I remember the potluck party that we had in late May at Ms. Linh’s nice house well. I had a great time eating various food from different countries or cultures and talking with many people. At the party, Ms. Linh welcomed us with a relaxed atmosphere. Thank you for inviting us to the party! In this class, I wrote various kinds of essays, and I believe that all of them will be practical for upcoming fall classes.

Next, it was Ms. Mina’s class that dealt with deep, intellectual, and emotional subjects. It made me think deeply about what life is and what human rights are. This class especially explored racial issues in the U.S. I was shocked at the history in the U.S., and at the same time, I was intrigued by the issues. In addition, we watched a lot of TED talks in the class and as homework, which were all thought-provoking. Ms. Mina chose the best TED talk every time. Although this class was quite challenging because we had to do an individual lecture and an individual presentation, Ms. Mina gave us careful and practical advice and compliments, so I was very encouraged. I remember that when I prepared for my individual lecture, it took a long time to prepare a discussion for just less than one hour, and I struggled. Ms. Mina made us a class that is impassioned and strong every time. Thank you so much.

Finally, Rumi is going to talk about Ms. Trisha’s class. We had to read long articles and write long essays and a research paper. These tasks were so tough for us. And we struggled with a lot of homework on the weekend. But we made sure we could acquire important abilities in reading and writing.  Also, Ms. Trisha is so kind and she made us laugh every time. Sometimes, she took us to outdoor events on the weekend, such as biking around waterfront and Go APE, which is an outdoor adventure including zip line. That was such a fun and precious experience for us to enjoy nature in Pittsburgh. Thank you so much, Ms. Trisha.

All of our teachers cared about us and they were amazing. But also, I really appreciate my classmates who made it through the ELP program together. Especially, Joyce, Mohammed, and Sarah; we won’t be able to see each other in fall semester. It’s so sad to say goodbye, but we’ll never forget the memories we had with you.

We had a great experience for this two and a half months in the English Language Program. For the fall semester, we will probably be busy, and the classes in fall will be harder. But I believe that we can do it. We really appreciate all of our teachers, classmates, and parents who support this study abroad experience. Thank you for listening.

Breakfast On the Cheap: US vs. Japan

By Teri Bradford, Communication ’18

For five US dollars in the states, I’m almost guaranteed processed, sugary, and maybe even greasy breakfast on the go. A sweet yet savory pastry, a coffee with caramel, and maybe some hand fruit to balance it all out is what I’m all about. I perfected that order. So when I toured the Kansai region on the Japan field experience abroad, I was surprised to find a way of eating breakfast that I always wanted to exist, but never knew was possible. For five hundred yen ($4.50 USD), I could get a complete breakfast set that consisted of at least four different subtle yet flavorful foods to dive into before my day began.

Breakfast in Japan

My first breakfast set was at our hostel in Wakayama, Japan called Guesthouse RICO. When they said we’d eat at the hostel I was expecting, I don’t know, Japanese Cheerios? Instead, I was handed a tray with food that looked and was arranged in an aesthetically beautiful way. Pieces of thick, buttery, and fluffy toast accompanied by rich cheese caught my eyes first. Then it was the sweet but bitter Mikan fruit pieces sitting next to our slightly sour yogurt topped with homemade citrus mikan jam made by our Guesthouse RICO hostess herself. Of course it was all pulled together with a warm cup of tea. I gushed over my meal and took too many pictures before diving in and, trust me; it tastes as good as it looks. Every taste bud awakened before 8 AM? That was something I could get used to. Luckily, I had time to do just that because I tasted many versions of this meal over the next 12 days. One breakfast from a little café near the hostel still had the delicious toast that smelled heavenly, but also eggs that weren’t too runny with a dollop of ketchup. There was rich coffee instead of tea, two creamy but light salads with flavorful sauces, and a piece of pork where I expected bacon to be, that was tender and made with care. And of course I had to have one in Osaka for my last breakfast in Japan. It was bread, eggs, coffee, and the perfect send off.

Trying on local attire

Truly comparing Japan to the US involves a complex analysis. But in the case of “what can 5 USD vs. 500 yen get you for breakfast?”, the difference was clear. When I eat out in the US, I’m expecting a bang for my buck meal with as many components as possible, the actual quality being neither here nor there. The Japanese meals were well done, simple, filling, and not overwhelming. They were fresh, cheap, and always way better than I expected for the price. Am I going to replicate the meals at home? I don’t know if I have the time or the skills. Will I keep getting huge bagels that can hardly fit in the toaster (I’m looking at you Café Rachel)? Not as often, that’s for sure. My post-Japan mission has been to find something just as satisfying right in between.

When will you study abroad?  For more information about study abroad options, scholarships and the study abroad process, please contact or visit us at the Office of International Affairs in Falk Hall, lower level.

Life-Changing Experiences with the English Language Program

By Daniella Bastos, ELP and MA-Psychology Graduate, International Student Ambassador

Studying English at the English Language Program (ELP) at Chatham University is one of the best decisions I have made in life. In 2014, I moved to Pittsburgh because of my husband’s work. I did some research into universities in Pittsburgh, and I found Chatham University. They have an interesting Master’s program in Psychology and a great ELP. I had very smooth communication with the ELP since the first contact by e-mail. I had the best support to complete the application and a great reception to the program. The ELP team is devoted to giving the students the best resources and opportunities to study and develop their academic, personal, and professional skills. The teachers at the ELP are specialists in teaching English for non-native speakers, which means that they have specific professional qualifications and multicultural competencies.

During my English course at Chatham, I had life-changing experiences. I had amazing classmates from Saudi Arabia, Japan, China, South Korea, Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela. I had teachers with international experience. I had the best support from those teachers to prepare my application to the MA-Psychology program (application letters, documents, and TOEFL). Chatham’s ELP helped me to connect and adapt to a new country in the middle of an overwhelming personal and professional transition. I made friends and I had opportunity to work and apply my new skills.

In December 2016, I completed my Master’s degree in Psychology. That was only possible due to the commitment of the ELP and Chatham University. They were able to understand the students’ limitations and strengths and give us support so that we could succeed in our studies. They promote diversity and multiculturalism.

Studying in US is a big decision as well as a big investment of time, energy, and money. It is also an experience that can change your life and your future. Choosing a school is really important in this process. After my graduation, I became an International Student Ambassador at Chatham to encourage Brazilians who want to study in the US to know this great ESL program and university. I recommend Chatham to anyone who wants to study English or earn a degree in the US.

Bún Chả: The Taste of Home

By Ngoc Dinh, World Learning Exchange Student at Chatham

What do you know about Vietnamese food? I have asked this question to many of my international friends. If I am lucky, they would attempt to pronounce some words that I could not recognize. And then they would always ask the same question: What Vietnamese dish do you recommend? How am I supposed to answer that question? My country has sixty-three cities and provinces. My city, Hanoi, alone has hundreds of great dishes. However, for a reason that I am still not quite sure about, I would immediately say: Bún Chả.

From Google Images

Bún Chả is a combination of three main elements: bún, pork, and sauce. Bún is a type of fresh rice noodle. The fibers are milky white and very soft. Bún usually has a little sour taste to it, but if it tastes very sour, it is probably not of good quality. The perfect bún must be newly-made, fresh, and without weird odor. In order to make Chả, fresh pork needs to be ground and made into balls or cut into medium pieces. They are then marinated in a mixture of fish sauce, garlic, sugar, and onion, and then grilled with charcoal. The dipping sauce is the final ingredient. To make this sauce, I usually pour fish sauce in a large bowl and add some water, sugar, chopped garlic, and lime juice. Flower-shaped pieces of raw papaya and carrot are added to the sauce. Lastly, fresh vegetables and herbs are served along.

I usually cook and eat Bún Chả at home. To make Bún Chả, I put the black charcoal and firewood into an old iron cookie box. My mom starts the fire with her special fire-making technique, a result of her poor childhood without a proper cooker. I am in charge of sustaining the fire by flapping a hand fan vehemently towards it. The continuous movements afflict my arm, but I actually take pleasure in the weariness. The task can be a drudgery, but I am delighted to watch the black charcoal turn gray, and the bright orange flame dancing on it, until the pork pieces obtain a brownish appetizing color. That is when the business gets serious. Complete concentration has to be invested to ensure the meat is cooked inside out as well as remains juicy and spiced.

Charcoal Grill – Google Images

The grilled pieces are placed onto the plates, one after another, succulent and inviting. The white fat noodle bars line up beside, waiting for their destiny. The vegetables and herbs add the green color to the plate, followed by bowls of golden sauce. My heart is enthralled by the moment when we sit down by the table. The smoke fills my heart with exhilaration. The sound of chopsticks clicks in the kitchen. The right smell fills up my nose. I am ready. It is ready.

It is hard to name the “side-kick” of the meal: the noodle, the meat, the veggie, or the sauce. The noodle is dull; the meat is greasy; the vegetable is bitter; and the sauce is unpleasant to eat alone. Magically, the combination of them is just perfect. The bland noodle is a white page for the spiced meat to draw on. Meanwhile, the freshness of the vegetable eases the harshness in the sauce. That moment when they all touch my tongue, I picture the meat’s explosive sweetness and grease, the noodle’s elegance, and the vegetables’ liveliness. Absorbed in them is the sauce that blends every taste together, making the greatest combination of all. Of course, the absence of any ingredients will not guarantee the dish’s quality. Teamwork makes the dream work, my mom would say. It also applies for the cooking process. My grandma prepares the ingredients, before my mom makes the fire and crafts the sauce. I conquer the meat challenge, while dad wakes up the garden to pick the freshest vegetable of the day. Afterwards, my brother voluntarily devotes his game time for making the neatest table of his life. We need no words; we are a well-trained team.

It never feels the same, though, to eat elsewhere. The pork is nice; the noodle is flawless; and the sauce is explosive as always. Yet, the nervousness, the excitement, and the warmth are never there. As I wait calmly for the dishes to be served, I feel nothing. The meal comes and goes. Deep down, I know that Bún Chả needs that team spirit to be complete.

Obama Eating Bun Cha in Hanoi

When president Obama visited Hanoi this year, he ate Bún Chả on an old-quarter restaurant. I bet it tasted good. Yet I should have invited him to taste the Bún Chả at my home, one that definitely surpasses every dish in Hanoi, definitely the most extraordinary dish in the world.

Sanook Mai? – Five Reasons You Should Study Abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand

by Suzi Nanthavong, class of 2017, Biochemistry major and Study Abroad Ambassador

“But I don’t have time”, is one of the excuses that I often hear my peers say when asked why they have not studied abroad. Believe me, I even told myself that. However, after extensive research, I finally found the right program Chiang Mai, Thailand. Before I knew it, I was on my way to Thailand, where I would have some of the most amazing experiences of my life. Here are five (out of many) reasons that you should study abroad in Thailand:

  1. First off, and most importantly, the food is DELICIOUS.

If you’re as big of a fan of Shadyside’s Noodlehead as I am, I promise that Thailand will not disappoint you. Visit Chiang Mai to experience pad thai or local Khao Soi (known as Chiang Mai Curry at Noodlehead), made with fresh noodles and spicy, delicious sauces. Not only is the food relatively cheap (you can often get an entire meal for less than $4USD), but also it is also fresh and often made to order. During my time in Chiang Mai, I tried various curries, rice dishes, noodles, fresh smoothies, mangoes with sticky rice, and tropical fruits like mangosteen and lychees!

Khao Soi, also known as Chiang Mai Curry
  1. New Religion

Many of the people in Thailand practice Theravada Buddhism as a religion. In Chiang Mai, visitors have easy access to the various old temples, known as wats. Some of these temples date back to the 1200s, and are all different shapes and sizes. You will probably end up visiting 10 (or 30) different temples while in Chiang Mai alone. As part of our program, we were able to informally chat with the younger monks at a temple called Wat Suan Dok, who were practicing their English.

  1. Great Location

 “Songthaews” or red trucks were the primary form of transportation in Chiang Mai. At about 20 baht (56 cents), you can travel anywhere in the city that is 20 minutes away. It is very easy and relatively cheap to travel to other parts of Southeast Asia too! I was able to travel to the island of Phuket, where I went snorkeling for the first time. I also spent some time in Vientiane and Vang Vieng Laos, where I explored caves and visited a temple called That Luang. Lastly, I traveled to Cambodia and got to spend time at Angkor Wat.


  1. Elephants

As a class, we took a day trip to the Elephant Nature Park in northern Chiang Mai. On our drive up, we watched a video describing the aims of the reserve, which aims give elephants that were rescued from horrendous situations their own sanctuary. We were able to get up close and personal with the elephants through feeding and bathing them in a river.

  1. You will meet some of the most amazing, and memorable people.

You are bound to make a lot of friends. From my lovely, outgoing Thai roommate, to the other students in the program, and lastly to the locals we met along the way, you will begin to understand why Thailand is known as “The Land of Smiles”.

The phrase of “sanook mai” in Thailand can roughly translate to “did you have fun?”, something locals were fond of asking. After experiencing Chiang Mai and all it had to offer, I can wholeheartedly say that I had the most fun, eye-opening experience during my time abroad.

When will you study abroad?  For more information about study abroad options, scholarships and the study abroad process, please contact or visit us at the Office of International Affairs in Falk Hall, lower level.

The Joy and Challenges of Learning English

By Mohammed Almalky, former ELP student, MS Biology graduate

Mohammed at the International Education Symposium in 2014

My name is Mohammed Almalky. I came to the U.S in 2012 to learn English. I used to learn English in Saudi Arabia, but I was not effective because I did not use English often. I faced many challenges in learning English, yet I have found different ways to overcome these challenges. When I first came to the U.S.A, I would talk for an hour with a native speaker, and at the end of the conversation they would ask me, “What you are talking about?” As you can imagine, it was difficult to find a native speaker who was willing to spend time and talk with me. Of course, they would be more interested in talking with someone who they could have a smooth conversation with. Thus, to attract them to have a conversation with me, I invited them to parties and restaurants so they would come and enjoy the parties and meals and I would enjoy speaking with them.

The second challenge I faced was learning the meaning and the use of words. When I learned new vocabularies by translating them from English to Arabic and vice versa, I thought I got the meaning, but in fact the use of the words was different. For example, in Arabic the word “calendar” has two different meanings: dates and dental braces. So when I went to the dentist in the U.S., instead of asking for braces, I asked him for a calendar and he gave me a folder. I realized that he misunderstood me because of my English.

The third challenge and biggest challenge is learning English pronunciation. For instance, in English they have the two different sounds p and b while in Arabic we only have the sound b. One time I had an appointment with a native speaker and he called me and asked “Where are you?” I said, “I am outside.” When I arrived he asked me again, “Where have you been?” I said, “I was barking on Fifth Ave.” He said, “Why didn’t you come and bark here!” I did not understand what he meant. After three months he said, “Your English is getting better. Do you still bark?” I could then answer, “No, now I am parking”. After several semesters of studying English, my English greatly improved. I got admitted to study a Master degree in Biology. As a biology student, I now know words that many native speakers do not know, such as anastomose, decussate, osteoclasts, and lipolysis. After looking back at my experience, I can confidently conclude that you never fail until you stop trying.

Think and Think Again Before You Make a Judgement

By Saud Abdulsamad and Mohammed Lashram, ELP students

*Inspired by the “I have a dream” speech, Saud and Mohammed wrote a speech to those who are too quick to make judgements about Muslims.

Dear those who think Muslims are terrorists. Have you asked yourself what Islam means? Or why you are still alive so far even though there are more than one and a half billion Muslims (terrorists) around you? Think carefully; if all those Muslims were terrorists, they could finish up the world by throwing some stones on people.

Now, let me help you and define what the word Islam means. Islam means peace or peace in everything. Some of those people who consider Muslims to be terrorists do not know some basic information about Islam. For example, a famous politician claims that Islam was born in Saudi Arabia. Whoever said that does not have basic information, not only about Islam, but also about history. Islam started in 610 A.D. However, Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 A.D. Therefore, there is a 1322-year-gap, so this guy needs to learn some math. By the way, talking about math, a man named Al-Khwarizmi, who was one of the most famous scholars in the Islamic golden era, invented not only algebra, but also algorithm. Without algorithm, today, we would not able to have computers and anything related to computers.

People, I am not here today to illustrate to you what Muslim scholars did, but to show you something out of the box, the box that the propaganda creates. Since I came to the USA, many friendly Americans that I met have asked me one question: “Why, why does your religion treat women badly?” And they give me an example to try to convince me about their claim. The example is that women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia, and they conclude that our religion treats women badly. Now if you want to criticize the Islam religion, you have to bring an example that belongs to the religion, but this example is associated with our culture, way of life, and traditions, NOT religion.

I gave you this example to show you that before you judge Islam and Muslims, you have to read and know true information about them. We know about the Spanish Inquisition and Holocaust, but we do not consider Christianity a religion of violence because of some crazy groups of radical Christians. All in all, what I would like to say here think and think and think before you make a judgment.