Immerse Yourself in US Culture While Advancing Your Language Study

Immerse Yourself in US Culture While Advancing Your Language Study

Students seeking a supportive Academic English program and the opportunities of city living will love Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

This private university, with an enrollment of 2,200 students, offers a safe campus with a bustling city just outside its front doors. On weekends, students can road trip to two of the county’s most renowned cultural hubs—New York City and Washington, D.C. (six and four hours away from Pittsburgh, respectively).

English Language Program

The key to the Chatham English Language Program (ELP) is the support students receive. Enthusiastic student testimonials speak to the energy and warmth of staff and participants in the ELP and the difference it makes in students’ lives.

Classes are kept small—12-14 students—and divided into five language levels. Faculty members are chosen for their exceptional teaching ability and their passion for supporting student growth.

The ELP is a pathway program to the university; students have conditional admission to degree programs and a TOEFL/IELTS waiver for those who complete the advanced level. To kick-start their degrees, students can sign up for classes in other departments, accruing credits and skills while advancing their language study.

Students interested in part-time or short programs also find connection and success at Chatham.

Student Life

 ELP students are immersed in American culture. They are housed in charming student residences with American roommates. Abundant activities and a conversation partner program help build friendships and strengthen English fluency and comfort.

Offering a great deal of events and attractions, Pittsburgh was ranked among the 50 “Best Places to Travel in 2016” by Travel and Leisure Magazine.

From the classroom to city life, studying at Chatham means living your cultural and language goals.

Study in the States and helpful immigration reminders

The Department of Homeland Security launched the “Study in the States” website over a year ago. The goal of the site is to provide innovated information for the many different shareholders for international students in the United States. This includes updates and information from: the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs and Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The main site can be found at:

The Office of International Affairs encourages prospective, current, and former Chatham University students to visit the site frequently to keep updated on immigration matters.

Recently, Study in the States updated their blog with some good information for Chatham Students:

Students: Passing Final Exams Helps You Maintain Status

November 23, 2016

With winter break approaching and academic terms ending, many students are preparing for their final exams. As an international student, it’s important to understand that studying for and passing your final exams helps you maintain your status.

Maintaining status means following the rules and regulations that govern studying in the United States, and these rules require that you enroll in a full course of study and pass all your classes. Since your performance on a final exam contributes to your overall grade in a course, it’s important to do well on the exams to pass your classes. Following these study tips can help you prepare:

  • Do not simply re-read your notes. Focus on the meaning of what you’ve written.
  • Ask yourself a lot of questions.
  • Connect new information to something you already know.
  • Draw out information in a visual form (e.g., diagrams and illustrations).
  • Use flashcards to help you memorize information.
  • Do not wait until the last minute to study.

If you have questions about maintaining status or concerns about passing your classes, talk with your designated school official (DSO) immediately. Your DSO is the best person to help you navigate your options while ensuring you properly maintain your status.

(At Chatham University, the Primary Designated School Official is Ms. Kate Emory. She can be contacted at or by phone at 412-365-1267)

The original blog post can be found at:


Celebrating Achievements with the Office of International Affairs

By Linh Phung, English Language Program Director

Under the umbrella of the Office of International Affairs are five major units:

  1. Education Abroad
  2. English Language Program (ELP)
  3. Global Focus
  4. International Student and Scholar Services
  5. International Partnerships

The office has five full-time employees: Chris Musick, AVP International Affairs; Karin Chipman, Study Abroad Coordinator; Kate Emory, International Student and Scholar Services Coordinator; Linh Phung, English Language Program Director; and Sylvia Shipp, ELP Lecturer and Student Advisor. Jean-Jacques Sene is a full-time faculty in the History Department, but also serves as the Global Focus Coordinator. There are 13 part-time instructors in the ELP, who all have training and experience in the specific field of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

As professionals in the field of international education and TESOL, we have been highly engaged in professional development, scholarship, and research in order to continuously improve our practices to better teach, advise, and serve our students. Below are professional achievements (publications, presentations, and awards) shared by some. Other contributions include research projects with refugees in Germany, voluntary work to teach immigrants and refugees in Pittsburgh, advocacy for English language learners in the country, mentoring services provided to Chatham’s alumni, and so on.


Phung, L. (2017). Task preference, affective response, and learners’ engagement in L2 use in a U.S. university context. Language Teaching Research, 21.

Publication date: April 2017
Publication date: April 2017

Reinders, R., Phung, L. & Lewis, M. (April 2017). Study in English: Strategies for success in higher education. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wender, E. & Powell, T. (2016). Advantages to using young adult literature in the English language classroom. In Wiley TESOL Encyclopedia of English Language Teaching.

Yates, S. (2016). What I would say if we were to drown tonight. Pittsburgh, PA: Stranded Oak Press.


Moroz, O. (2016). Gendered influence on ELT identity in Ukraine. Poster presentation at the Second Language Research Forum. New York, NY.

Phung, L. (2016). Understanding, explaining, and developing language tests takes a village. Presentation at the EnglishUSA Conference. Monterey, CA.

Phung, L. (2016). Task preference, task engagement, and factors influencing affective responses. Presentation at the Second Language Research Forum. New York, NY.

Phung, L. (2016). Personalized approach to teaching grammar through systematic error treatment. Presentation at Three Rivers TESOL Conference. Pittsburgh, PA.

Shipp, S. (2016). Building reading competence using graded audiobooks in the classroom. Presentation at Three Rivers TESOL Conference. Pittsburgh, PA

Book review

Moroz, O. (2016). Social class, gender and exclusion from school. TESOL Journal.

Grants and Awards

Karin Chipman, Study Abroad Coordinator, received a grant to participate in Study in Spain Workshop in Madrid, Spain, funded and organized by Study in Spain (Eduespaña) and Spanish Trade Commission, December 2016.

From Schramm’s Farm to Presbyterian Church Tour to Fallingwater

By Kate Emory, International Student Services Coordinator

Pumkin Patch
Pumkin Patch

Throughout the semester there are many opportunities for students to interact with American students and culture: on campus, in the local community, and nationally as they travel. Over the course of the Fall 2016 semester, Chatham students have participated in athletic activities, volunteered at local community organizations, and traveled to Chicago, Seattle, New York, and Washington DC.

The Office of International Affairs has organized local events,  such as a church tour the Presbyterian Church in East Liberty and the Macedonian Church of Pittsburgh in the Hill District, and a day trip to Fallingwater and Ohio Pyle State Park. Sharla Yates, an instructor in the English Language Program, also organized a visit to Schramm’s Farm in Harrison City PA for the students in the US Culture  class.

At Schramm’s Farm students were able to experience classic “fall farm festival” atmosphere, including walking through a pumpkin patch, drinking fresh apple cider, exploring a corn maze, and taking a hay ride. Students were able to pick a pumpkin, which they then used to carve Jack O’ Lanterns in the US Culture class.  Students also participated in the Chatham Harvest Fun Fest on the quad and experienced American autumn activities with their classmates and roommates.

Church tour
Macedonian Church of Pittsburgh

The church tour of East Liberty’s Presbyterian Church allowed students to climb the steeple to the top and learn about the buildings interesting history. Later in the semester students were invited to the Macedonian Church of Pittsburgh to experience a Baptist choir and learn about the African American experience in Pittsburgh.


Fallingwater, a national historic landmark, is considered the crowning achievement of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. We toured the house and learned about the family who lived there, as well as about Frank Lloyd Wright and his work. After the tour, we visited Ohio Pyle State Park, which, despite the name, is still in Pennsylvania. There students explored the small town, ate American BBQ, and began a hike along the Youghiogheny River. Some students expressed relief to experience a “refreshing” break from the rigors of the classroom and explore the state park.

Students enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner on Wednesday November 16th at with hundreds of Chatham’s students, faculty, and staff. There they feasted on turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, green beans, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. During the Thanksgiving holiday, many students will travel on their own to experience other American cities: Washington DC, New York, Chicago, while others will be visiting family or going to their roommate’s home.

Students are encouraged to let OIA know of their interests to assist us in planning these events and trips. Pittsburgh has much to offer students, and we look forward to introducing students to interesting facets of American and local culture.


International Students’ FAQs

By Kate Emory, International Student Services Coordinator

Throughout the semester, international students have questions regarding what activities they can, and cannot do, in regards to remaining “in-status”. It is important to check with OIA if you are unsure if something will affect your immigration status or not. It is always better to ask, than to find out later that you are out of status! Here are some frequently asked questions:

Q: Can I get a Social Security Number?

A: Only those with employment are eligible for a social security number. International students have limited opportunities for employment, and should check with OIA. To receive a SSN, you must submit proof of immigration status, job offer, and copies of your passport and I-94 to the Social Security Office. If you are applying for a driver’s license but do not have an SSN, you can get a letter from the Social Security Office stating that you are not eligible for the social security number.

Q: I am getting a low-grade in my class, can I withdraw from the class?

A: F-1 students must be enrolled as full-time students to maintain their immigration status. If you will go below full-time status, you must check with OIA first. If you drop below full-time enrollment without immigration authorization, your student status could be terminated. Full time for undergraduate and ELP students is 12-credits a semester; for graduate students it is 9-credits a semester.

Q: I want to travel during Winter break! Can I go outside of the US?

A: Yes. During University breaks, students may travel. Make sure you stop by OIA to get a travel signature on page 2 of your I-20 before you leave the US. An email will go out in December with set times for travel signatures.

Q: I want to get a part-time job in Squirrel Hill, can I?

A: No. If you have an F-1 or J-1 student visa, you must follow the regulations of your visa. Employment must be authorized by either OIA (on campus employment, CPT) or by USCIS (OPT, Economic hardship). Those who work without authorization may have their student status terminated.

What Makes a Successful International Program?

By Debra Wolf, Associate Professor of Nursing, Assistant Director of Nursing Programs, Healthcare Informatics Coordinator

International MSN Students, 2016
International MSN Students, 2016

The success of any educational program begins with the visionary leader who plants the seed of exploring new opportunities and continues with dedicated faculty and staff who nurture the seed until life appears. The International Master in Nursing Program offered by the Nursing Department within the School of Health Sciences (SHS) at Chatham University has been very successful thanks to the vision and leadership of several individuals and departments at Chatham University. Visionary leaders such as Dr. Barazzone and Dr. Wenying Xu from administration who supported the idea from conception to implementation. Leaders such as Dr. Hunker and Dr. Spadaro from the nursing department who have been working endlessly to make the vision a reality. Finally, leadership from the Office of International Affairs, whose knowledge and experience in foreign affairs and English language instruction, has been instrumental in helping the students arrive safely and housed appropriately and receive the English support that they need during their advanced scientific study at Chatham.

In Fall of 2016, the nursing department admitted its third cohort of Chinese nurses from Shanghai into the Master of Science in Nursing Program. To date the department has successfully graduated 29 students from the program in the span of 2 years.

Collaborative interprofessional team work has been a critical aspect of the international program. The faculty and staff within the nursing program continue to support the program on a regular basis.  For example, faculty frequently guest lecture in the classroom, offering content focused on their scholarly work and expertise. Faculty meet 1:1 with students to further support them on an individual basis, offering detailed support if students’ interest is closely related to the faculty’s scholarly agenda. Faculty and staff have taken time out of their day to accompany the international nurses to campus events (during day, night and weekends), introducing them to our culture and celebrations.

Nursing faculty and staff collectively go out of their way to make the students feel comfortable and welcomed in America, for this is the first time most of the nurses have been to the United States. For example, one staff member’s son made personalized welcome signs illustrating the American and Chinese flags for each nurse. Another created poster boards illustrating their names and photos to welcome the students. Another faculty invited the entire cohort to spend the night at their camp and provided tents, sleeping bags and all the other necessities. Finally, the department sponsors a welcome and Chinese New Year reception for the students inviting other departments within the SHS.

As the program continues to grow so does the support from Chatham University, not only from faculty and staff, but also from our graduate students. Most recently a call for graduate students in the SHS to be part of a Peer Partnering Program, a program to match a Chinese nurse with a graduate student in the SHS for socialization, was initiated with great response and success.  Chinese nurses in past cohorts shared their need to socialize more with other American students to better understand our culture.  The peers meet independently on a weekly to biweekly basis or as time permits to explore each other’s culture. Seeds were planted and friendships are growing!

As the program continues to grow, the department is preparing for Cohort #4 in fall 2017, which will require additional revisions and changes. Although change is not easy, having dedicated individuals who are open to new ideas and willing to assist and go the extra mile is what has and will continue to make this program a success. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a University to graduate an international student.  Thanks to all the individuals and departments (not mentioned above) who have been a part of this program’s success. We could not have done it without you.

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!

It Was Not Expected: A Reflection on the U.S. Presidential Election Result

By Chris Musick, Associate Vice President for International Affairs

Chatham Students' Walkout on November 2016
Chatham Students’ Walkout in November 2016

“Shock” might be the best word to summarize the result of the United States presidential election.

While many people in the United States are feeling optimistic about the next four years, many others are feeling targeted. The xenophobic and vitriolic statements made by the US president elect have caused anxiety among different nationalities, racial and religious groups, and genders in the United States and abroad. There is a legitimate fear that the president elect’s words have empowered hate groups in the United States. There have been reports in the United States of increased episodes of racist graffiti and harassing verbal attacks on minority groups.

Emotions have run high across the United States in the days following the election. Many students at Chatham have openly expressed their disillusion, confusion, anxiety about the future. Faculty and staff have been contemplating the implications and ways to provide support to students.

There have been open forums at Chatham in which students expressed their thoughts, feelings and concerns. There have been on-going, mostly non-violent, protests across the country and in Pittsburgh. Chants of “Not my president!” are heard. As I write this, a 15-minute “walk out” is planned by Chatham students at 3 pm to establish Chatham as a “sanctuary campus.”

Dr. David Finegold, President of Chatham University, wrote in a statement to the campus community the day after the election:

“Regardless of what happens in our daily politics, I hope that here at Chatham we can continue to focus on our core values: gender equality, inclusiveness and acceptance, dialogue and civic engagement, and the pursuit of a more just and sustainable world. That is the community we want to create and the values we seek to foster in the classroom, on campus, and that we hope our students carry with them after graduation. Over Chatham’s nearly 150 years, we have persevered through many profound political transitions and societal changes, and I’m hopeful that we and the country will weather this one too.”

International students have been witness to an unusual American election. They are seeing both good and bad traits of the United States. The experience is educational and is one they will long remember.

The new president of the United States will take office on January 20, 2017. As an educational community, we look forward to learning about the changes to come. Chatham will continue to be an accepting environment for all students regardless of nationality, religious beliefs, gender orientation, race or political orientation. We are a community in which ideas are shared in a tolerant environment that is supportive of human dignity and equality.

Chatham will continue to provide the highest quality education to international students in a safe and protective environment.

Many Languages, One World

By Oksana Moroz, ELP Lecturer, Fulbright Recipient

Oksana Moroz and Linh Phung at the Second Language Research Forum, September 2016, Columbia University, New York
Oksana Moroz and Linh Phung at the Second Language Research Forum, September 2016, Columbia University, New York

Five languages plus one person equals the world of friendship and opportunities. This simple equation describes who I am and what I gained with the help of my language skills.  I believe that global citizenship and cultural understanding can be achieved with the help of languages. Being a teacher of English as an additional language myself, I strongly agree that languages are powerful tools in discovering the world around us and critically reflecting on the concepts whirling everywhere in the world.  My main goal as a language teacher is to produce responsible citizens, who are fully competent language users, critical thinkers, and social change agents.

My first English language textbook series that I really liked as a student was called Opportunities. Since that time, the word “opportunity” has been one of my favorite words in English because it succinctly describes how I feel about the English language and its global significance. During my undergraduate studies at university, I realized that I wanted to research English language teacher identity formation and gender’s influence on it. Since then, I have been trying to achieve needed competencies and skills in the sphere of teacher education. Working with people, tutoring kids in English, and volunteering are my favorite activities.

To summarize, I believe that the Ukrainian phrase “the more languages you know, the more times you are a person,” is vivid, self-explanatory wisdom that can be applied to any person in the world. My experience has proved that being multilingual is a way to achieve cross-cultural understanding, creativity, innovation, collaboration, teamwork, and critical consciousness. I would like to stress the role of the teacher in the process of acquiring global citizenship and cross-cultural understanding. Teacher’s linguistic and instructional skills and intercultural competence greatly matter, so that the glocal (global plus local) needs of the students are met.

What English Language Students Tell Us

By Sylvia Shipp, ELP Lecturer and Student Advisor

ELP Students at Frick Park
ELP Students at Frick Park

What can be described as beautiful, quiet, and wonderful? To give a clue, it’s a place with a tight-knit community where a lot of fun events take place, where squirrels roam free, and teachers are excellent. These are just a few of the ways our international students describe Chatham University. Chatham is a very friendly campus with a big heart that works hard to create opportunities for domestic and international students to mix with one another. These opportunities include sports, art, poetry, movies, volunteering, cultural excursions, and more; everything a student dreams a university will have.

Chatham ELP students come from countries far and wide, such as China, Colombia, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, and Vietnam. Some of the fun things they have mentioned doing lately include trying out the many excellent restaurants, visiting Pittsburgh’s world-class museums, reading English books, watching movies at the theater, shopping, hanging out with new friends, traveling to other nearby cities like New York and Washington DC, and taking part in cultural events such as pumpkin carving.

Experiences Chatham ELP students are looking forward to doing during the winter break include visiting exciting destinations like Disneyworld in Florida, Philadelphia, and Boston. Others plan to spend the holidays with their American friends.

Recent achievements come in all shapes and sizes. Some students have expressed excitement at having finished their first English novel. Another is proud of opening a bank account on her own. Some achievements are more academically oriented. One student announced she just completed a 1,000-word essay, while another said her presentation skills have dramatically improved. A hearty congratulation goes to Hao (Bruce) Liang, who is excited about his acceptance to the University of Tennessee. Xinran Chen and Sanja Golalic will start their degree program at Chatham after completing the English Language Program this fall. Congratulations to Xinran and Sanja!