The English Language Program at Chatham University awarded three full-tuition scholarships to three local students in the summer 2018 semester. The students shared their stories and comments about the English Language Program in an interview with Shawn Kent, ELP Tutor, below.
Goal: Ph.D. in biotechnology and chemical engineering
When Farazdaq Alhammood started the ELP program at Chatham she had already lived in Pittsburgh for many years. Her goal is to pass her TOEFL exam, a requirement before getting her Ph.D. in biotechnology and genetic engineering. She has an MA in biotechnology from her home country of Iraq.
Farazdaq said that what she likes most about her English studies at English Language Program at Chatham University this summer is learning grammar, improving her vocabulary, and understanding tenses in speaking and writing. She feels she has made a lot of progress in the program. The teachers are good, and everyone is friendly and helpful. In fact, when asked about what suggestions she might have to improve the program she said, “Everything is perfect!”
The hardest thing is time. The summer program is short and intensive, and that creates some pressure. It goes fast. Still, her English—particularly her understanding of grammar, she says—has improved.
The first year in Pittsburgh was difficult. She had to find a job, study, and take care of her three kids. Two of them were born here. Her extended family was not around. In her own country she depended on her family. Now, she is stronger and feels more responsible for herself.
American culture was not hard to adjust to. She talks to her American neighbors. And she likes the holidays: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween. She likes free summer movies in the park. “I’m so happy here,” she said.
Her favorite place is Point Park at sunset. She spends time with her family at the park. They enjoy the big fountain and being near the river. When she is not with her family, she spends her time studying at Chatham.
The scholarship has been such a good opportunity for her to make progress in her goals. She hopes to finish her studies and become a doctor. “I like Chatham,” Farazdaq says. “They take care of us.”
Goal: Master’s Degree in Psychology and Counseling
“I know Chatham. It’s near our house. I love this place,” Hong said, when asked what she thought of Chatham. The only thing she would change is to have more students from other countries and to mix them all up in class, rather than let students from a particular country stick together.
Hong was living in Pittsburgh and taking classes at Literacy Pittsburgh, where they told her about the scholarship program to study English for the summer at Chatham. She applied and was accepted.
The hardest thing about living in the U.S. for her was not knowing English. In her country, Hong could do a lot of things. Here, nothing. She felt stupid not knowing the language. But now she is better! Her husband is American, so she learns a lot from him, though he also speaks Chinese. He studied Chinese philosophy and has visited China several times.
Hong said. “Freedom of expression is important here. But sometimes I build myself a cage. Sometimes, if a bird is in a cage too long it gets out and doesn’t know what to do. I should find a way to release myself, my mind.”
Hong studied to be a counselor in China. She wants to get a Master’s degree in psychology and counseling in the U.S. But first, she has to pass the TOEFL exam. That is her goal now. She would like to keep studying at Chatham, but is not sure if she can afford it. The scholarship has been a wonderful opportunity for her to pursue her dream.
Goal: MBA at Chatham University
Hong Zhao told Ainagul about the scholarship at Chatham and it was Hong who encouraged her to apply. Ainagul is a caregiver for Hong’s family.
About Chatham, Ainagul says she has had a “very good experience here. A little hard. Don’t have time. One month is not enough.”
However, she says she will continue studying at home, now that she understands grammar. Before, she only knew about the present and simple past. “Now I know 12 tenses! I like grammar—when the teacher explains everything!”
She speaks Russian at home with her husband, so she needs more time practicing English with other people. Her husband doesn’t speak English. He works at a pizza parlor where his co-workers also speak Russian. Luckily, Ainagul likes pizza. Her husband brings a pie home with him every night.
She also likes American culture. Nothing was hard to adjust to. She likes American people. “American people are very polite. In my country, if I don’t know people I don’t say hello. At first when people here said ‘Hello, how are you?’ I was confused. But it’s just like saying ‘hi.’ They smile. Now, my child, 4-years-old, when we take a walk he says ‘hello, how are you?’”
When asked what Chatham could improve, Ainagul answered, “More scholarships! More people from other countries, mix them all together to study.” But, she adds, “The program is very strong.”
One of Ainagul’s favorite places is the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, where she often takes her children. The family also likes going to the library where the kids can play and read.
What has changed for her is that her grammar has improved. “When I go to the bank, talk with the neighbor, I just ask, speak, talk! I feel more confident. I understand people!”
Next year she wants to pass the TOEFL and get an MBA at Chatham. She already has a degree in economics from Kazakhstan. One day, Ainagul would like to work at BNY Mellon Bank and, in the future, be a manager.