Broadened Horizons At JCC

For a group of 13 foreign students, three weeks at Jamestown Community College is all it takes to broaden their academic and professional horizons.

This is because the group – comprised of students from Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Spain and Japan – is participating in JCC’s summer English Language Immersion program.

The program, which began July 22 and ends Aug. 9, provides international students with a crash course in the English language. While the reasons for student participation are varied, several students undertake the program as a means of professional development, which they can apply to a career in their native countries. The curriculum includes reading, writing, speaking and listening skills; and serves as an introduction to U.S. culture.

Since it began in 2008, the immersion program is currently in its fifth consecutive year under the direction of Victoria Peterson, international outreach coordinator. Peterson said the program has previously benefitted several students who have participated from a professional development standpoint.

“There’s a different kind of motivation for them, so they want to do everything,” she said. “They’ve come here, and they’re experiencing as much of the culture as they are of the language; with activities every night for them. They don’t have to do all of them, but it’s available. And they’re doing every one of them. They’re exhausted, but they don’t care because they want to experience everything while they’re here.”

Of this year’s 13 students, five are employees of the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, one is from Peru, two are from Colombia, two are from Spain and three are medical students at Showa University in Japan. Peterson explained how the program can benefit these students, using those from Mexico as an example.

“So many of their students are learning English, or want to learn English, so they feel like they need to stay on top of that,” she said.

Nelson Garifi, director of marketing and communications, spoke to the value Showa University places on the program and its participants.

“Med students from Showa have been participating for several years, as English language skills are incredibly valuable to those working in the health care field,” he said.

The students receive six hours of class time every Monday through Friday for the duration of the three weeks – from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1-4 p.m. The classes are taught by Suzanne Knowlton, adjunct JCC professor, and Susanne Heist, who teaches the immersion every summer. Class is followed by a daily activity from 4-5 p.m., and JCC then provides transportation for the students to experience the community and surrounding area.

According to Garifi, the extracurricular activities offered to the students are varied and results in an economic impact on the community.

“In addition to intensive English language training, the students learn about U.S. culture and explore the region,” said Garifi. “Weekend and evening activities this summer include visits to Niagara Falls and Chautauqua Institution, a cruise on the Summer Wind on Lake Chautauqua, bowling, shopping and a special Thanksgiving celebration.”

Several students told The Post-Journal about their experiences with the English Language Immersion program, including: Hilda Monsivais and Blanca Montenegro from Mexico, Gabriel Lamus Alvarez, from Colombia; and Margarita Santana, from Peru.

“It’s a really good thing because the people who work here are with us all the time,” Monsivais said. “And they make sure we are speaking English most of the time.”

“I think that this program is very important for us,” Montenegro said. “When I came here, I was very nervous because I didn’t speak English. But I enjoy this time with my classmates. And I am learning about the cultures and a lot of words in other languages. And I want to take advantage of this course here, it is amazing.”

Lamus Alvarez said he discovered the program through his uncle, who lives in Lakewood.

“It was different than I expected,” said Lamus Alvarez, who is attending a German high school in Bogota. “I came here for breakfast on the first day, and I didn’t know anybody. (But) everyone – the teachers and Victoria Peterson – was very kind and welcomed us with open arms. And Suzanne and Susanne, both teachers, are amazing. They are very passionate.”

Santana, who is a teacher at a British school in Peru, said she came to the program in order to improve her English.

“This is a very nice experience for me. Not only as a student, but as a teacher, too,” she said. “I think it’s wonderful to leave with this experience, and to share it with my school, my students, the parents and my colleagues, as well.”