New country, new language, new experiences

English Learner level four students reading in groups during class.

Chieh-Ning (Jenny) Ho cub writer

Moving to a new country. Learning a new language. Experiencing a different culture. These are what students in the English Learner (EL) Program are dealing with today.  Below are the stories of two students in the EL program. (All interviews are unedited.)

Mariel Peji:

Senior Mariel Peji arrived in the United States in the summer of 2016. Peji and her brother were adopted by their aunt to the United States from the Philippines for a better future. Two years later, Peji worked her way up in the EL program and is currently in the last level of the class.

What was it like for you to come to the U.S.?

“When I came to the United States, I felt excited to be in a new place and felt nervous at the same because it is new beginning for me to start. I don’t know how things here in America goes, but suddenly I get used to it.”

What are you most afraid of?

“I am afraid of being independent because I get used to always having people surround me. But here in America, I learn how to stand by myself. I practice being independent when it comes to decision making. For instance, I tried to decide on my own and test how the situation goes, and if it turns not in the right way, I quickly think how I can resolve the problem.”

What are your hopes for the future?

“I hope that I can finish my studies and have a decent job in the future. I also hope that my effort and sacrifice will pay off all my hard work.”

What is your favorite part about this EL program that others might not see?

“My favorite part about EL program is the accommodating teachers who will guide you all the way, and will give you enough support in achieving your goals.”

What is something you would suggest to someone who is starting to learn a new language?

“I can say that learning a new language is not hard when you keep practicing in your head. There’s a lot of techniques on how you learn something. It is on you to figure it out.”


Jooyoung Park:

Six months ago, sophomore Jooyoung Park, originally from South Korea, started her journey living abroad for the first time because of her father’s new job. Park was admitted in the highest level of the EL program and has been improving her English ever since.

What was it like the first time you started class in the EL program?

“Other students and I had to read The Great Gatsby and write an essay. In the first class, we learned and talked about the basic background information needed to understand the book. I was anxious because I thought I couldn’t carry out my work, but I could choose correct answers and talk about my opinion well.”

What were some obstacles you faced during this class?

“Because the English vocabularies that I knew were insufficient compared to the Korean words, I was kind of upset while I was writing something. I couldn’t express my opinions as much as I thought, and my writings had the lack of logic. Now I know how to make logical writings, and I’m still trying to know more words and use them in my writing.”

What is your favorite part about this EL program that others might not see?

“We select three books: fiction, non-fiction, biography, every semester and read them and do projects. These days, I read the fiction in class and write a reading journal every day. I like this time because I can focus on reading interesting book and develop my reading and writing skills.”

What was the most impactful thing you’ve done in the program?

“It was the exit test last semester. I had to read the given short story and write five paragraphs during the final. It was a fresh experience, because I’ve never read a story and written a long essay right away. Though I didn’t pass the test, I decided to try to write better essay.”

What are some things you are looking forward to before this semester ends?

“I hope I will improve my English speaking and writing skills and pass the exit test this semester to take a regular English class next year.”

What is something you would suggest to someone who is starting to learn a new language?

“I think it is important to have confidence when you talk in a new language. I was kind of timid and passive and it made me have difficulty in learning English. Also, reading books and watching movies are helpful because people can learn English expressions or vocabularies in real life.”

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