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St. John's Prepares Visiting Fulbrights for Success in American Universities

Visiting Fulbright Scholars, left to right; Maria Jammal, Hima Rawal and Fred Woka Nguve
Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Eager to immerse themselves in American culture and master the English language, 30 Fulbright scholars from around the globe attended The Language Connection’s Intensive English for Graduate Studies Program at St. John’s University this summer.

The three-week program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as part of its flagship Fulbright Program, was designed to help these students polish and refine their academic English skills prior to entering master’s and doctoral programs across the United States.

“Our President, Fr. Levesque, our Provost, Dr. Bob Mangione, and I are thrilled to have such an impressive group of Fulbright students here on campus over the past few weeks,” Martha Hirst, Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer, told the scholars at a special reception that she and Dr. Mangione hosted for the group on August 6. “St. John’s prides itself on its diversity, and this diversity is enhanced by your presence.  Having you here has provided an invaluable opportunity to share ideas and experiences, and ultimately to further the Fulbright mission to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries.”

“St. John’s has become a preferred academic destination for scholars and professionals from around the world who want to learn about the English language and American culture at a quality university in the nation’s premier city,” said Anthony Pacheco, Vice President of Global Programs at St. John’s. “I am delighted that The Language Connection of St. John’s was selected by the Institute of International Education to prepare these students for success in a global environment.

This year’s group represents 26 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The scholars are enrolled in English-language classes tailored to their respective academic disciplines and attended a variety of lectures and workshops that covered practical topics designed to ease their transition into American college life.

According to Pamela Fairman, Ph.D., Director of The Language Connection, while the primary focus of the program is English language refinement, it also aims to introduce the Fulbright students to academic life and American culture. “We want them to know how students interact in and out of class and what an American professor might expect of them,” said Fairman. “In addition, we want to heighten their awareness of all the subtle differences, so when they start their graduate programs, they can hit the ground running.”

Abi Widita, who will be attending Iowa State University in pursuit of his master’s degree in city planning, observed that U.S. students are more self-confident than in his homeland, Indonesia. “They’re not afraid to give their opinions,” he said. “At home, students tend to sit there and listen to the professor. Here, there’s more of a discussion.” The Fulbright students got a chance to practice their discussion skills when St. John’s Professors Konrad T. Tuchscherer, Ph.D., History, and Joanne M. Carroll, Ph.D., Pharmaceutical Sciences, gave presentations to them.

During the program, now in its second year, students resided at the University’s Manhattan campus and took advantage of the cultural and educational riches of New York City. Excursions included the Manhattan offices of Bloomberg L.P., the Museum of Modern Art and Top of the Rock. The group also made trips to the St. John’s Queens, NY, campus to become more familiar with a traditional American college campus setting. While in Queens, they embarked on a service learning trip to the Queens Botanical Garden, where the group planted trees and helped maintain grounds.

Students were also invited to attend barbeques and informal gatherings at the homes of several members of St. John’s faculty and staff. “I really enjoyed the home visits,” said Marc Alain Boucicault, a native of Haiti who will be pursuing a master’s degree in development economics at American University. “It was an amazing opportunity to dive into American culture and see how people here really live. They were such gracious hosts.”

At the conclusion of the program, the Fulbright scholars will pursue their graduate studies at colleges and universities across 16 states and the District of Columbia. "I feel so lucky to have participated in the program at St. John’s,” said Hima Rawal, who comes to the United States from Nepal. She will be enrolled in a master’s program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Michigan State University this fall. “I am deeply indebted to the teachers at St. John’s for their invaluable suggestions and guidance and for building in me the confidence to succeed,” she added.