img_esl_storyGlobal Trip

You’ve probably imagined traveling to a different country to study, or know someone who has. But have you ever considered the experience of international students who decide to travel to the United States and study at MSOE?

Vanessa David de Campos and Xinzhi Hou are international students studying industrial engineering at MSOE. Vanessa comes from Brazil, while Xinzhi is from China.

Vanessa was nominated by her university for the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program (BSMP). This year-long government-sponsored initiative encourages students to study abroad and bring back to Brazil new ideas and innovations in science and technology. Since 2011, BSMP has provided more than 100,000 students like Vanessa with scholarships to study in 43 countries. Though she had never before heard of Milwaukee, after researching the city and university Vanessa was impressed by MSOE’s website, reputation and how helpful her first contacts at MSOE were.

Xinzhi, on the other hand, found out about MSOE through Alex Shen, an international admissions counselor. Both Xinzhi’s mother and Alex were members of an online group of Chinese parents whose children desire to study overseas. In China, Xinzhi attended a private high school and loved how small and personable the institution was compared to its public counterparts. When he saw that MSOE had a 15 to 1 student to faculty ratio and an average class size of 21 students, he became very interested, and ultimately determined MSOE to be the best fit for him.

After Vanessa and Xinzhi decided to attend MSOE, it soon became time to move to campus. Both students came to the U.S. barely able to speak English. They had studied extensively for and taken the TOEFL iBT test in their respective countries, but had not been provided with many opportunities to have English conversations. Xinzhi recalls sitting in a restaurant shortly after arriving in the U.S. and looking up words on the menu through a translator application on his phone so he could order. However, with the help of MSOE’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program and their new friends and professors, the two have improved their English considerably.

The MSOE ESL program, along with teaching English, provides international students with intensive course work to prepare them to succeed at MSOE. This includes learning how to write college-level academic research papers as well as deliver effective academic and professional presentations. Though it was difficult and stressful work, Vanessa and Xinzhi both appreciate all that ESL offered them. Xinzhi enjoyed that there were 10 students or less in each of his classes, allowing him to get personal attention from professors. Vanessa recalls speaking with Brazilian students at different schools about their ESL programs and finding out that MSOE’s went above and beyond most others.

Thanks to ESL, when Vanessa and Xinzhi started classes with the rest of the students, they felt very prepared. Practicing English every day alongside others for months, both were easily able to make friends from all over the world. They also knew they were welcome to return to the ESL department at any time to receive help. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Vanessa would like to stress to other current and potential students. “MSOE offers a lot of help. Everyone is here to help you succeed.”

Thus far, both students have indeed been successful. Xinzhi completed his first quarter at MSOE this spring, while Vanessa just finished up her last. They enjoyed their classes and greatly appreciated the kindness and patience of their professors. Vanessa particularly enjoyed completing a junior project—similar to a senior design project—as it gave her a chance to sharpen her skills and learn new things by directly working with people from the United States. She appreciated the practical experience she gained from the hands-on labs as well as the focus on group work in the industrial engineering program. Xinzhi values the positive environment that surrounds him at MSOE, explaining that it completely transformed him and pushed him to put more effort into both his classes and his personal health.

Both Vanessa and Xinzhi encourage other international students considering MSOE to attend. They know the opportunity they have been given has and will continue to enrich them in their professional and personal lives. They have gone through countless learning experiences, met new people, and made many new friends. “I feel really welcome by others students,” Vanessa emphasizes. Studying abroad has made a positive impact on their lives, and Xinzhi believes that any student willing to put in the work will, like him, go through a positive transformation.

“Come here after you are well-prepared. Everyone knows that it’s hard,” Xinzhi states about MSOE and its ESL program. “But if you can make it, you will become another you.”

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