Course helps international graduates transition into working world

International students in the class are taught phonetics so they can learn to pronounce English words. Claire Boston | Multimedia Journalist

By Elise Crosley | Reporter

Baylor offers a free course for international graduate students and scholars to help make their transition from school to the working world in the United States smoother. The English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course is taught by Baylor student Qingqing Chen, a Ph.D. candidate from the Department of Curriculum & Instruction.

“Many international graduate students are facing many challenges when they start studying and working in the States. These students may have learned English for a long time, but they don’t have many opportunities to use it as a tool,” Chen said.

Chen grew up in South China and later moved to the northwestern part of the country to get her Bachelors degree in English and Masters degree in Linguistics. She is currently working on her dissertation through Baylor’s doctorate program.

The course is divided into two parts. The first part covers American English — specifically English pronunciation.

“Many students told me that they never learn phonetics in a systematic way, so we talk about some pronunciation issues and do some practice,” Chen said.

The second part of the course consists of discussion on American campus culture. Most of Chen’s students are teaching assistants at Baylor. According to Chen, they have a difficult time communicating with their students and supervisors. This course is intended to change that.

“Giving presentations is a big thing in the States, so we also do some practice giving presentations. We learn some communication skills as well. Some of my students feel it’s not easy to communicate with their students or with their friends,” Chen said.

Chen discussed how American culture shock is a frequent problem with new international students.

“Most of my students are fresh masters or doctorate students, so this may be the first time for them to travel and study abroad. They are facing a lot of culture shock,” Chen said.

Some students have felt comforted by the course and recommend it to others, including Peru masters candidate Cesia Cotache Condor.

“[This course] is essential for me because of two principle reasons: first, it provides me with very useful tools and materials that enhance my pronunciation and understanding of the American culture; second, it is a safe place for learning and making mistakes. I feel comfortable growing up with other international students and receiving feedback from an international professor,” Condor said.

The EAP course provides the opportunity for international students to not only gain work experience, but it also aides in bridging relationships with English-speakers.

“I know a lot of American friends. Talking with them could help me integrate in local life,” China doctoral candidate Lin Liu said.

While the majority of Chen’s students are from China, she has a wide variety of cultural background in the classroom. She’s had students from Poland, Mexico, Peru, South Korea and Africa.

Chen said she enjoys teaching the course and hopes to help each student reach their individual goal for the semester. She meets with her students individually in the beginning of the semester to hear about their background and understand their English-speaking proficiency.

“Eight years ago, I came to the States as a teaching assistant as well, so I think I have the empathy. I can understand how hard it was when they came over to the States for the first time, studying and teaching. I like doing what I’m doing right now, so I hope I can keep doing this and help students who need help,” Chen said.