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December 2, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Mexican Students in OPIE Experience American Thanksgiving

By Tanya DovbnyaTanya-Dovbnya
Ohio Program of Intensive English and A&S International Academic Adviser

Tuesday, Dec. 2, 7:00-8:00 pm, Gordy 301: OPIE Study Break Party! OPIE student and faculty will get together for a group study party, where they will revise the material studied throughout the semester in a fun and interactive way. The students will be able to compete with each other and win various fun prizes.

Mexican Students in OPIE Experience American Thanksgiving

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This past week, the cohort of Mexican students in OPIE, who came to Athens just about three weeks ago, experienced their first American Thanksgiving holiday and participated in related festivities. Although Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Mexico, the students are well-familiar with its concept; that is why they anticipated the holiday with excitement. Thanks to the First Presbyterian Church on Court Street, which generously provided a Thanksgiving lunch for the Athens community on Thursday, the students from Mexico were able to get some first-hand gastronomic Thanksgiving experience.

The Thursday warm family-like gathering was followed-up by an unforgettable trip to Washington, DC, organized by Dr. Gerard Krzic, the Director of OPIE. He took the group of Mexican students to the capital to show them unique historic sites and visit the Smithsonian Museum. The students enjoyed their trip immensely and came back to Athens with lots of impressions and stories to tell. Students shared their excitement with their teachers and peers in their classes today noting, ‘Although the nature of this visit to the U.S. is comparatively short-term, the program will definitely leave some pleasant long-living memories’.

What Stands Behind the Award

Coming close to the end of the year, we look back at the efforts put into our work, challenges faced and overcome, achievements gained, and set goals for the future. For OPIE, 2014 is yet another year of growth and expansion, if not in numbers of students, then in the diversity of its student population. OPIE faculty and staff’s efforts in providing a high-quality ESL training for international students at Ohio University stand out. Dr. Gerard Krzic’s recently received Staff Award for Excellence in Global Engagement attests to that and is a well-deserved and honored achievement. It turned out to be an unexpected but very pleasant surprise to him.

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Another note-worthy accomplishment of the year is Dr. Krizc’s stepping into the role of the President of the University & College Intensive English Programs (UCIEP) consortium. UCIEP advances professional standards and quality instruction in Intensive English Programs (IEPs) and represents the most prominent university-based intensive English programs across the U.S., OPIE being one of them. That is not surprising when we look at the OPIE’s recent student and faculty diversification. In 2014, students representing eighteen different countries were enrolled in the program – Armenia, Brazil (through Brazil Scientific Mobility Program), China, Congo, Japan (through a well-established Chubu and Musashi University Exchange Programs), Iran, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Libya, Mexico (through Proyecta 100,000 initiative), Oman (through the Oman government-funded program), Qatar, Saudi Arabia (through Saudi Arabia Cultural Mission), South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, and Uzbekistan (through Fulbright). But what stands behind the above-mentioned number, list, and awards?

Behind the ‘scene’, OPIE reminds me of a sturdy sailing boat navigating the international waters of an academic world. No doubt, a good ship needs a good captain, and that is where OPIE can be certain of its direction, with Dr. Krzic at the helm. Due to his and faculty’s efforts a lot of initiatives started this year have come to fruition. As a result, the program was able to open its doors to two new large groups of students from Turkey and Mexico. Through contact with the Turkish government, Dr. Krzic was able to invite 22 of graduate students from Turkey to OPIE for the English-language study prior to their graduate studies in the U.S. universities, with some students possibly staying at Ohio University. For the Mexican group, OPIE is one of the select IEPs hosting students as part of the Proyecta 100,000 project, a new academic initiative by the Mexican government.

Anybody who knows Dr. Krzic and works with him can witness his dedication to the students and program. He invests considerable time to research new opportunities and ways to enhance the program, constantly diversifying its faculty and students. Linn Forhan, OPIE’s Assistant Director, who has been observing OPIE classes this semester, noted the numerous benefits that the students are receiving through multicultural exposure in the OPIE classes on a regular basis. Dr. Krzic’s continuous pursuit of ‘new and different’ is in line with a general tendency in higher education towards globalization and internationalization. These are some of the reasons that make him a successful administrator, a talented teacher, a thoughtful mentor, an attentive supervisor, an approachable advisor, but first and foremost – a good listener and a great host of the international students. Among the other qualities that help Dr. Krzic grow the program is his goal for diversification and quality. Commenting on the current tendencies in the program, he says, “International education is on everybody’s radar now, so we need to keep up with the increased people’s mobility, and offer the best teaching and program administration practices”. Just in 2014, Dr. Krzic went abroad four times, with the purpose to maintain or establish new relationships between OPIE and institutions abroad.

Looking back at almost a decade of directing OPIE, Dr. Krzic notes the dramatic increase of student enrollment, the representation of more diverse student and faculty population over the years, a wider use of technology in the classroom, and a thorough curriculum which reflects and addresses the old and novice academic needs. Parallel to the overall program growth, the needs change correspondingly; specifically, there is a need for an appropriate number of faculty, classrooms, and student services.

No matter the challenges, Dr. Krzic looks ahead with a firm belief in success. The near future holds some new exciting opportunities. As a result of his visit to the Thai Embassy and through collaboration with Jeff Shane, Southeast Asian Reference Librarian at Alden, in January 2015 OPIE will welcome six undergraduate Thai students funded by the Thai government. Additionally, ten South Korean students will arrive to OPIE for a short – term OPIE program funded by the South Korean government. We hope that this is just the beginning of another fruitful year. On behalf of OPIE faculty and staff, I would like to wish Dr. Krzic personally and OPIE as a whole continuous growth and prosperity in the upcoming year!

Written by Tetyana Dovbnya, OPIE and College of Arts & Sciences International Student Advisor

Carlos Costa’s Story of Turning the Challenges of International Education into Success

Written by Erica Coffelt, OPIE Lecturer, Assistant to Director

Carlos Costa left an indelible mark on OPIE this year–literally. Costa’s drawing received the most votes in an all-program contest to create a piece of representative artwork. Costa submitted his drawing along with 10 other submissions. Students and faculty voted on their favorite, and when the final ballots were counted, Costa’s drawing had the edge! Costa shared that he has always enjoyed drawing and used to draw cars, jerseys for football teams, and logos for school t-shirts.

“When I thought about OPIE, this drawing came to mind. This is most representative because here there are a lot of different people, from China, Saudi Arabia…It’s not just the U.S.,” stated Costa.

Costa, originally from Apodi, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, arrived in Athens in August ’13. He came on a Brazilan government-sponsored scholarship program called the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program. “A friend of mine went to France with the program, and I told myself, if he can, I can too. He inspired me,” said Costa.

In the time since he arrived, Costa has done some inspiring of his own. He has made his own video series on YouTube to share his new American life with his family back home and to motivate other Brazilian students who are coming to Ohio University. The videos show prospective students what Athens looks like and how to navigate their new life, including dorms, laundry rooms, and dressing for cold weather. “At the beginning, everything was a challenge because I didn’t know nobody here. It took three months to adapt,” Costa said.

Costa’s videos on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtFBARDVJJk) have received over 4,000 views. Costas says that students have written him and said, “Your videos make me more confident. You are a normal person, so if you can do it, then I can do it too.”

And Costa’s story certainly is one of success. When Costa arrived, he was placed into full-time English, in OPIE’s Intermediate Level. After only fourteen weeks of study, Costa advanced to the Bridge or part-time level, skipping the Advanced Level. By his third semester, he was taking full-time classes in his field of chemical engineering.

Even though he’s cleared the challenging hurdle of proficiency in academic English, Costa states that the challenges are not over. “The system here is different. There is a lot of homework, and we are graded for everything. I’ve grown up a lot because you have to be more responsible for yourself.”

Though he still has 3 more years of academic study to complete at his Brazilian University, Costa dreams of working at Petrobras, Brazil’s largest state oil company. “It’s very competitive to get a job there. You have to take a test,” Costa shares. When asked if his study abroad will give him an edge, Costas nods affirmatively. “Yes, definitely.”

“When you go to a program like this, you represent your city and your state,” Costas reflected. Costas can return to Brazil next year knowing that he has represented well.

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