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UWRF offers English courses in St. Paul for international students

February 10, 2011

UW-River Falls offers English proficiency classes to international students who do not meet university English requirements through the English Language Transition Program (ELTP) at a UWRF location in downtown St. Paul.

As soon as the students arrive from abroad, they are tested at the Global Language Institute, or GLI, in St. Paul, where the ELTP is currently located, program liaison Teresa Dettle said.

They are given a series of tests, including the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL. If the student does not meet the UWRF set admission standard, then they are admitted on conditional admission.

According to the UWRF International Admission Language Standards website, “Conditional Admission means that you are academically qualified for admission to UWRF but that you have not met the English language requirement.”

Based on their English speaking ability, they are then placed in the appropriate level of English courses, which range from immersion to accelerated. If the student is proficient in English when they arrive, they are free to start taking classes at UWRF.

The students in the ELTP are evaluated every four weeks on their progress. Professors get together every Wednesday to discuss students’ progress with each other, in order to fine-tune what each individual student needs to work on, Dettle said.

The students are not just evaluated on how they score on the standardized tests, such as the TOEFL. Teachers sit down with the students individually and listen to them speak, interview them and review their papers and projects to get a full understanding of how well they are grasping the language, Dettle said. If they are doing well they advance to higher levels. If there are particular areas they need to work on, such as vocabulary, the teachers focus on those areas to help them improve.

In previous years, the ELTP was held on campus at UWRF. Students in the program lived in dormitories and were sometimes able to take other classes related to their degree in conjunction with the required English classes. Students all were taught in one classroom all day, which was not ideal, said Dettle.

The program now runs out of the GLI. Students live with “home stay families” and attend full time English classes at the GLI.  Classes there are small, around 10-12 students per class. This makes the classes “very, very personal,” said Dettle.
Students Naif Malaikah, from Saudi Arabia, and Dilek Pomak, from Turkey said they are enjoying the classes they are taking.

“It makes me feel comfortable…I am so glad to be here,” said Pomak about the ELTP. Both Malaikah and Pomak have been studying at the ELTP for about five months and live in St. Paul.

Currently there are seven students from UWRF studying at GLI. International students from other universities with similar programs, such as Hamline University and UW-Superior, take classes at the same location. Approximately 35 students from UWRF have gone through the ELTP and on to study on the UWRF campus, Dettle said.

Eventually, Dettle said she would like to see the program back on the UWRF campus. “By not having them on the campus can make them feel very disconnected,” she said.

Malaikah and Pomak both said they had only been to UWRF twice, and said they feel separated from the “college experience.”