Previewing American College Life
In July, Nikita Malev was part of a contingent of 15 high school students from the far corners of the world who converged on the Syracuse University campus to take part in EducationUSA Academy, a program that provides English language and college preparation classes to international students interested in pursuing admission to U.S. colleges. “I could find my English skills improving in classes where two great teachers were doing an amazing job,” says Malev, who journeyed to Syracuse from St. Petersburg, Russia. “It was a unique experience to meet people from different cultures, find out who they are, and what they want to do in the future. There’s no way I’d have so many friends from these countries anyplace else.”
SU was one of 10 American institutions selected by the U.S. Department of State, in partnership with World Learning, to host the four-week summer academic program. The SU program is administered by Summer@Syracuse, and classes are conducted at the English Language Institute (ELI) at University College. The students, highly motivated 15- to 17-year-olds, spend 20 hours a week on intensive English language instruction to improve their speaking, reading, and comprehension skills. Additional instruction focuses on acquainting students with academic culture, campus life, and the admissions process, all with a goal of strengthening each student’s college application. In fact, 94 percent of this year’s participants said they hope to apply to an undergraduate program at a college in the United States. “Academy students experience ELI instruction as one of more than 24 Summer College for High School Students programs,” says Chris Cofer, executive director of Summer@Syracuse. “This collaboration allows academy students to be immersed in a residential environment with more than 400 American high school students, and each academy student is paired with an American roommate.”
Vera Pavkovic, a participant from Podgorica, Montenegro, found the academy to be excellent preparation. “I learned that hard work pays off, and if one deserves it, they can get into a college in the U.S. and get a great education,” she says. “I also learned that Americans are extremely friendly and polite.”
In addition to Russia and Montenegro, this year’s cohort hailed from Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Egypt, Georgia, Turkey, and Vietnam. The students lived on campus and made short visits to nearby colleges, including Ithaca College, Cornell University, Onondaga Community College, University of Rochester, and Rochester Institute of Technology. Field trips to the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn and Niagara Falls were huge hits. Local destinations included Destiny USA, the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology, and the Everson Museum of Art. The students also contributed to their Syracuse neighborhood by spending part of a day working in a community garden.
Malev, who created a blog to reflect on his experience, was impressed with the unique appearance of the campus. “It looks beautiful, especially at night,” he says. “All the tall buildings in classical English style, and a big red castle that looks magnificent in the dark. I actually expected something different from an American city: steel and glass. There’s plenty of that as well, but old Gothic buildings between that fit quite well. It’s a classic U.S. eastern city experience.”
Malev also insists the personal connections he made were as important as the program’s academic benefits. “My American peers were a great part of my social experience there, and great motivation to keep studying and preparing for the application process,” he says. He added a bit of encouragement for his international friends who were behind in their U.S. college search. “Go fill out your Common App,” he says. “Don’t miss your chance!” —Mary Beth Horsington