Vlad Sobolev (’08) came to the United States in 2007 from Belarus. His goal was to pursue his original occupation, offering legal assistance to refugees. He had the dream to become a paralegal, and to do this he needed to develop his skills for college-level work and professional employment. He enrolled at the English Center one month after his arrival in the US, choosing the English Center because of the English language, computer technology, and career services it offers. After three sessions (24 weeks), with High Advanced level English, Vlad was ready to specialize in legal studies.
Vlad is now working as a paralegal at Mark Zeller Law Offices and providing pro bono legal services at the International Institute of the Bay Area. Now that he is working, he looks back at his time at the English Center to consider the benefits. First, he appreciates his grammar and writing classes that taught him to write essays that are logical and accurate. For every paralegal position, he was required to write an essay as part of the application process. Now he writes legal documents.
In addition, he says that the career classes helped him prepare for interviews, and from the teachers at the English Center, he received important letters of recommendation. Vlad also speaks about the value of internships, as part of his career classes. He says they provide free job training and contacts in the profession. While a student, he began his internship at the International Institute of the Bay Area where he continues to volunteer.
Rita Wilson (’09) came to the English Center from Liberia, via Cote d’Ivoire, in 2008. She started as a Beginning (Level 1) student and graduated in fall 2009 as an Advanced (level 4) student, prepared to begin her studies towards an AA degree at a local community college. It was her experience as a volunteer while studying at the English Center that convinced Rita that she should pursue a career in law. Rita appreciated all aspects of the Center, but especially the instructors and staff. Talking about the friends that she made at the Center, Rita says, “we became family”. Rita drops by the English Center frequently to share the details of her latest successes and is an enthusiastic member of the Alumni Association.
Shuhei Kagawa (’11) came to the English Center from Tokyo, sent by his employer, Uchida Yoko Co., Ltd., to improve his business English skills and to connect with the local IT scene. An Advanced level English speaker, he was able to begin an internship in the IT department of the Port of Oakland after his first session. During his second 8-week session, in addition to his career class and English skills classes, Shuhei had elective classes in American Film & Culture and Pronunciation. In his third session, Shuhei continued his classes and began his second internship, this time with an avant garde on-line newspaper, Bold Italic, in San Francisco. Shuhei took full advantage of the area’s international culture, enjoying such varied things as an exhibit of Arabic Chinese Calligraphy at UC Berkeley and networking meetings of IT and website professionals in the Bay area.
Nil Civelek (’10) came from Turkey and learned about the English Center when she met some fellow Turks who spoke very good English. When she learned where they had studied she rushed to enroll, too. “My first day was very good. I said this is it! Finally, I found the right school. Now, I have so many friends from the English Center. All the teachers, classmates and staff are like my family. I love my school!”
Hyunwoo Choi, (’08) from Korea, “I’m really thankful to this school and was proud to see the news story about the English Center on TV (the Jefferson Award). I got to live with American college students and later with the Raesides, my homestay family. I hesitated about staying in a homestay because my brother had a bad experience in Canada, but it turned out to be a really good experience for me. I am also grateful that I got to know and learn about immigrants at the English Center. After the English Center I stayed at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center for a week as a guest. At dinner I was talking with others about the issue of immigrants, and since I knew immigrants at the English Center I could see what I didn’t see before. Thank you so much. I learned a lot, not just English. Well, of course I did learn English too. I was able to experience some of my childhood dreams, like playing on the cross-country team at Diablo Valley College, riding horseback, and going into the TESOL program at UC Riverside. All these things happened, one thing connected to another, all starting with the English Center. I’m really thankful to the English Center and the people there.”
Charlotte Liang (’11), “There is an idiom in China used to describe how fast time passes. It says, “Time passes like a rocket.” Time passes without leaving clues, two months, six months, a year. I started studying at the English Center in Fall B. This is my second time going to graduation day. Memories can’t be controlled and they flow like water. Everything appears.
First memory: On April 1st, I was invited to join in my classmate’s baby shower party. We ate a lot of delicious food on a boat. I found out yet another difference between China and the U.S. In the U.S., baby showers can be held any time during a woman’s pregnancy, and the party is open only for women. In China, baby showers are held when the baby is one month old. A new life, a new birth, a new hope begins. Relatives and friends come and celebrate with the family. Like Mother’s Day, baby showers are a festival for women to remember a mother’s hard work and greatness.
Second memory: On April 10th, a few of our classmates and I went to Angel Island with our teacher, Janice. We walked around and enjoyed ourselves a lot in nature. We listened to music and we sang. The ferry made people feel very excited. We had a picnic and shared our food. The foods were full of different tastes and cultures. We had a lot of fun. I also went to a community garden with another teacher, Wendy, and to the Intel museum and Coit Tower with Janice. It is fun to have activities outside of school and try to communicate with people. Since I came to the English Center, I have challenged myself a lot. I am really thankful that there are so many nice people here. The teachers and staff here are awesome and they give students a lot of help. They have helped me learn to be patient, to be friendly, to be polite, and to be confident. They have influenced me a lot. I really appreciate it and I will treasure it for the rest of my life.
I also want to share with you some of the things I have learned: No matter what situation you are in, nothing is more important than having enough courage to stand up and work hard again. Nothing is impossible. English is our second language, that is why we should work harder and try to open our mouth more than we did in our countries. No one can help you if you give up or give in first. Keep a thankful heart to overcome all of the difficulties you meet.”
Sonia Rios Petri (’11) came to the English Center from Brazil. These are her thoughts about her experience. “The English Center has helped me to broaden my horizons. At first, my main goal was to improve my English to be able to attend college and become a translator, but for this purpose I knew I needed to learn more about American values, history and culture. Studying at the English Center I was able to gain very good and high quality education in all these fields by attending different classes such as grammar, reading and writing, vocabulary, career, computer, speaking and listen and American Culture. Another important and valuable thing is the cultural exchange that we can experience at the EC. There are students from many parts of the world and we are able to know about their cultures and consequently, we learn to understand and respect other cultures. The EC gives us opportunities to do cultural activities by visiting museums, attending lectures at universities and other activities which allow us to get more knowledge in different fields. In conclusion, The EC has helped me to pursue my original goals but with a much broader horizon and feel more confident by speaking English.”
Khalood Al-Zahhrani, (’09) from Saudi Arabia, “I had the honor to study at the English Center in Oakland, California and felt very lucky to be with them. The Center opened for me broader prospects than I ever imagined. They were with me all the way, from my arrival in the United States to my last day at the Center. I was also very honored to be taught by the best qualified teachers, who were able to deliver information easily to the students. Mr. Tony Vigo helped me search for the best universities and assisted me in filling out all the necessary forms. He called many universities to find the very best opportunity for me. He was very generous with his advice, guidance, and moral support. I was accepted to graduate study at the University of Arkansas. Finally, I think the English Center is one of the best choices for students who want to learn English in the best way.“