Nguyen Hai Anh made her first-ever visit to the United States from Vietnam last summer intent on gaining English language proficiency. Le Xuan Son, also from Vietnam, was interested in understanding American culture and ideologies. Meanwhile, Shanghai native Tu Peng Wei simply wanted to see for himself what an American university looked like.
Eighteen students spent 8 weeks at Niagara University's Summer Camp, learning English and sightseeing in New York. (Photo: Niagara University)
Anh, Son and Wei were part of an 18-student cohort that spent eight weeks in a Niagara University summer camp focused on providing English language instruction in addition to correlative immersion into American culture.
Participants included 12 students from China, five from Vietnam and one from Korea. They ranged in age from 16 to 22.
Students from China, Vietnam and Korea combined learning with fun at Niagara University's summer camp last year. (Photo: Niagara University)
The university, in Lewiston, New York, introduced the English Summer Camp last year as a mechanism to advance the strategy of its president, the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., to increase international student enrollment.
“At Niagara University, we are creating an environment that allows students from all backgrounds and cultures to work with one another, and these experiences will be critical as they graduate into an increasingly globalized workplace,” noted Father Maher, who participated in a cookout with campers.
Niagara University is in the western part of New York state, very close to the famous Niagara Falls. (Photo: Niagara University)
Designed for non-native learners of English, the summer camp provides four hours of language instruction each weekday. The instruction, which varies by student based on an English-language proficiency assessment conducted early in camp, includes practice in conversation, reading and writing enrichment as well as opportunities to work with coaches in the university’s language technology lab.
The students, especially the Chinese, relished the opportunity to work closely with the camp’s three primary instructors, Kathy Fallon, Jaime Gabrini and Kaitlyn Locey. NU students majoring in TESOL supplemented the learning experience.
“There are about 50 people in each of my classes back home, many more than there are in classes here. So Niagara University is much smaller, but it’s much greater,” said Shen Xin Yu, a student from Shanghai Industrial and Commerce Foreign Language College. “We received such great information from our teachers here, and I can always ask the teacher questions.”
Dr. Deborah T. Curtis, director of Niagara’s Center for Events and Management Development, oversaw the program. NU hospitality majors organized the group’s daily cultural, recreational and enriching activities that highlighted the sights and sounds of summer in New York state.
The group rode the Maid of the Mist boat at Niagara Falls, watched fireworks at Niagara Falls State Park, hiked at Devil’s Hole State Park, attended Artpark’s production of Peter Pan and participated in the Color Run at Canalside in downtown Buffalo.
During their time on campus, the campers were also presented with opportunities to interact with their American peers participating in the Niagara University Senior Term Enrichment Program (NUSTEP) Summer Academy as well as the international refugees being prepared in Niagara’s Hospitality and Tourism Training Institute. The engagement is central to the camp’s goal of providing a rich understanding of the English language that also builds comprehension through planned initiatives and shared experiences.
Nguyen Hai Anh presented a recap of her experiences at Niagara University's summer camp. (Photo: Niagara University)
At the completion, the students received a certificate indicating their English-language proficiency level and hours completed.
Yu expressed an interest to return to Niagara University someday, potentially to pursue an MBA or a master’s degree in sport management. Several students expressed similar feelings, with one – Le Thi Lien, of Vietnam – having already made plans to matriculate as an NU student.
Anh, who presented on the group’s experience during a celebratory event on the camp’s final day, became aware of NU when Father Maher and Dr. Hung Le, vice president for international relations, visited her school, Foreign Trade University, to sign a memorandum of understanding last December.
Despite taking a few days to overcome jet lag and dropping her iPhone into a hot tub during a picnic, Anh was overjoyed with her American experience.
“Niagara University is such a beautiful place, with comfortable weather and gorgeous buildings,” she said. “And the blue water, sailboats and lighthouses at Canalside were so beautiful. It was like a movie. I couldn’t imagine that it was real.”
By MICHAEL FREEDMAN
From NU News
(Maid of the Mist photo: Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp.)