BYU English Language Center impacts students from around the world

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The BYU English Language Center provides English classes to more than 200 students per semester. The ELC is located on BYU campus. (Image courtesy of BYU English Language Center)

The BYU English Language Center helps students from all over the world improve their English language skills, while giving BYU students the opportunity to teach English.  

Every semester, more than 200 adult students spend 20 hours a week learning English from BYU students at the ELC. Because graduate and undergraduate BYU students are the teachers, the ELC gives BYU students the unique opportunity to teach English to non-native speakers.  

Some students at the ELC are from the U.S. and want to improve their English. Most are international students from across the globe.

“I’ve had students from Latin America, from East Asia, I have a student from Cambodia, another student from Afghanistan … (and) there’s quite a few from Africa,” Eric Christensen said. Christensen is a linguistics senior from Morgan and has been an undergraduate teacher at the ELC for three semesters.

“They’re super motivated. They come with so many different experiences from all over the world,” Christensen said.

Students have been the highlight of Christensen’s experience teaching at the ELC, he said.

“You see a lot of change happening, as a teacher, in these students’ lives, and I think that’s what’s most rewarding about this kind of an occupation,” Christensen said.

Nicol Yelitza Cespedes Gomez is a Bolivian student at the ELC. Cespedes is in her second semester at the ELC. (Image courtesy of Nicol Yelitza Cespedes Gomez)

Nicol Yelitza Cespedes Gomez, from Cochabamba, Bolivia, is an ELC student. Living in a new country and learning a new language has been very difficult at times, she said.

“It was kind of hard to communicate with others because I couldn’t communicate my thoughts,” Cespedes said. “There were some days that I would look at my friends and they were laughing and everything and I could understand them, but the thing is, I couldn’t communicate. I was not able to say the things that I wanted.”

Another challenge Cespedes has faced has been seeing less qualified candidates be hired for the same job she applied to, while she said she didn’t get hired because of her accent.

Despite these challenges, Cespedes said these closed doors have led her to other jobs and friends that needed and valued her culture and experiences.

“Of course, in life there will be moments where we can be different, but also we can experience that other people are going to give us that welcome, so we can feel love too, and I experienced that,” she said.

Cespedes’ faith in Jesus Christ has also helped her through her hard times, she said, and being at the ELC has been a huge blessing to her and has helped improve her English.

“It just gave me so many opportunities about how to become the professional person that I want to be in the future,” she said.

Cespedes said her goals include taking her photography business worldwide, traveling the world taking pictures, while continuing to work for a company that helps international students gain access to higher education.

Sandy Hatchett, student service advisor at the ELC, described her work as “a job that’s basically service.”

As the student service advisor, Hatchett spends her time meeting with students and helping them throughout their time at the ELC.

For Hatchett, caring for these students means a lot because it reminds her of how she hoped someone would take care of her son when he served as a missionary in Japan.

“Some of them actually call me mom, like I’m their American mom,” she said, referring to the students.

These deep connections with students, combined with the experience of serving them, makes Hatchett’s job meaningful to her, she said.

“I love the relationships that I make with the students, and it makes me feel really good. I have opportunities to help the students in … a variety of ways,” Hatchett said.

To learn more about the ELC, visit their website.

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