Intensive English program preps students for college in America

A group of students from Japan meet for a presentation while at Washburn for eight weeks.

College itself is a challenge for a lot of people, especially if you live somewhere you have never been before. For Washburn’s international students, it means an entirely new country, and for some, a whole new language.
To help those students transition, Washburn has an Intensive English Program for international students and non-native English speakers. The process starts with taking a test to assess and prove your English proficiency which determines if you need to join the program.
“They just take a test, they give us their test scores, and then we decide, ‘Oh, yeah, you have met the requirements, you don’t have to take the Intensive English Program,’” said Kelly McClendon, lecturer for Intensive English. “If you haven’t met the requirements, you can enroll in these classes first before you take your other degree classes.”
Once in the program, all classes that students will take come from the program until they have completed the classes and passed the testing thresholds.
Some students might take three semesters to complete the program, while others could do it over the summer depending on what level they start from. Most do it during the traditional school year calendar, which is often busier than most traditional students, with as many as 18 hours a week of classes.
Costanza Armadans, a freshman marketing major from Asunción, Paraguay, was in the Intensive English Program in the spring and fall of 2021. In that time she took four classes each semester, with three just dedicated to English.
Just like most foreign language classes, English classes were four days a week, with Monday and Wednesday classes lasting 50 minutes, and Tuesday and Thursday classes lasting 75 minutes. The only day without English classes was Friday, which was dedicated to a culture class.
“It was like two or three hours of just culture,” Armadans said. “We have a little bit of history, too, but most of the class was just having guest speakers like the police from campus.”
Armadans’ experience was unique because the number of students in the program dropped from as many as 120 in the past to single digits during COVID-19. Armadans went through the program with her cousin Viveros.
“Since you don’t know anyone, you’re going to be alone until you make some friends,” Armadans said. “Having someone that you know is really helpful.”
Being in the program is not as easy of a path to creating friendships as it might seem, since there are students from different countries that all speak different languages. McClendon has this in mind when she plans and teaches classes for the program.
“It’s an interactive classroom, even in writing it’s interactive,” McClendon said. “We do a lot of group activities during class to get them to be talking and get used to the American way of college education.”
Activities in the class are designed to be at a vocabulary level of English that all students can meet, but they are encouraged to research what they do not know.
McClendon and other instructors want students to use every resource available to improve the learning process, which can frequently mean hearing Google Translate messages exchanged in class.
“It’s kind of fun. And they kind of help each other. If we have students from different countries in the class together, I always try to break my groups up, so that there’s not speakers of the same language in a group,” McClendon said.
Students coming from around the world to study at Washburn are coming to gain experience and earn a degree, which is why it’s the goal of the program to get students ready to do that in an effective and efficient way so that the full study abroad experience can begin.
“It’s going to be hard at the beginning, but it’s worth it, it’s really fun,” Armadans said. “Everyday is different and you are going to make friends for life. I think it was one of the best decisions I made to come here.”
International and domestic non-English speaking interested students can apply for the accredited Intensive English Program through the International Programs website.
Edited by: Glorianna Noland, Alyssa Storm