Alumni Spotlight: Martín Arellano Durán

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Each student that comes through the Intensive English Institute (IEI) has a different experience with studying English. We asked Martín to share about his time at the IEI. Read what he has to say here:


“My name is Martín Arellano Durán, I’m from Chile (South America).

The first difference between the USA and Chile is the language, in Chile we speak Spanish. The second difference is all the people from different countries who live in the USA. In Chile we have some people from other countries, but not that much.

The main reason why I chose to study English in America was because I always wanted to learn it. When I was young, in school, I was super bad in English, so now that I know it, I have a lot of friends from different countries. My experience at the IEI was awesome. My favorite part was making lots of friends from all around the world, and of course American friends. I think that the biggest thing that I learned at the IEI was of course English, but also I learned about different cultures, which I think is very important to open your mind. I think people who want to learn English should go to IEI because you not only learn English, you also learn about different countries, you make a lot of friends, etc.

The tips that I can give to students who are learning English are, try to speak and listen English all the time, try to read English every day, you can also watching movies or listening to music. Those tips helped me to improve my English while I was in the USA.”


Alumni Spotlight: Marilyn Porras-Gómez


Former student, Marilyn Porras Gómez, chose to study English to help her achieve her career goals. Read about what helped her learn English, and what advice she gives to anyone trying to learn it:

“I am from Costa Rica. My country is very small (it is even smaller than Lake Michigan). Costa Rica is a Spanish-speaking country, and its people are very warm, like its weather. I decided to learn English as my second language because it is the common language of science and technology, and many other fields, too. Since my career is in STEM, English is essential to communicate in my field. ​

​”I spent a year (2016) studying English at the IEI. The biggest thing I learned was probably how to develop the skills to become confident in the English-speaking academic environment. I believe that being a part of an English-speaking community all the time while studying English, made the difference because I had to practice outside the class. In addition, I got involved in the community and later on in the University of Illinois, in the department of Materials Science and Engineering. That really helped me strengthen my English skills.

​”I would encourage students to study at the IEI because they would be able to experience the community and academic life in a U.S. town, and they would be able to put to practice what they learn outside the class in real-life situations!”

Student Spotlight: Oksana Perchyts


Meet Oksana Perchyts, a student from Ukraine! She shared a bit about the differences between the U.S and Ukraine. Oksana also opened up about why learning English at the IEI has helped her, and how it will help her in the future.

Q: How is the United States different than Ukraine?

In terms of culture, several things are different. Smiling at strangers is not considered polite, it is not common for Ukrainian women to shake hands upon introductions, and if you stay with a Ukrainian host, you should bring some sort of gift for them. Education is also very different. To name a few differences: education is free in Ukraine and students do not choose what classes they take. If a Ukrainian student fails a class, he/she is expelled from the university and has to repeat the year and take the same classes all over again, including the ones the student took successfully.

Q: Has being in the U.S. impacted the way you think about your home country?

Of course. I have many suggestions to bring back to my home country for the education system, communicating with Americans and the lifestyle in Ukraine.

Q: Why did you come to study English at the IEI?

I joined my husband here in USA in August 2017 with an F2 visa. After the whole semester of communicating with Americans, I realized that I needed to improve my English skills. I looked on the Internet and found IEI, and joined it as a part time student in January 2018.

Q: How will learning English help you in the future?

It can help me in applying to and studying at a university here in the USA, speaking correctly with Americans or even with my future job in Ukraine. I want to be a good musician and study music here in the USA, so I need to communicate with other musicians. My studying here at IEI can help me to learn how to do it without any problems.

Q: Why would you encourage other students to come to the IEI?

It is a great opportunity to study here, to be a part of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign community and to study on campus and see real student life. IEI teachers are very smart and kind. They can teach you very common and practical things in the English language and even things and topics you never heard about before. Also, IEI interns help us to find activities here on campus, so you won’t be bored with just studying. All the staff can help with your documents for coming to study at the IEI and they help with other documents during the study process.


Alumni Spotlight: Camille Damotte

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One of our alumni, Camille Damotte, studied at the Intensive English Institute for three semesters. Camille reflected about her experiences in the U.S. Here’s what she said:

“I came to the United States because my boyfriend had to come to Champaign for his studies. I decided to learn English because today everybody needs to speak this language. I am a beautician, so I really need to know how to speak English well since it helps me understand people. In my country, a lot of people struggle to speak English well, and I have a big advantage now thanks to the IEI.

“My home country is France, which is smaller than the United States of America. For me, I met people that are much nicer than people in my country. I feel like in the U.S. people are willing to help a person if they have a problem. Also, in terms of education (in France), most of the teachers aren’t really going to help you if you don’t understand because they want to finish the curriculum fast.

“My experience at the IEI was amazing. I am very sad that the IEI is over for me. I enjoyed learning new things and I met wonderful people. Everybody is very nice and kind. My favorite part was that we did a lot of activities with all our classmates and teachers. It helped us to create friendships and learn English even when we were not in class.

“I encourage everybody to come to the IEI. If you come, you will have really good experiences, meet nice people, eat new food and learn a lot! You won’t regret it! The IEI can give you the opportunity to experience incredible things!”

Student Spotlight: Abdulrahman Alanazi

Abdulrahman is in his first semester here at the IEI.

At the Intensive English Institute (IEI), we believe that everyone has their own story. Reasons for coming to the United States to study English are significant and inspiring, so we are proud that the IEI is a prominent stepping stone in each of these journeys.

We sat down with one of our current students, Abdulrahman Alanazi, to hear his story about studying English. Abdulrahman, who comes from Saudi Arabia, is in his first semester at the IEI.

Q: What is it like studying away from home?

A: This is my first time in the U.S. It’s totally different [from my home country]: the weather, the culture, the community lifestyle. All different. I don’t feel homesick, though. I’m really enjoying it.

Q: How will studying at the IEI help you achieve your goals?

A: I was a lecturer at a Saudi Arabian university where I taught six different courses. [In the future] I want to be a professor, so I need students to understand me well while I’m teaching. I want to be fluent. Also, it’s helpful to know English for research papers I will have to write, so I want to improve my writing. The University of Illinois is a top university for electrical engineering. [I hope to] pursue my PhD at the University of Illinois once I’m done [learning English] at the IEI.

Q: What do you like about the IEI?

A: Everything! The teaching style is great. The teachers give good techniques to make students understand English better. For example, in grammar, we were taught to draw a picture in our minds before saying something in order to use the word correctly. I feel like I’m improving myself more in writing, reading and grammar classes. I’m learning about and correcting mistakes I’ve had before.

Q: What tips do you have for students who want to learn English?

A: Try to make learning English more fun. Don’t just [learn at school], but make friends and spend time with native speakers to help you improve the language.

Alumni Spotlight: Marc-Ansy Laguerre

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Marc-Ansy Laguerre teaches how to avoid building mistakes in a video segment.

Here at the Intensive English Institute, our mission is to enable international students with proficiency in English so that they can achieve their personal, professional and academic goals. We asked former student, Marc-Ansy Laguerre how learning English at the IEI has paved a way to help him achieve his dreams.

Q: How has learning English helped you achieve your goals?

A: At the IEI, my English improved quickly. Like its name suggests, it really is intensive English. I learned how to write, read and speak better. I needed those skills because, as an engineer, I have to know how to write reports and speak eloquently to be successful. The tips I learned at the IEI not only helped me in English, but also in my first language since I have become more coherent and cohesive in my speaking and writing.

Q: What was your favorite part about learning at the IEI?

A: My favorite part at the IEI was writing and speaking class. When it comes to writing, the way they taught was very efficient because it was mostly about how to write with cohesion. With that, I can write better and also understand what I read more efficiently. Also, I like the way I was taught to monitor my own personal learning; for example, I learned to do self-evaluation on my presentations. This made me more aware of my strengths and weaknesses which allowed me to improve quickly.

Q: How do you plan on using these skills in the future?

A: My future career dream is mainly to be a Professor in Haiti because I like to learn and teach.

Marc-Ansy is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Structural Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. In January, he started a video show where he explains concepts and tips about civil engineering. You can check out his Facebook page here.


The mirror: looking at stories through pictures

The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” couldn’t be truer this past April during the Sharing Memories; the Mirror art exhibit. At this event, IEI student, Maureen Riquelme Vasquez opened the window into her own life through her art. She showcased photography documenting her time here in the United States, and the people in her life that made her life worthwhile.

Maureen is from Chile, and began studying at the IEI in August 2015. When she came to learn English, she knew getting involved in the community would make her time in the U.S. more memorable. One of her most recent endeavors began when she signed up to take an art class designed to help members of the Latino community express themselves. Maureen got involved when the teacher of the class reached out to her.

“The photography teacher is from Colombia. She invited me to participate in her class because taking photographs is one of my hobbies,” Maureen said.


Having a community here solely for Latin Americans made the distance from she and her home in Chile a bit smaller. She got to work alongside her class all year and get to make connections with the people in it. Maureen worked week after week to discover new mediums, hone her skills, and explore who she was through photography. The final exhibit this month finally boasted Maureen’s and her classmates’ yearlong journey.

“Our teachers wanted to show our history and how people from different countries see the art from our personal experiences. It’s kind of a look into the mirror our lives,” she said.

During the exhibit, Maureen was proud of the work she and he classmates had done. She said seeing her art reflect her life and her story through the people around her was an unforgettable experience. The end result of all the meaningful work summed up her personal growth. At the exhibit, she was finally able to step back and see the whole picture.


“In the beginning of this project we never saw how far we were going. I’m really impressed about it,” Maureen said.

Though she is going home after this semester, Maureen wants to continue her hobby. She loves taking pictures and will continue to do so everywhere and anywhere she goes. What she has learned in both her art class and in her time studying abroad will be cherished forever. Though she is saying goodbye, the IEI will be forever woven into her story.


Written by IEI Intern Maria Rubin De Celis

at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign