All posts by Chris Huh

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


Having Fun and Learning Outside of the Classroom

Most people associate hitting the books and going to class when they think of receiving a good education. Two IEI students took their learning to the next level, however, and proved that learning extends far beyond the classroom.

When Yuki Nakamura came to the United States from Japan to study English, he knew that to receive the best experience possible, he would have to immerse himself fully into the language. His first and favorite choice was to embrace and rekindle one of his old hobbies from home—Judo.yuki

Back in Japan, Yuki tried the form of martial arts, nine years ago and loved it. Years later, as he started classes at the IEI this semester, Yuki chose to use his hobby not just to have fun, but to learn English as well.

“I wanted a chance to talk to native speakers. In Judo club, I can talk to native speakers,” he said about accomplishing his goals for joining the class.

Yuki’s goals to learn outside of the classroom to improve English skills have been a positive experience for him so far. Every day in Judo class, he said he gets to practice listening and speaking through explaining different Judo skills to his fellow classmates and listening to what the instructors have to say.

However, though supplementing language skills has been good, the personal benefits have been better, he said.

“In Judo club, it is a good experience for me because I’ve met many people. The most fun experience was when I went to a home party of one of my Judo class members. I got to go  and join the party with other students” Yuki said.yuki2

Yuki isn’t the only student benefitting from joining extracurricular activities. Making new friends and connections was a major reward for Eunsook Choi, too, when she tried dance lessons for the first time this semester.

Eunsook, a student from Korea, joined a dance class this semester after visiting a dance club her host mother was a part of. To learn a variety of dances, Eunsook gets experience in swing, tango, cha-cha, and ballroom dancing, to name a few.

Like Yuki, Eunsook said one of the most helpful parts is the English practice she gets from attending the lessons.Eunsook

“There are women and men on either side, and we rotate partners every five minutes, so I have many chances to speak with native speakers,” she said.

This extra practice makes her more comfortable with communicating in English, and she said she feels as though it has been a helpful part of her time here in the United States.

“I can meet new native speakers and I have the opportunity to speak with them and get to know them,” Eunsook said of the connections she’s made so far this semester.

Being bold and stepping out of comfort zones, especially with language, can be difficult when coming to a country for the first time. Though intimidating at first, students like Yuki and Eunsook prove that getting the fullest experience abroad means pushing yourself, learning, and having fun both inside and outside the classroom.

Written by IEI Intern Maria Rubin De Celis



A taste of culture—IEI students share food and experiences

Peering into the window of someone else’s culture gives an invaluable taste of a person’s context and background. Last week, students got a taste of their classmates’ cultures quite literally as we shared dishes from all over the world at the IEI potluck. From Japanese Sukiyaki and Udon noodles to traditional Taiwanese Three-Cup Chicken, our students had an eye-opening meal that provoked conversation and gave a glimpse of what each of their classmates brought to the table.

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Students, ConvoPartners, IEI interns and teachers gather over delicious food and delightful conversation at the IEI Potluck.

Aurianny Angulo, a new student this semester, made one of her favorite desserts to highlight her Brazilian heritage. The round, chocolate spheres, called brigadeiro, are a common treat in her home country. The simplicity of the dish and the novelty to her friends made it an easy choice for her to make, she said. Also, Aurianny mentioned that no party in Brazil is complete without this tasty sweet, so she couldn’t resist bringing it to the IEI either.

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Aurianny shows off her Brazilian Brigadeiros.

“It is a common dessert in parties…it’s strange to go to a party where these aren’t there,” she said.

Another student, Maureen Riquelme Vásquez, said she also chose her dish because it was common, yet so unique to her region of the world. Maureen is from Chile and one of her favorite foods from home are sopaipillas, which are a type of fried dough that she paired with pico de gallo, a type of salsa.

Maureen said this food reminded her of home because anyone can easily get them in Chile since they are so versatile and delicious. From street vendors, to food stands, sopaipillas are a staple food all over her home country. However, she said her favorite time to eat them is at home during the winter or on a rainy day. For the potluck, Maureen turned the event into a family affair.

“I chose to bring sopaipillas because my aunt offered to make them. I’m not very good at that,” she said. Maureen even brought her nine-year-old nephew, Sergio, to join in on the fun at the IEI. She didn’t want him to miss out on the opportunity to try new foods and experience the cultural dishes of her friends.

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Elsayed and Cheikhani, Fulbright Scholars from Egypt and Mauritania, contemplate which dessert to try next.

Even those who didn’t make foods from their home countries enjoyed their time at the potluck. Daniel Romero Jimenez, from Colombia, came because IEI events are opportunities where students from every class at the institute are able to come together to get to know each other better.

He said, “The food was a good part that night, but what I really enjoyed was talking with other students and ConvoPartners.”

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Yuki, from Japan, teaches Daniel and Mustafa, from Colombia and Turkey, how to use chopsticks.

This chance to interact with people from all over the world is what makes the IEI a truly unique place to study. Participating in activities like the potluck, are chances to look into the window of diversity around them.

“In these months, in this semester, I am sharing a lot of experiences with my friends, so it is good to know about what they eat and where they come from,” Aurianny said.

With activities and opportunities to get to know people from all over the world, the IEI gives an unforgettable taste of a cross-cultural experience that extends far beyond the classroom.

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A sampling of the delectable desserts prepared by IEI students and teachers.

Written by IEI Intern Maria Rubin De Celis