My Kind of Town


Question: What US city is known for its pizza, a giant mirrored bean, and miles of lakefront trails and beaches?

Answer: CHICAGO, of course! And this Thursday the IEI will once again take a day away from classes and give students, teachers, and CovnoPartners volunteers the chance to explore this fascinating city that’s located only two and a half hours from Champaign-Urbana. Studying English in the US can’t always be about books and the classroom. You need some field trips here and there. The chartered bus ride gives students and teachers the chance to interact in a relaxed setting and, once in Chicago, there are countless photo opportunities and ways to make memories.

Though some teachers will be using this day back in Champaign-Urbana to catch up on grading and lesson planning, and some students may use the time to catch up on sleep and homework, many students, teacher and staff are excited about how they’re going to spend their time in Chicago.

Here’s what some of them plan to do…
What do YOU like to do in Chicago? (comment below) Some other great reasons to visit Chicago.

Verene Wu (student):“I will go shopping. I want to go to A&F, Zara, Cheesecake Factory, and Godiva chocolate.”
Joon Kim (student): “I haven’t yet made a plan for what I’ll do in Chicago, but I might go to the Sky Deck at Willis Tower and visit ‘the bean.’ I visited Chicago in 5th grade when my mother was getting her degree in accounting at UIUC. I’m sure the city has changed a lot since then.”
Natalie Mullen (activities coordinator): “I’m excited about having lunch at the Art Institute. They choose a special olive oil from Italy each year and I haven’t tried the 2014 selection yet. Oh, and getting some Garret’s Popcorn.”
Abdullah Al Sharif (student): “I want to see the beach, go shopping, and try new restaurants”
Rhonda Kissling (office manager): “Well this Thursday is my birthday and I’m so excited to spend the day in Chicago. I’m planning on having lunch at XOCO, then heading to Bliss spa for a pedicure followed by some shopping at Nordstrom Rack and dinner at Heaven on Seven.”
Yuko Nozawa (student): “I want to eat thick pizza, go shopping, and visit Shed Aquarium.”
Carleen Sacris (teacher): “Well, I need a new passport so I’ll first make a visit to the Filipino consulate. It’s great that there is one in Chicago and I don’t have to travel all the way to New York or Washington D.C. I’ll then probably do some grading at the Art Institute (easier to get things done when surrounded by beautiful things). I’ll probably also do some shopping at Trader Joe’s and end the day with a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art.”
Sam Godin (teacher): “When I go to Chicago, I usually go to different restaurants. One of my favorites is a sushi restaurant called Wasabi. I also like taking the EL (the elevated train, Chicago’s subway) to explore neighborhoods like Belmont, Lincoln Square, and Wicker Park where there are lots of different kinds of shops and businesses. I also hope the weather’s nice enough to eat outside at a park and people watch. I’ll also probably make a visit to the big Apple store on Michigan Avenue to get new battery for my phone and check out the new iPhone 6.”

Teacher Spotlight: Norbert Huether

Norbert with his wife and son in front of the UI Alama Mater

Norbert is one of the newest lecturers at the IEI and we are so glad he chose to join our talented and experienced faculty.

Norb was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but grew up in a small southern Illinois town called Sparta. Norb is the youngest of nine children and fancies himself the most handsome of his five brothers. Norbert has a Masters in TESOL and a Bachelors in Linguistics from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Most recently, he taught at a small university in Pittsburg, KS.  In addition, he’s taught in the St. Louis area and in Japan. His favorite classes to teach are reading and writing and he enjoys teaching every level of student from someone just beginning to learn English to others who are more fluent in the language. Besides teaching, Norb loves hanging out with his wife Sayaka and son Eliot.  He also loves watching movies and antiquing (finding, researching, and selling old things).

“Strange But True!”: 5 Facts about Norbert Huether:

1. Norb is a self-taught juggler.

2. Norb used to have long hair and still enjoys listening to Heavy Metal Music such as Black Sabbath and Metallica.

3. Norb likes to wear a tie every Tuesday!

4. Norb studied Japanese language and culture in college (which he didn’t attend until 10 years after high school!)

5. Norb’s favorite authors are J.D. Salinger, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., and Stephen King.

IEI Student Spotlight: Nisana Theerajaruwat

CollageThere are so many great things about Champaign-Urbana. We might all know the biggies like the University of Illinois, our cultural diversity, the Illinois Marathon, and the Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival. However, it’s sometimes the places we pass by every day that really help to make this city a wonderful place to study and live. One such place was captured in a writing assignment by one of our Summer 2014 students.

Nisana Theerajaruwat from Bangkok, Thailand was accepted into the University of Illinois Masters of Technology Management program in the College of Business. But before she started her program this fall, she decided to enroll in the IEI’s summer program in order to make sure her English language skills were at their best. While at the IEI she enjoyed the small classes as well as the elective classes students in the upper levels can choose from. She found all of her teachers to be very nice and helpful. She also participated in the various activities like the campus tour, and trips to the Champaign County Fair and Chicago. But she said what she liked most was the ConvoPartners program where she had the chance to really get to know some local people and learn some things that she couldn’t in class. One of those things she learned about outside of class was the subject of the analysis essay she wrote for her Academic Reading and Writing class. In addition to describing this local business, she also analyzed what they are currently doing well and what could be improved. The ability to write in this way is so important in American academics where students are asked to think critically and express their ideas clearly in writing. Her experience at the IEI definitely better prepared her for the rigor and expectations of the graduate program she has just started.

Thanks for letting us share your essay Nisana… now, I’m getting hungry…

County Market
There are several public places that are popular in the Champaign-Urbana area such as Illini Union, Alma Mater Monument, Grainger Library, coffee shops, hospitals, and many public parks. People spend their time at different places doing a lot of things. Some of them enjoy chit-chatting in the park. Some study hard by themselves at the library or coffee shops. However, I would like to talk about the place that is not really famous, but it is definitely important to people, especially people who live around it. That place is County Market, the supermarket in Champaign where you can find a variety of products and enjoy shopping in a nice atmosphere.

County Market is a huge supermarket with great location. It was built to provide the best services to people at all times. This sizable store can accommodate more than 200 customers at a time. Located on Stoughton and Fourth Street, near Springfield and a few minutes’ drive from Illini Union, County Market is very convenient, especially for college students and faculty [only a half mile of the IEI]. In front of the building, you will find an enormous parking lot; thus, you do not have to worry about finding a vacant parking space. There are many local buses that stop at the store as well, such as 1 Yellow, 2 Red, 9 Brown, and 12W Teal. When the weather is nice, I usually enjoy walking to the supermarket instead of taking a bus because I always have classes around the Quad and Illini Union, which are not very far from it. The store is established in a good neighborhood, so it is safe for people to go to buy something even when it is late at night. You can count on County Market that it will always provide what you want at all times. Imagine you are so starving at night and there is no restaurant or even fast-food restaurants, how wonderful it is to know that the supermarket is open 24 hours nearby your home! Almost everyone can easily reach this big County Market and look for the items he/she needs because it is really close to the campus and easy to be found.

Shopping at County Market is a nice experience since it is very easy to find products and it offers good prices as well. These advantages make the store considerably attractive to customers in many ways. The stock is organized in aisles, and customers can find what they need by looking at the large labels above each shelf. For example, fresh food is separated from household products. If you want to get an apple, you will find it in a fresh food area, so you should head to that zone instead of looking for it in other areas. I am very impressed with the cleanliness of this supermarket. Inside the building, it looks bright and airy, providing a good experience for the people who are shopping. Not only does it sell various goods and categorizes each product well, but also people can purchase whatever they want at a fair price. This supermarket chain gains buying power and specializes in negotiating with suppliers, so it gets good manufacturer pricing. Consequently, you can find every product here with a reasonable price. One of the amazing facts about County Market is that it is one of the biggest regional chains in the Midwestern and Southern regions of the United States. Accordingly, it is no wonder that it can fulfill customers’ needs in terms of price and product. This friendly store, located in a prime area, is an appealing and popular choice for many reasons.

Although County Market is a great place for food and household shopping, there are some recommendations that I think would be beneficial for the store. The store has a lot of strengths, but the sales can increase even more with the right tools. I personally believe that it would be very nice if the store offered loyalty cards to customers and provided an area for kids. First of all, County Market might need to consider offering a loyalty card to customers in order to keep them coming back. The loyalty card is one of the most effective business marketing methods. It helps to build customer relationships and retain existing customers. This is one of the best ways to satisfy individual customers since it increases customers’ loyalty to the store. Acquiring member cards, customers will feel that they belong to the supermarket. Whenever they want to shop for food or household products, they will think of the store where they obtained the loyalty cards and return to that store. Statistics surprisingly show that a good loyalty program has an ability to tie purchases to customers and bring them back to the store even when a new store has opened nearby.

Second, I totally recommend that the store offer child care services during the parents’ shopping trip. The experience can be more enjoyable while they shop, and children can have a happy time waiting for their parents as well. It is important that the supermarket adapts itself to the trends and strengthens competitive capabilities by being concerned about small but powerfully effective services. If County Market provides loyalty cards to its clients, it would be profitable to both the store and the purchasers. Also, if there is a place for children, customers who come to the supermarket will be more pleased with the shopping experience.

In conclusion, County Market is one of the public places that are very significant to people in everyday life. People can find both necessary and unnecessary things here in a good atmosphere at any time they want. When they are hungry, they can feed themselves at County Market. When they want to wash their clothes, they can find detergent at County Market. When they want to throw a party, they can find all party stuff at County Market as well. You may never notice how it is significant and relevant to your life, but it really is. This meaningful store continues to serve people in Champaign in several ways and every single day.

Meet the IEI Interns

This semester we have EIGHT undergrads working as interns with the IEI. They help at the front desk, with Orientation and Registration, ConvoPartners, weekly activities, volunteer projects, helping our students find housing and phone plans as well as navigating the buses… that’s just be beginning. Overall, they play such an important role in making sure those at the IEI have a great experience. Here’s your chance to get to know them all just a little better.

All Interns with Names

Cassie Phelps is a native of Champaign, IL (a genuine townie!!!). She is a senior majoring in linguistics with a minor in TESOL. She loves spicy food, and claims that it may be the greatest food in the world!

Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Colin quickly made the transition from a Cornhusker to an Illini. Now a senior in Linguistics, TESL, & Spanish, his dreams include teaching English on a Fulbright and getting to know the Dunkin Donuts cashier well enough to get free donuts. He loves to Instagram the Illini Union and read Second Language Acquisition research articles.

Gaby Elizalde-Ocasio was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico & was raised bilingual (Spanish/English). Besides Languages, she loves watching foreign films, baking, gaming and bikes. Her major is Psychology!

Hannjoo Moon comes from Carbondale, IL. She is a Senior majoring in Global Studies with a minor in French. Hannjoo lives to eat – she love-loves food and loves to try dishes from other countries!

Jordan Richert hails from Wheaton, IL. He majors in accounting and is a Senior at the UIUC. He is a world traveler, too! He studied in China for 6 weeks last summer.

Matthew Koch comes from Tremont, IL. He is majoring in East Asian Language and Culture and minoring in Chemistry and TESOL. He hopes to teach English in Japan after he graduates.

Melody Chiang comes from Naperville, IL. She is majoring in History and minoring in Education. Factoid! Make-A-Wish granted her wish to travel to Australia for the Australian Open in 2012!

Peter Huh is no stranger to the IEI intern scene. Peter comes from Carbondale, IL and studies Engineering at UIUC. Fun fact: Peter’s sister Chris was an IEI intern and is now a new TA at the IEI!

Director’s Welcome

ErinDear IEI Students,
Welcome to the Fall 2014 semester! After the summer break, it’s wonderful to see our classes full of students again.

Do you know the phrasal verb ‘jump in’?

‘Jump in’ means to get started on something, or to enter a conversation.

As some of you already know, I’m the new IEI Director, and I’ve jumped into my new job! Like you, I’m learning new things every day, about the IEI, UIUC, and the local community. Before coming to the IEI, I lived in Monterey, California, the Language Capital of the World, where I worked as an Associate Dean at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. I’m passionate about language and culture, and have a background in Spanish and Modern Standard Arabic. Here in Illinois, I enjoy getting out and exploring on the weekends. You’ll see me at the famers market, library, and local parks. So, if you see me around town, please stop me to say “Hello!”

Likewise, I encourage each of you to jump in and take advantage of the activities sponsored by the IEI and the UIUC campus. This is your opportunity to get involved, meet new people, and practice your hard-earned English skills! I know that sometimes that it can be intimidating and scary to join in with native speakers, but these experiences are something that you absolutely cannot do back home.

I wish each and every one of you continued success in your English studies this semester. Jump in there and have fun!


The IEI Loves Indonesia (and cookies)

In February 2014, a volcano erupted in East Java, Indonesia causing havoc in some of the neighboring towns. The towns affected were not far from where UIUC Intensive English Institute teacher Andy Hunt and his wife Sari live when in Indonesia. When the volcanoes erupted, Sari was in her home country doing research for her PhD dissertation and helped with clean-up efforts in some local towns. Seeing the devastation and loss and firsthand, she wanted to do more to help rebuild the lives of those most vulnerable, children. So, she and Andy began buying school supplies and toys for many of these children.

Moved by the great need and a desire to do even more, Andy organized a Bake Sale at the IEI to raise funds to help children who were left with nothing as well as whole schools and child care centers. The goal of the sale was to raise funds that could be sent to Sari who would purchase supplies that were most needed.

In April, the IEI lounge was filled with donated brownies, cookies and cakes which were then purchased by students, teachers and staff, raising over $600 in just a few short days. In our part of the world, $600 doesn’t seem like that much. But it can make a huge difference in the lives of those in a country where the average income is less than $10 per day. Those at the IEI also showed their support by writing messages and taking photos to send to those Sari would visit in Indonesia.

Using the donations from the Bake Sale, Sari first visited an orphanage school in a low-income area where all the teachers and helpers volunteer their time. Because some parts of the school had been damaged by the volcano, $100 went toward maintenance that included fixing a hole and doing some painting. Other funds went towards books and school supplies, educational games and some clothes. The teachers said they had never before had anyone visit the school to bring things for the children and cried when they saw the kids with the new supplies since the school only had a few books and pencils for the kids to share. None of them had ever even had their own pencil case. Now they had their very own bag of school supplies.

When all the gifts had been given, the teachers helped the students make “Thank You” signs to put next to the gifts to show that the donations were from the IEI and UIUC. Before Sari’s visit, the school hadn’t even had the paper to make the signs.

The signs in Bahasa say:
“Thank you to our friends at the IEI.” and “We love our friends at the IEI.”

Sari also visited a school in a very low-income area that is attended by street children or children from families that can’t afford for them to go to public school. The ladies who established the school wanted the kids to have uniforms to give them a sense of identity, yet some of the kids couldn’t afford them. So, Sari used some of the Bake Sale funds to get uniforms for those without. It was an amazing transformation as these children suddenly felt part of the school and no longer like outsiders. A little bit of money was also spent on floor mats that can be used for practicing numbers and letters, books, crayons, some educational toys, and some clothes.

Also at this school was a girl about six or seven-years old who had never had a birthday party because her mother couldn’t afford it. Sari used some of the money to throw a special birthday party for her and the kids all got toys and snacks and danced and sang for the birthday girl. She was made to feel special and loved in a way she had never before experienced.

Because of Andy and Sari’s concern and compassion for the children of Indonesia, the IEI had the chance to respond to a need and connect with those on the other side the world. All the IEI teachers and staff and many of the IEI students were united in this cause and their generosity and kindness touched the lives of many children in Indonesia. We were reminded of the humbling fact that simple acts can make a huge difference. Yes, the gifts we gave did succeed in positively affecting others, but more importantly, they also affected us by giving us the chance to slow down, share a treat, and take time to be thankful for all we have. That was the beautiful gift the Indonesian children gave to us.



at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign