A Different Kind of Students. Who are they?
They live in the Skaptopara dormitories, they eat at the canteen and study in the library. But still, they are not full-time university students. The English Language Institute (ELI) students are learning English in AUBG while participating in the program which consists of three academic semesters called steps. Many of them apply to AUBG after they complete the final step after which they have TOEFL, and the already optional SAT exams. But others decide to leave. What is it like for ELI students living on campus? What made some of them stay?
According to the AUBG website, the university offers high-quality education, state-of-the-art campus, and some of the brightest students that you can find. Prospective students could see that in person only if they visit an open house day or come for a visit. By learning and living on campus, the ELI prospective students have the chance to see more about the atmosphere in the university and decide whether or not AUBG is the place to be for them. Did they have second thoughts or has AUBG won their hearts?
Mustafa Ramadan, a second-year student in AUBG said that at some point he thought that maybe AUBG is not the place where he wants to continue his education.
“I had second thoughts. Because when I was in ELI I couldn’t get this spirit and emotion of the university,” said Ramadan.”I was thinking if AUBG was the right place for me. Because I interacted only with some ELI students and I couldn’t get in any club. I couldn’t get the spirit of being a student.”
Despite staying on campus and seeing the various club activities, it is uncommon for ELI students to participate in any of them. Often the ELI students do not receive the same informational emails that full-time students do, leaving them without information about upcoming events around the campus.
On the other side of the spectrum, many students found the campus life dynamics interesting and engaging. After living on campus, finding friends in AUBG and seeing the club activities, many of the ELI students decide to stay in AUBG instead of applying abroad.
“The first one month I was scared because everyone was studying,” shared Nelina Ivanova, a first-year student in AUBG. “But later when I saw the different activities and the life on campus, I decided that even if I don’t pass my IBT exam the first time I will take [ELI’s] third step again and apply to AUBG.”
According to several of the former ELI students, the program helped them develop their English skills needed for their future education and choose the direction they want to continue. ELI is designed in a way that fosters students’ understanding of English on several levels. Non-native speaker instructors teach grammar and text, while native English speakers teach listening and conversation skills.
First-year student Georgi Georgiev explained that the program provides students with a lot of information, materials, resources and tests in a strategic and methodical way. According to him, the most helpful aspect of the ELI program is the incredible instructors. He shared that his instructor Elena Voynova is “an incredible teacher and friend outside of classes. Always ready to help.”
Asya Alexandrova, ELI’s director, shared that the instructors in the program are the best in their field. According to her the experience and constant update of the instructors’ skills and knowledge about developments in the testing process makes them experts in teaching English.
The institute is an auxiliary unit of AUBG, established in 1992. Many of the students take part only in step one and two, which build on grammar and speaking skills. Others decide to apply only for the last step which prepares students for TOEFL and SAT. According to Alexandrova, the number of enrolling students has decreased recently. She said that the changes in the admission process of the university, the fact that children are more exposed to English than ever before, and that many of them prepare individually, is contributing to the decreasing number of students.
The program is promoted mostly by AUBG’s Admission Office. They suggest ELI to prospective students who want to improve their English skills or those who have rejected the AUBG offer after their first result on the required admission tests and want to improve their scores.
“When I decided to come to AUBG, admissions advised me to go to ELI. And I accepted it because I knew it was the only way to get in the university,” said Ramadan. “I expected the course to be intensive because it was written, but it was more than intensive. But in a good way. ELI is a very profound experience. Because of ELI, I am here now. The knowledge and experience that I gained there helped me and still help me as a full-time student.”
The new prospective students start the program on Feb. 16, 2017. We are yet to see how they will perceive AUBG.