Connect with Local People and Organizations in the U.S. While You Sharpen Your English!

Connect with Local People and Organizations in the U.S. While You Sharpen Your English!

By Bill Hellriegel 

The Center for English as a Second Language (CESL) at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) offers a different kind of program for small groups from around the world to improve their English skills at the same time that they connect with community leaders and organizations in the U.S. Called the Community Engagement Program, it creates connections for international students in a way that would normally be impossible, not only in their own countries but also at other programs in the U.S. or in other English speaking countries.

About the program

The Community Engagement Program combines classroom time that focuses on the development of English skills, preparation for interactions with community leaders and community organizations, and debriefing after those interactions. Moreover, some class time is spent preparing projects and related presentations that identify ways that students can apply what they have learned to community engagement in their own countries. CESL staff, faculty, and students attend these presentations, and students leave the program with a clear idea of how they will apply what they have learned in their own ways to their own environments at home. 

The Community Engagement Program is available in both face to face and online versions, both of which offer experiences otherwise unavailable.

Face-to-face meetings

When the program is face to face, a number of visits are made each week to local Carbondale-area community organizations where students assist with organization activities and efforts, interacting with organization leaders, staff, and the citizens who are served. The students do not just watch what happens in these organizations; they engage, thereby making connections and having experiences they will never forget.

Online participation

When the program is online, the classroom component is generally the same as with the face-to-face program. However, the community engagement component, instead of involving visits to local organizations, provides the students with a large number of opportunities to engage directly and intensively with the leaders of organizations affiliated with the Community Engagement Program. They attend a presentation by each leader and then have the opportunity for an extended question and answer session with them.

A program like no other

Unlike most intensive English-type programs, the CESL Community Engagement Program is not something that can be obtained through English language classes in one's own country or by using any other language learning application. In this video you can hear directly from past program participants about their experiences in the program and why those experiences were meaningful for them.

We in CESL believe the Community Engagement Program meets a need in the intensive English market that has not been effectively met until now, and we are so proud and excited to offer the program. Scheduling is entirely flexible and can be adjusted to meet the exact requirements of the interested university or other organization in each case.

About Carbondale

Lastly, some important information about our location — Carbondale, Illinois USA: The Carbondale area is a rural, small-town environment where people are friendly, the surrounding countryside is beautiful, the pace is relaxed, traffic is light, and the cost of living is low. Combine that with all of the strengths and attractions of a major U.S. research university like SIUC, and you have the perfect environment for something like the CESL Community Engagement Program. 

Learn more

For more information about about CESL and SIUC, visit

For more information about the Carbondale area, watch this video

For additional information, please send us an email at and we will respond to your inquiry within one business day. 

We very much look forward to welcoming you in Carbondale, IL USA, whether virtually or in person!

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Bill Hellriegel is director of the CESL.

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