Noriko Okumura, from Japan, studying in Chicago. Noriko is an MBA student at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business/DePaul University specializing in International Business. She studied in DePaul’s English Language Academy (ELA).
Why did you decide to enter a U.S summer intensive English program?
I wanted to attend an MBA program, and my conversation and general English skills were not initially up to the standard required.
How did you choose your program?
I wanted to join the MBA program at DePaul University, and it seemed reasonable to me to start in my English program (the ELA) at the same university. Also several of my friends had told me that the ELA was a good program.
What did you like best?
The ELA has four courses at every level (Writing, Reading, Grammar, and Spoken English) and I knew that I would end up with a balance of these four skills. I liked the fact that I was forced to extend my reading skills.
What did you miss most?
Food, especially fresh seafood like sashimi. We have sushi and sashimi in Chicago, but it just isn’t as good as it is in Japan.
What was your biggest surprise?
U.S. society seems more open to me, and I feel more comfortable here.
...your biggest disappointment?
I have experienced some frustration with the timing of education on the quarter system. It is more difficult to get a longer-term perspective on your learning, and in most classes you usually can’t finish the textbook.
How did you handle: ...Language differences?
To help follow up, I have taped a lot of classes. I have also tried to partner with smart students, and to really concentrate on what my professors say in class.
My parents supported me at first..
...Adjusting to a different educational system?
Making friends in class, seeing my teachers during their office hours so that I can ask for help.
How did your English improve?
A lot. I really saw my skills—listening, speaking, reading, writing—come together. In reading especially I learned a lot of critical reading skills, which I am finding useful in business school.
I also learned how to make effective presentations, and improved my pronunciation. What were your activities?
Watching movies, participating in the international student organization, Japanese student organization, doing volunteer work.
How easy or difficult is making friends?
It was easy at the English Language Academy, where the classroom is more of a community. The students in my business classes are all busy business people, so it is more difficult.
How relevant was your U.S. summer English program to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
I want to work for a Japanese company, probably in the U.S.A., for 20 years, and then I’d like to become a process-oriented psychological counselor. I believe my study at the English Language Academy helped me with comprehensive English skills, to become more confident, and more able to see the whole language learning process.
What is your advice to other students?
Speak more, speak with native speakers of English. Read books in English to enrich your vocabulary. Study in an English-speaking country like the U.S.A. so that you can learn how English is really used. Watching TV and listening to the radio are good for improving your listening skills, and to help you understand cultural differences.