Just a Cup of Coffee

Just a Cup of Coffee

By Pietro Rossini

I wanted just a cup of coffee. But I didn’t know it would have been so difficult! This was my experience when I first went to a Dunkin’ drive-through: I lowered my car window, and a scratchy voice came out of the speaker asking me for something. I guessed she was asking what I would like to have. So, right away I said, “A cup of coffee, please.” I thought that would be enough. But I was wrong. The lady from the speaker said many things that I couldn’t understand. I only took some words — “sugar,” “size,” “cream.” So, I got that she was asking me how I wanted my coffee. I didn’t have much vocabulary at that time, and so I just replied “A small cup of coffee without sugar and without cream!” But the story does not end here, indeed, from the other side, the voice said “Black?” and I replied, “No, I’m white!”
This funny story helps me to introduce the topic of this article: How I overcame the language barrier when I started studying in the U.S. This story is only funny now, it wasn’t at the time. When I first came to the U.S., I could not speak English very well. My vocabulary was very limited, and I had trouble with my pronunciation. People could not understand me, and I had a hard time understanding them. I mean, it was so frustrating. However, I never despaired, and every day I have kept trying to learn new words and improve my pronunciation.

I came to the U.S. with an F-1 visa. This is the student visa with which you must study for at least 18 hours per week. But 18 hours studying English seemed a too limited amount of time to me. For this reason, I found out that in the U.S. many public libraries around the country offer free English classes. So, in addition to my classes at Framingham State University (FSU), I attended classes at my local public library. I tried to find some native speakers who could help me improve my pronunciation, and it helped me a lot..

I arrived in the States in January 2019, and everything was going on as I described. But then in March 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic hit, and I had to review my plans. Since then, I am having online classes with FSU. I had to renounce the public library classes, and meeting with people became very limited. How to improve your English in this situation?

It may look strange, but I got my English test during this hard situation. FSU online classes and other tools helped me to focus more on my language without many distractions. So, I found out that learning a language is not a matter of knowledge or smartness but of choice and discipline instead.If I may give advice to someone who is going to come to the U.S. for studying, I will say: Try to come here with a background in English. Do not start studying English here from scratch! The journey of learning a language never ends. It requires humbleness, practice, and a willingness to accept correction from others. Do not be afraid of learning a new language. It is not a hurdle on your journey; it is the door that opens up your journey instead.

Hundreds of prestigious universities and colleges in the USA and Canada accept Cambridge English Qualifications​.

Making friends is a big part of the university experience and a C1 level of English or above will help you break down the language barrier quickly. 

Preparing to take a Cambridge English Qualification (C1 Advanced or C2 Proficiency) will help you develop in-depth English communication skills that you will need to thrive in university, both academically and socially, including participating in lectures and forming long-life friendships.


Pietro Rossini is a Xaverian Missionary and an ESL student at Framingham State University (MA). He came to the U.S. in January 2020 with the purpose of studying a master of arts in journalism at Boston University. His dream is to collect and share stories of humanity around the globe, making the world a single family.