EducationUSA Academy provides English language courses, college tours and much more to students from around the world.
“EducationUSA Academy gave me the opportunity to improve my English with the help of excellent teachers, visit a variety of universities and colleges and learn how it feels to be a college student. I met people from many different cultures, sharing unforgettable moments. It was not just about growing academically, but also personally,” says Cinthya Alvarado Rendón from Ecuador, a summer 2015 Syracuse University student.
This summer, 10 U.S. colleges and universities opened their doors to international youth eager to improve their English and prepare for higher education in the United States. The EducationUSA Academy provides intensive English language study, navigation skills for the U.S. higher education system and full immersion in U.S. college campus life to self-funded 15- to 17-year-old students from around the world.
In support of President Barack Obama’s “100,000 Strong in the Americas” initiative to increase international educational exchanges, the U.S. Department of State launched a pilot EducationUSA Academy in 2015, targeting students from Latin America. It was hosted at Syracuse University in New York and the University of Colorado Boulder.
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has a cooperative agreement with the nonprofit organization World Learning to administer the academy. It aims to expand the academy over the next three years to additional U.S. host institutions and to students worldwide. EducationUSA Academy Program Officer Jennifer Brown says that it proved to be a new model “in offering 15-17-year olds from around the globe a pipeline to the U.S. higher education system and solid preparation for successful study at U.S. colleges and universities.”
The 10 academic institutions hosted this year’s EducationUSA Academy students are Diablo Valley College in Contra Costa County, California; Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon; Northwestern University in Illinois; Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York; Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas; the University of Colorado Boulder in Boulder, Colorado; the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa in Honolulu, Hawaii; the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, Georgia; and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
Academy host institutions offer daily classes, with reading, writing, speaking and listening practice sessions in idiomatic English. They also organize workshops to provide information on all aspects of the university application process, including academic writing and integrity, standardized tests and graduation requirements, selecting a major, college credits, U.S. high school and college grading systems, and teamwork and leadership. Patricia Juza, director of the International English Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, says that their U.S. culture and contemporary issues class, taught by university professors and guest speakers, “enables international youth to build the background knowledge and language needed for university success.”
All EducationUSA Academy students tour other U.S. colleges and universities located nearby, in addition to their host campus. For example, Syracuse University students visit Cornell University and Ithaca College, while Temple University arranges trips to the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Drexel University. Students prepare questions and interview strategies prior to each visit and undergo debriefing sessions after each tour. Megan McDrew, international marketing and communication coordinator at Diablo Valley College (DVC), says, “The community college system in the U.S. allows international students to take general education classes and explore different majors before transferring to some of the world’s most prestigious four-year universities. DVC, for example, has the highest transfer rate to University of California, Berkeley.”
Field trips take advantage of natural resources and the local culture of the host academic institution. Juza notes how the environment can shape a career track, “as students gaze at Colorado’s Flatiron Mountains from their dorm room and visit a research facility of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.” Matthew J. Fee, director of Summer College at Syracuse University, says that their international students learn about American history as they visit the home of Harriet Tubman, the former slave and abolitionist destined to be the future face of the $20 bill, or the birthplace of the U.S. women’s rights movement in Seneca Falls. DVC Academy students bike across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, visit America’s iconic Yosemite National Park and volunteer in the American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life.” Janice Duenas-McKnight, assistant director and instructor for special programs at Temple University, says that international students will discover why Philadelphia was recently named America’s first World Heritage City, while they take in a Phillies Major League Baseball game and enjoy roller skating on the city’s riverfront “pop up” park.
EducationUSA Academy students often share dormitory accommodations with U.S. high school students attending campus summer programs. This allows academy students to experience campus life and develop friendships with U.S. students as they enjoy ice cream socials, pick-up soccer games, impromptu dance parties and other cross-cultural activities. The program cost ranges from $4000-$6000 (Rs. 270,000-Rs. 400,000 approximately) for the three to four week session, inclusive of classes, lodging and meals, books and supplies, health insurance, cultural activities and campus tours. Scholarships for high-achieving, economically disadvantaged students are available and funded through various U.S. embassies around the world.
Hillary Hoppock is a freelance writer, former newspaper publisher and reporter based in Orinda, California.