COAP Employee Spotlight: Dana Vizdal, WIU Center for International Studies

Dana Vizdal (second from left) and international students at the 2016 International Bazaar at WIU

Dana Vizdal (second from left) and international students at the 2016 International Bazaar at WIU

Traveling to and staying in a foreign country can be one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have. It can also be one of the most daunting, particularly if you’re a young college student.

Luckily, at Western Illinois University, international students have a well-developed support system that is the team of committed individuals who work in WIU’s Center for International Studies (CIS).

And although it’s not quite yet time for International Education Week (that occurs in November, and is set from Nov. 14-18 this year), it’s never too early to recognize the work that international educators do. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of collaborating with a few of the staff members at the CIS. I quickly picked up on the fact that they take their jobs—working with the many international students who come to Western—very seriously.

One of those dedicated staff members is CIS Assistant Director Dana Vizdal, who once was an international student herself during a semester-long study abroad program in Europe. So with International Education Week just around the corner, and to recognize Western’s commitment to international studies for both American and international students, this month, for the the Council of Administrative Personnel (COAP) Spotlight, we’re featuring Dana.

Below, she talks a bit about her background and what she does here for the many individuals who travel tens of thousands of miles to come and study in Macomb at WIU.

Q. How did you end up working at Western?

Dana: I actually grew up in Macomb and earned both of my degrees from WIU. I was fortunate to study abroad in Spain for a semester, which really got me interested in international affairs. I have had the opportunity to work at WIU as a student worker, a graduate assistant, a civil service employee and now as an administrator in my current position.

Dana Vizdal and Western Illinois Univeristy international students visiting the Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield.

Dana Vizdal and Western Illinois University and a group of international students visiting the Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield.

Q. What does a typical day at work at Western look like for you?

Dana: There really isn’t a typical day for me. I work closely with my graduate assistants, collaborate with many offices across campus, and help students with any questions or issues. It’s important to me that the international students know there is someone advocating for them and someone they can always approach. My door is always open, and if it’s not, there is a note on my door saying when I’ll be back.

Q. What is your favorite on-the-job memory?

Dana: I love following our students on Facebook and witnessing them experience real American culture. Seeing their reactions to and pictures of their first autumn experiences or snowfall in the Midwest is priceless.

Q. What has been your most rewarding professional experience in your career at WIU so far?

Dana: One of the most rewarding experiences was learning that a student decided to attend WIU because I spoke with his sibling at a recruitment fair abroad!

Q. What are your favorite activities outside of your job?

Dana: When I’m not working, I love traveling, eating good food, and spending time with my boyfriend, family, and friends.

Q. What is your favorite quote or quotes?

Dana: I really like “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences,” by Audre Lorde, as well as “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much,” by Helen Keller.

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Follow Western’s Center for International Studies on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WIUCenterforInternationalStudies/.

International Student Success Spotlight: Qi Qi

Qi Qi - WIU International Student

Qi Qi, an international graduate student in WIU’s MBA program, said her ability to study business abroad (outside of her home country of China) is a dream come true.

Qi Qi, a master’s of business administration (MBA) program graduate candidate at Western, is currently achieving one her dreams: studying outside of her home country (China) to pursue her advanced degree in business.

Before coming to WIU, she had worked in marketing and product management in China. Since enrolling in Western’s MBA program, she has found that she is particularly interested in supply chain management, so she has chose that area of concentration her advanced business administration studies.

For the March installment of the “International Student Success Spotlight” (sponsored by Western’s Center for International Studies), Qi Qi shared how and why she chose Western to achieve her dream of studying business abroad, as well as how the services and academic resources at WIU have helped her with her success so far as an international graduate student.

Q. How did you learn about WIU and why did you decide to apply to and attend Western?

Qi Qi: Studying business abroad was my dream, due to my working experience with various enterprises after graduating from a college in Beijing, China. However, I had to consider the most efficient and effective way to realize my dream, because I came from a working-class family. I have limited savings, and the tuition and living expenses are high in developed countries. My hope was that I could leverage my limited resources to achieve the best result for my studies, and my “dream” universities would have the best cost/effect ratio.

Then I started a comprehensive search, both online and offline. I finally narrowed it down to WIU, State University of New York, Texas A&M, Cleveland State University, and Pittsburg State University. With any effort and luck, I would be accepted by each school’s MBA program candidate.

Then, I compared the programs, environment, and the procedures at each school.

Firstly, WIU has been listed as a “Best Midwestern College” and “Top Tier Midwestern University” for many consecutive years. AACSB International [“the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business”] not only accredited WIU’s MBA program, but also ranked Western’s College of Business and Technology among the top 25 percent of business schools in the world.

I was also amazed by the many unique and creative arrangements for international students, i.e. Ambassadors Program, temporary housing, Western’s English as a Second Language (WESL) Conversation Mentors program, Conversation Partners, American Culture Night, etc. WIU has become the ideal university for me. I also think Western has the best student services. I am so glad I made the correct decision and came to WIU!

Q. What do you hope to do with your master’s degree in business administration once you graduate?

Qi Qi: I plan to work as a supply chain analyst after graduation, once I get more experience in the area. I hope to become a supply chain manager.

I am very happy to have discovered my career direction here, so I can be equipped for my future.

Q. How did you adjust to your new home as a person who had never traveled to the U.S. before?

Qi Qi: When I first arrived, I was faced with new study challenges, a new living environment, new social relationships, and a totally different culture when I just came to Macomb.

First of all, the language issue impacted my performance, because I couldn’t get used to each instructor’s speed and tempo when he or she was lecturing.

Secondly, I experienced serious homesickness, because I had never been so far away from home before.

Thirdly, everything was new to me; however, I did not feel lonely and helpless at all. The friendly and responsible professors answered my questions patiently, gave me a lot of useful advice, and helped me pick up information more quickly. In addition, the international student services staff arranged a lot of activities for me to get familiar with the community, meet a lot of new friends, improve my English, and learn about the culture. The International Neighbors program, particularly, makes me feel that I have another home at Macomb. The host family has become my second home, and I feel I am the part of the community. I can’t believe I have become accustomed to my new life so quickly!

Q. What have been (or are) your favorite courses and instructors and why?

Qi Qi: My favorite course is in small business management. The course covers how to operate a small business. In this course, there are many guest speakers sharing the experiences about their businesses. Mrs. Gates, the instructor, also provides information and cases about various interesting small businesses.

Although the assignments in this course are challenging, Mrs. [Janice] Gates is one of my favorite instructors. She is very nice and helpful. She likes students to raise questions, and she replies to their email messages quickly. Even on the weekend, she still provides feedback to students’ concerns in time.

Another professor I adore is Dr. Deboeuf. I took his two courses, “Introduction to Finance” and “Financial Management.” His classes are well organized, and he helped me understand the complicated financial concepts presented.

Q. Any additional information that you would like to include?

Qi Qi: I have to mention Macomb when talking about my feeling about WIU. It provides me a welcoming, friendly, convenient, safe, hometown, and rich atmosphere to pursue my study objectives. I love Macomb!

International Student Success Spotlight: Omotola Ashafa

Western Illinois University international graduate student Omotola Ashafa’s interest in public health first began when she served in Nigeria’s National Youth Service Corps.

Omotola Ashafa at Hueco Tanks State Park in El Paso, TX

Omotola Ashafa, an international graduate student studying public health at Western Illinois University, recently traveled with the WIU Campus Students for Christ group to Hueco Tanks State Park in El Paso, TX (pictured in the background) on their way to a mission trip to Juarez, Mexico.

“I was deployed to a rural area in Southwest Nigeria. This opened my eyes to how prevention medicine could, and will, greatly benefit a rural community,” she said.

Currently a graduate student in Western’s public health M.S. program (situated in the health sciences and social work department), Omotola hopes to get a job (after she completes her master’s degree) in health program intervention or as a wellness program coordinator.

“My ultimate goal is to become a community health director and health program coordinator in rural communities in my country,” Omotola noted.

Omotola recently took time out of her busy graduate-student schedule and answered a few questions about herself, her time here at Western, and a recent mission trip she took with WIU’s Campus Students for Christ group to Juarez, Mexico.

Q. How did you learn about Western Illinois University? Why did you decide to apply to and attend Western?

Omotola: During the time I was in college for my bachelor’s degree, I knew I was going to pursue my graduate degree right after finishing my undergraduate degree. What I didn’t know then was where—until my mum brought up the idea of going to study in United States, and it kind of stuck with me. She mentioned to me that I should meet with her friend who is familiar with schools in U.S. I met with him, and he told me about WIU and two other universities. I applied to all three schools, but I was particularly taken by the swift response I got from Western. The international admission officer was very helpful and answered my questions no matter how silly I felt they were. Then I found out about the Nigerians and other international students on campus… all this just made my “pros” list for WIU even longer.

Omotola and WIU student members of Campus Students for Christ

Omotola and WIU student members of Campus Students for Christ

Q. How did you adjust to your new home as someone who had never traveled to/in the U.S. before?

Omotola: I had not been outside of my country until I came to the U.S. Even though I already speak English (because English is our official language in Nigeria), people had a difficult time understanding me because of my accent. In my head, all I wanted to do was shout at them and say, “If only you will be patient, then you will understand that we are speaking the same language.”

I must acknowledge that international student orientation was a great help with my adjusting to the new environment and meeting people. The volunteers and staff were great, and it was at this time I met another student from Nigeria, and he really helped me understand the way things work around campus and other things he knew that I was unfamiliar with. I must say that most people I met recently after I got here where very helpful and nice and this made settling in easier for me.

I did experience some culture shock, like riding in the bus and hearing curse words being used, but nothing really major, and making friends really did help me adjust.

Q. What are your favorite courses and why? Who or are your favorite instructors and why?

Omotola: My favorite courses are my emergency management classes, epidemiology and health behavior theory. Emergency management has always been fascinating to me, mostly because it involves a lot of hands-on experiences; I even took certificate courses in Nigeria. It was fun to use theories to understand human behavior in my health behavior theory class and try to develop models to alter unhealthy behavior. I am familiar with infectious disease because of where I am from, but this made understanding epidemiology a little bit easier.

WIU Campus Students for Christ preparing to help build a house on a mission trip the group took to Juarez, Mexico, in January.

WIU Campus Students for Christ preparing to help build a house on a mission trip the group took to Juarez, Mexico, in January.

Two professors I adore are Dr. Wen and Dr. Johnson. Dr. Wen because she readily offers to help in every step of the way, breaks confusing complex things to simple teachings for you to understand, and she is also full encouragement until you get it right. Dr. Johnson, because at first he makes it seem hard and forces you to push your limit, which I really like. They have been both very helpful.

Q. Tell me about the mission trip you recently took to Mexico: what organization did you travel with? Why did you want to take part in this trip? What kind of work/mission did you do while you were there?

Omotola: The Nigerian student I met during orientation week introduced me to a campus ministry at WIU called Campus Students for Christ (CSC), which is a student organization. This organization has been really good to me, and the members have been a major part of my adjustment to WIU. I currently live in the CSC house.

Omotola Ashafa in Juarez, Mexico

Omotola helping to build a house on a recent WIU Campus Students for Christ mission trip to Juarez, Mexico.

This student organization, CSC, takes a group of student to Juarez, Mexico, every year to build a house for a family who cannot afford one. I showed up to an interest meeting for the trip in 2014, because I thought will be a great opportunity and a memorable experience, but I did not go because I could not afford the trip. I also thought crossing the border could be a challenge, because I am international student.

I did not make it to the interest meeting for the 2015 trip because of a conflicting meeting, and I thought the trip was going to be at a time when I was to start work for graduate assistantship duties.

It was until I was talking to Barry Reed, the director of the Campus Ministry, and also the staff leading the group to Mexico. He told me the trip will be from Jan 3-10, and I resumed work Jan 11, so it worked out fine. He also told me that there was full funding for a student if he/she is interested. This was a donation from a family member that knows about CSC. This was very exciting news for me to get this opportunity and I did not have plans for the break anyway.

WIU Campus Students for Christ in Juarez, Mexico, January 2015

Members of WIU’s Campus Students for Christ group pose in front of the house they built on a recent trip to Juarez, Mexico.

The trip was fun, exhausting, and awesome at the same time. We visited Hueco Tanks State Park in El Paso, TX, before we crossed into Mexico. We were in Mexico for four days, and we built a house and gave some donations we had taken with us to the family. We started with a flat ground surface, and by the time we were done on the third day, there was a house standing.

We did all the work: we cleared the ground for foundation, built the walls and roof, insulated them, put them up, put in the dry wall, put in electric wire and appliances, before it actually started to come together and looked like a house. I remember looking at the house and was so proud of myself to have been a part of that. We presented the keys for the house to the family and prayed with them and we also gave them some donations. It was AWE-INSPIRING!

Int’l Student Success Spotlight: Xitong “Rebecca” Chen

Xitong "Rebecca" Chen Portrait of WIU President Jack Thomas

Dr. Rick Carter, executive director of Western Illinois University’s School of Distance Learning, International Studies and Outreach, Xitong “Rebecca” Chen, WIU President Jack Thomas, and Jenny Knavel, art professor. Rebecca designed and created the portrait she is holding with Dr. Thomas. It took her 57 hours to complete.

A few years ago, two of Western Illinois University’s leaders made a huge impression on Xitong “Rebecca” Chen when she met them in her native country, China. In fact, according to Rebecca, meeting Western President Dr. Jack Thomas and Dr. Richard Carter (executive director of WIU’s School of Distance Learning, International Studies and Outreach) provided the tipping point in the process of her decision about where to go to college in the United States.

This Fall 2014 semester, Rebecca, a sophomore with a double major in art and journalism, expressed just how much the initial impression that Dr. Thomas made on her with an impression of her own. For a project assigned in one of her art/design classes (taught by WIU Art Professor Jenny Knavel), Rebecca spent 57 hours working on a portrait of Dr. Thomas (see photo below). She presented the work to the President late last week.

So, for the December (and second) installment of Western’s “International Student Success Spotlight” series, I asked Rebecca to answer a few questions about her experiences with WIU. She shared a little bit about the first time she met President Thomas and Dr. Carter, as well as a bit about some of her experiences at Western and in North America so far.

Q. How did you learn about Western Illinois University and why did you decide to apply to and attend Western?

Xitong (Rebecca): As I grew up in Shanghai, which is the largest city in China, as well as the global financial center, I learned more and more about foreign countries and had an increasing interest in studying abroad. When I had almost finished my high school studies, I heard about Western Illinois University from one of my mom’s friends. When I began the application process to apply to Western, I found that WIU has an English as second language program called the “WESL Institute” [Western English as a Second Language Institute], with a low cost. I thought it would be a good program for me to improve my English and prepare for college life in the U.S.

Although I thought Western was definitely a good choice for my college study, I was still struggling with the decision about where I should go, since I received several offers from other good universities in the U.K., Canada, Australia and in other countries.

Xitong "Rebecca" Chen and WIU President Jack Thomas in China

This photo documents the first time Xitong “Rebecca” Chen (far right) met WIU President Jack Thomas (second from left) in China.

I had this struggle until I met President Jack Thomas and Dr. Rick Carter in Shanghai when they traveled to China. After talking to them, I unhesitatingly decided WIU would be my university in the coming four years, because it had two nice leaders who cared about their students in their university with their full hearts.

Q. What do you hope to do with your degrees in journalism and art once you graduate?

Xitong (Rebecca): I want to be a missionary and work in the Middle East in the future. I joined Campus Students for Christ (CSC) at WIU, and received help from several of the American students there. Just like the help I received, I also want to offer my help to others who need it. I hope through my studies in journalism and art, I can use my writing, my words, my actions, and my artwork as a missionary.

Q. How did you adjust to your new home as a person who had never traveled to/in the U.S. before?

Xitong (Rebecca): When I first came to the U.S., I was only 17 years old. The language problem was definitely a huge struggle for me. Whenever an American talked to me, I could not understand; whenever I spoke to someone who was not Chinese, he or she could not understand either. Due to that, I tended to avoid making any more American friends. I felt my accent was ugly; I felt no American would like to talk with me. I felt deep loneliness from living in a foreign country.

Besides that, I also had a huge culture shock, because the U.S. is so much different compared with China. The types of food, the ways we do laundry, the transportation systems, and the etiquette in daily life were all something new to me that I needed to learn from the beginning. It almost seemed easier to just give up instead of overcoming all of these difficulties; however, my faith helped get me through. I also met nice teachers, who took their time to help me, at the WESL Institute, as well as friendly classmates who came from such other countries as Japan, Korea, and Saudi Arabia and who were willing to share with me information about their similar difficulties when coming to the U.S.

I also met nice Americans from Campus Students for Christ who invited me to their activities and helped me to understand American culture. These people gave me encouragement and helped boost my confidence to help me face the difficulties. I gradually solved more and more problems with their help and support.

Then, I shared my experience with other Chinese students and told them about never giving up. In 2013, I became the president of the Chinese Student Association, and I also volunteered in orientation for international students every year to share my experiences.

Q. What have been (or are) your favorite courses and why?

Xitong (Rebecca): My favorite course at WIU so far has been English 100, taught by Jacqueline Wilson-Jordan. After graduating from the WESL Institute, I took this course in my first semester of my studies at WIU. Although I learned a lot in WESL classes, I still could not fully understand the professors and my new American classmates. Professor Wilson was a nice and patient professor with a lot of teaching experience. She tried her best to understand the difficult situation of being an international student studying in a foreign country and helped me in any way she could. I enjoyed her classes with organized handouts, detailed explanations, vivid writing examples, and a friendly environment in the class. I not only learned a lot of helpful knowledge in her class, but I also experienced more Americans’ good personalities. My first semester was really the most memorable one in my college study. Later, I recommended Professor Wilson’s classes to other international students, and they all loved her teaching and gained useful tips on English writing.

Q. Tell me about one or two of your most memorable experiences yet as a student at Western.

Xitong "Rebecca" Chen with WIU Campus Students for Christ in Juarez, Mexico

Xitong “Rebecca” Chen volunteering with Campus Students for Christ in Juarez, Mexico, in 2014.

Xitong (Rebecca): In 2012, I went to Juarez, Mexico, with 18 other students from Campus Students for Christ. We went there to build a house for a Mexican family who did not have a home to stay in.

We drove three days from Macomb to Mexico. It was hard for us to sit in a vehicle for such a long time, as well as for the drivers to keep focusing on driving. We stayed in different churches on the way to Mexico, but there were not comfortable beds in the churches, so we either slept on the floor or brought  “easy beds” with us.

Conditions were more uncomfortable after arriving in Mexico. We could not take showers for three days, and during those three days, we worked from 7 a.m.–5 p.m. with only one half-hour for lunch. The weather there was also harsh. It was hot like summer in daytime, but cold like winter, without sunshine, at night. On the third day of building the house, it was even snowy. When I was in China, I was always a “princess” who did not need to do any rough work (even something simple such as washing the dishes), so, of course, building a house in Mexico is not something I had ever done before!

Xitong "Rebecca" Chen and fellow WIU Campus for Christ volunteers

Xitong “Rebecca” Chen and fellow WIU Campus for Christ volunteers in Juarez, Mexico.

We cut the wood, shoveled stone and sand, mixed the concrete, finished the foundation of the house on the empty sandy, ground, all on the first day. We hammered the wood sticks together and stood the wood frames on the foundation on the second day. On the third day, we filled insulation in the wood frame, added chicken wires out of the wall, covered the wires with concrete, helped with the electricity, made the roof, installed windows and doors for the house.

I learned all these English words and how to do this work in those three days. And the pain that came from the work (and affected every corner of my body) made me swear never join this activity again! But before we left Mexico, when we gave the Mexican family the keys of the house and prayed for them and their house, that changed my idea about this. All of this work was done to help others in God’s Kingdom.

In 2013, I went to Juarez, Mexico, with CSC again to build another house for another family. And I have registered for building another house in Juarez this year, too.

WIU International Student Success Spotlight: Bahar Mamedova

Bahar Mamedova

Bahar Mamedova is an international graduate student in Western’s Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration.

Recently, our office helped promote the fact that Western Illinois University’s international student enrollment has reached more than 500, thanks to the diligence of Center for International Studies (CIS), administrators, faculty and staff.

Rick Carter, executive director of the School of Distance Learning, International Studies and Outreach, along with WIU administrators and Western’s English as a Second Language (WESL) director, have crossed the oceans and traversed to embassies in Washington, D.C., establishing relationships, forging partnerships and spreading the good word about WIU. As a result, new international student enrollment has increased by 140 this fall to 511 students from 370 in Fall 2013.

Behind those numbers are the stories of the hundreds of international students who come to Western from faraway lands. To share their experiences, once a month, with the help of staff in the Center for International Studies, we’ll be spotlighting an international student.

This month, we start with graduate student Bahar Mamedova, who is from Turkmenistan.

Q: How did you learn about Western Illinois University and why did you decide to apply to and attend Western?

Bahar: My husband attended WIU, and after he graduated, I also decided to apply at Western to pursue my master’s degree. I always had a dream to study at an American university, and despite current criticism of American higher education, I still believe that it is among the most competitive higher education systems in the world. America, in the past, has made large investments in higher education and has built a tremendous infrastructure of universities, libraries, classrooms, and laboratories.

Personally, I applied here because Western is equipped well with updated electronic technologies and there are lots of different educational resources that I could benefit from. Additionally, at Western, international students are free to choose from vast programs of study and faculty members are always accessible and ready to help.

Q: What do you hope to do with your graduate degree in recreation, park and tourism administration (RPTA) once you graduate?

Bahar Mamedova - WESL Graduation

Bahar Mamedova (center) and Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas (left) and School of Distance Learning, International Studies and Outreach Executive Director Rick Carter at Bahar’s graduation ceremony from Western’s English as a Second Language (WESL) Institute.

Bahar: After I graduate from Western, I would like to utilize my knowledge and skills in international tourism administration in my home country, Turkmenistan. Currently, Turkmenistan is trying to develop its own tourism industry. New tourism-promoting ideas and innovative approaches are needed in Turkmenistan, and I believe I would be able to positively contribute to this process.

Q: What have been (or are) your RPTA favorite courses and why?

Bahar: My favorite RPTA classes include international tourism, statistics, and event planning.

From the international tourism course, I learned a lot about cultural diversity, multiculturalism, and globalization. In the statistics class, I significantly improved my ability to extract value from data and effectively communicate that value. The event planning class equipped me with important tools and skills and also provided me with a necessary foundation to organize high-quality events.

With all I have learned in my graduate courses at WIU, I am successfully utilizing during my internship at WIU’s Center for International Studies.

Q: What kinds of things did you learn during your internship at Western?

Bahar: My internship experience allows me to work with diverse international student populations. While at the Office of International Student Orientation and Activities, I had an opportunity to work in a friendly, professional, and exciting environment that provides a great potential for growth experiences and advancement. Over the course of the internship, I was involved with several projects aiming to improve international student experiences on campus. These experiences clearly defined my internship expectations and goals.

Overall, it was a valuable experience that gave me a greater appreciation for those who deal with a culturally diverse international student population within the university on a daily basis.

Q: Tell me about one of your most memorable experiences here at Western.

Bahar: One of my most enjoyable volunteer experiences was teaching children to speak Russian at the PACT Head Start. It was fun and exciting to see children trying to learn a new language. This experience gave me an understanding that even a little effort can make an impact in a child’s or anyone’s life. I deeply believe that being involved as a volunteer will make our community a better place to live, and it also enriches our own lives.

Q: What are some of your favorite activities to engage in while you’re here in the U.S.?

Bahar: I like to spend all my free time with my children by engaging them in different learning and recreational activities. I also like to travel to see new places. While in the U.S., I have learned skiing and ice-skating. It was a fun experience.

WIU’s Thai Scholars traveling, adjusting to life in U.S.

For 10 high-achieving students from Thailand, a weekend this past February was the beginning of a life-changing adventure at Western Illinois University.

For 10 high-achieving students from Thailand, a weekend this past February was the beginning of a life-changing adventure at Western Illinois University. They are pictured here after they first arrived in the U.S.

Just about five months ago, 10 high-achieving students from Thailand began a new adventure at Western.

The students (all from rural districts in Thailand) are part of the One-District-One-Scholarship (ODOS) program, sponsored by their government, the Kingdom of Thailand. They arrived at WIU in February and were immediately enrolled in a specially developed Western program, Royal Thai Newcomers, which helped prepare them for their English-language studies through the WESL (Western English as a Second Language) Institute.

According to David Bell, WESL director, all 10 of the students have matriculated into the regular WESL program and are now studying English six hours per day.

“They continue to live in University housing, and several of them have requested to have U.S. roommates beginning this fall semester,” Bell said. “They have adjusted well, and their English-language skills have improved greatly in the short time they have been here.”

Once the students are competent in their English-language skills, they will begin their studies in their chosen majors.

This past weekend, Western's Thai Scholars traveled to Chicago with Bell and Dana Vizdal, the assistant director at Western’s Center for International Studies, to meet the Secretary General of Education visiting from Thailand. The Thai Consulate hosted a luncheon for all of the scholars, and after the luncheon, the secretary General also held a private meeting with the students to discuss their academic progress and their adjustment to U.S. culture.

This past weekend, Western’s Thai Scholars traveled to Chicago to meet the Secretary General of Education visiting from Thailand. (They are pictured here with Thai Scholars who are attending other Midwestern universities.) The Thai Consulate hosted a luncheon for all of the scholars, and after the luncheon, the secretary General also held a private meeting with the students to discuss their academic progress and their adjustment to U.S. culture.

“The plan is to provide them with the skills they need to succeed so they can start in their major programs in Spring 2014,” noted Richard Carter, executive director of Western’s School of Distance Learning, International Studies, and Outreach.

This past weekend, the students traveled to Chicago with Bell and Dana Vizdal, the assistant director at Western’s Center for International Studies.

“The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the ODOS scholars to the Secretary General of Education visiting from Thailand. The Thai Consulate hosted a luncheon for all of the scholars. After the luncheon, the secretary General also held a private meeting with the students to discuss their academic progress and their adjustment to U.S. culture,” Carter explained.

Western Illinois University English as a Second Language Institute Director David Bell and Minister of Education Wachira Tirakornvisesphukdi from the Royal Thai Embassy

WESL Institute Director David Bell and Minister of Education Wachira Tirakornvisesphukdi from the Royal Thai Embassy

At the June 15 meeting, in addition to the Thai Scholars from Western, Thai students from several universities in the Midwest region were present, as well as the Secretary General of Education visiting from Thailand, Dr. Nontigorn Kanchanachitra. Also present were the Minister Counselor of the Royal Thai Consulate, Dr. Nantawan Sangton, and the Guidance Office of the Office of Educational Affairs, Dr. Korn Thepnorarat, Carter added.

Learn more about the One-District-One-Scholarship program at thainewsupdate24.blogspot.com/2013/03/one-district-one-scholarship-program.html and more about how the Thai Scholars came to Western at www.wiu.edu/news/newsrelease.php?release_id=10514.

Spring Break on the Road Fulfills Students’ Dreams

A spring break road trip by college students is not unheard of, but when a group of Western Illinois University students piled into a rental car in mid-March it was to fulfill a life-long dream.

Chinese students Xin Tan, Shi Yong Li and Nolan Zuo are pictured with one of the shopkeepers they encountered on Route 66.

Chinese students Xin Tan, Shi Yong Li and Nolan Zuo are pictured with one of the shopkeepers they encountered on Route 66.Route66b

Three international students, spearheaded by the dream of visiting broadcasting scholar Nolan Zuo, of China, drove nearly the entire length on the historic Route 66, which stretches from Chicago, IL, to Santa Monica, CA. Zuo was joined on the trip by Western English as a Second Language (WESL) students Xin Tan and Zhi Yong Li, both also of China.

While Western was on spring break, March 11 – 15, the three friends drove 3,000 miles of the route in six days, pausing at car museums and information stops along the way. Their section of the trip began in Springfield, IL.

“This was one of my biggest dreams in America,” said Zuo, who is studying in America through May. “I had heard about how important the route was to the area and a lot of people have never given up on this old road – we saw a lot of people trying to protect it. We really enjoyed talking to people along the way who had great stories.”

Route66dLi said he was interested in the trip because of his study of history and about how important Route 66 was to the expansion of the west. Tan said a popular car advertisement in China references Route 66, which piqued his interest in the trip.

During the trip, Tan took charge of navigation, and Li took most of the photographs.

Prior to departing on the trip, the trio spent many hours mapping out their route and the places they hoped to visit each day. During the final stop in Santa Monica, CA, Zuo said the three friends could reflect on everything they’d seen.

“When we got to Santa Monica, we could see the Pacific Ocean, and we just relaxed and enjoyed the view,” he said. “It was so interesting that on the other side of that ocean is our home in China.”

The three friends said they enjoyed a variety of American cuisine along the way but also looked for Chinese food in larger cities.

All three men said they would like to plan a return trip to enjoy Route 66. All three also have numerous other American sites they would like to see before their return to China.

For more information about stops along the route, visit historic66.com.