Alumni Stories

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SIU in the Fall

We are very proud of our alumni! We’ve helped students from all over the world improve their English language skills and we welcome the chance to stay in touch with them.

Regardless of whether your career is just beginning or if you’re nearing retirement and no matter what field you’ve gone into, we encourage you to please let us know how you are doing.

We would like to share your story on this webpage. This page will help our current students as well as our prospective students learn about you. It’s also a great way for you and other former CESL students to connect with old friends!


Student at Reitaku University, Japan

"Originally from Vietnam, I came to Japan two and a half years ago. I was interested in studying abroad because I wanted to communicate with friends from all over the world, improve my English, and broaden my horizons. However, since last year, I have not been able to study abroad due to the coronavirus. Instead, I participated in the CESL Online Study Program at Southern Illinois University twice. The first was Spring Break 2021 (4 weeks) and the second was May 2021 (3 weeks).

My friends were from Mexico, Colombia and Saudi Arabia, and other countries. They were very kind people and we communicated well together. I was happy.

Outside of class, I also participated every week in "Guest speaker hour" and "Game hour". I think it was very useful for my conversation skills. Speakers shared their work, experiences and other interesting things. Afterwards, students asked questions and shared their thoughts. The teacher in charge of Game hour made various themes and interesting games. Each week was like a social gathering. I often communicated and exchanged culture with students from all over the world. It was a lot of fun.

The second time I took the "Community Engagement" program. I took online classes with students from Turkmenistan, Honduras, Peru, South Africa and more. There were also people working at the company, teachers and actors. It was easy to understand because everyone was kind and used simple words.

In the Community Engagement program, students learned about 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The guest speakers worked in organizations and shared their actual experiences.

The "Community Engagement" program had no exams, but required final presentations. The topic of my group's presentation was "No Poverty". We listed solutions and measures to reduce poverty. Thanks to the efficiency of group work, the presentation went very well. The teacher praised the group's efforts. I was very happy that our presentation was successful.

The above is my experience of participating in CESL's online study abroad program. I love the way CESL teachers teach. After participating twice, I improved my English proficiency. Due to the current corona, it is not possible to study abroad in the United States, so the CESL Online Study Abroad Program is recommended."


Student at Reitaku University, Japan

My name is TRAN THI NGOC HAN and I am a second year student of the Global Business major in the Department of International Studies. I am from Vietnam and came to Japan two and a half years ago. I was interested in studying abroad because I wanted to communicate with many friends around the world, improve my English skills, and broaden my horizons. However, due to the coronavirus from last year, I was not able to study abroad in the US or Australia. Instead, I participated in Southern Illinois University's CESL online study abroad program twice: the first time was during spring break 2021 (4 weeks) and the second time was in May 2021 (3 weeks).

The first time, CESL divided the classes according to TOEIC score. The course I took was "English for Academic Purposes 1". At first, I wasn't confident about my English level and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to catch up with my friends. It was also the first time for me to participate in an online study abroad program, so I was worried that it would not go smoothly. Fortunately, the teacher was very kind and explained everything in simple terms. And my friends from Mexico, Colombia, and Saudi Arabia, as well as my friends from Tokushima University, were very kind and we communicated well together. I was very happy.

In the "English for Academic Purposes 1" course, we learned grammar and academic vocabulary through the "National Geographic" program. The lesson we learned was "Living longer". We had quizzes and final exams, but if you practice well, you can definitely get a high score. To improve our writing skills, we wrote two essays. The students wrote them and then the teacher corrected them.

Outside of class, I also participated in "Guest speaker hour" (every Wednesday) and "Game hour" (every Tuesday). I think it really helped my conversation skills. The guest speakers shared their work, experiences, and interesting things with us. After listening to the guest speaker's lecture, students could ask questions and share their thoughts about the lecture. the teacher in charge of Game hour created various themes and interesting games every week. In addition to participating in the games, we were also able to participate in the social events. I had a great time communicating and exchanging cultures with students from all over the world. It was a lot of fun.

"English for Academic Purposes 1" ended with a final quiz and discussion on the topic "Living longer". We debated whether it is fair to tax young people in order to contribute to social welfare for the elderly. We came up with our own opinions and evidence to persuade our teachers and friends. Through this discussion, we were able to learn commonly used expressions and improve our English communication skills.

For the second time, we took the "Community Engagement" program. This time, a TOEIC score of 500 or higher was required. I took the online class with students from Turneristan, Honduras, Peru, Don Timo, South Africa, and other countries. Everyone was generally older than me. Some were working in the corporate world, some were teachers, some were actors. I was more worried than the first time because everyone seemed to have a high level of English. However, after studying with all of them for the first one or two times, I felt more confident. Everyone was friendly and used simple language, so it was easy to understand. It made me feel at ease.

In the "Community Engagement" program, the students learned about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Each lesson had a different theme. After the teacher in charge taught us about each goal, we attended a lecture by a guest speaker in order to better understand the goal. In the lecture, the guest speakers introduced what groups and organizations are working towards the SDGs. All the guest speakers were active in their groups and organizations and shared their actual experiences, so the students were able to understand them well. After listening to the guest speakers' lectures, students were free to ask questions and exchange opinions with the guest speakers. Afterwards, there was homework. I say homework, but it was very simple. You had to write down three points you learned from the guest speaker, two comparison points about the lesson, and one point you had a question about or something you still didn't understand, and then your homework was done. To me, this homework is not difficult or time-consuming, and it is a way for the CESL teachers to assess how well the students are absorbing the lesson.

The "Community Engagement" program did not have an exam, but I did have a final presentation with three other friends. The topic of our presentation was "No Poverty". We gave solutions and measures to reduce poverty. Thanks to the efficiency of our group work, our presentation went very well. The teacher praised our group's efforts. I was very happy that our presentation was a success.

The above is my experience of participating in CESL's online study abroad program. I love the way CESL teachers teach, and after two sessions, I have improved my English skills and my TOEIC score has improved slightly. The class hours were from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and sometimes until 24:00 p.m. It was hard because I got sleepy, but it was fun because I was able to speak English with foreign teachers and friends. I was able to make a lot of friends. I have also come to accept multiculturalism and differences in values. Due to the current corona, I cannot study in the U.S., so I recommend the CESL online study abroad program. It's a really great program and I encourage Reitaku University students to give it a try. I will always support this program.


MBA Student at Webster University

I am doing very well at Webster University. My learning at CESL is very helpful, my GPA for Fall semester is 3.92. This achievement could not be possible without CESL and its staff. So, thank you!


Intern at Villares Metals S.A.

“I got this internship at this big company in Brazil for many reasons, among those is the English proficiency I developed at CESL. Also, I had an internship at Gardner Denver, in Quincy, IL, and I was the only foreigner among 10 interns there. My manager could barely tell I was a foreigner because my English is very good.”


Architecture Student

“The experience at CESL really helped me to see things with other eyes and improve my ability to design architecture and urban plans.”


Assistant Professor | Vice Dean for Registration Affairs at Umm Alqura University

“I would like to thank CESL members for research skills they provided us to overcome obstacles we confronted during the academic years in my PhD program.”


English teacher in Brazil

“I attended an American and teaching methodology course that lasted almost two months at CESL and it helped me a lot because I could improve the language and learn much more about the American culture. It was an amazing opportunity in my professional and personal life. I'm so grateful and I already miss the teachers and the place.”


Teacher - Department of Public Education

“It's been a great experience to learn from CESL. The diploma has surely made my résumé more attractive and my personal background broader.” 


Network Technician

“I was lucky enough to have attended CESL, one of the best English learning centers in Illinois. I went from not being able to say a word in English to entertaining conversation in just one semester at CESL. The teachers were so great and dedicated to our success. I want to say thanks to Susan McFalls, one of my teachers who helped me a lot. The program provided me a conversation partner, who became my friend, and we are still in touch. Today I work as a network technician, after obtaining my associate degree in information assurance and cybersecurity. I'm also pursuing my bachelor’s degree in the same field at University of Maryland University College.”