CCA’s Summer International Programs Build Skills and Community
Posted on Tuesday, March 6, 2012 by Allison Byers
Starting at a new school can be an exciting yet nerve-wracking experience. Will I like my teachers? Will I do well in my classes? Will I be able to talk about my ideas and be understood? Will I be able to find my way around? Will I make friends? What about my roommate?
Doing all of this in a new country brings with it even more concerns. Take all of the above and add language challenges and cultural differences! To help ease international students into life at CCA, our Office of Special Programs offers two distinctive summer programs: the Summer English + Art Studio Program for incoming undergraduate students, and the International Grad Prep Intensive for incoming graduate students.
In addition, there is a four-week summer program for international high school students who want to improve their English language skills while learning about design in San Francisco, the Summer High School English + Design Program.
CCA is the only art school in the United States with this type of specialized summer programming, designed to acclimate international students to American art-school culture and help them develop their English language skills in context.
More Than Mastering the Language
CCA’s summer international programs are much more than standard-issue ESL fare. English language development, while essential, is just one element. The ultimate goal is to prepare students to participate successfully in their undergrad or graduate school experience, and that involves everything from learning about academic writing style to navigating the day-to-day challenges of living in a new country. Yeni Chae, a fourth-year Graphic Design student from South Korea, said her participation in the Summer English + Art Studio Program was invaluable. “CCA is my first experience studying in the United States, and it was so helpful to get used to the critiques before classes started. The touring days in San Francisco were also very helpful because they familiarized me with the city. I would never have known what or where everything was without this program!”
Exploring the rich culture of the San Francisco Bay Area is an important component of all three programs. Participants receive a thorough introduction to the region’s highlights through field trips to museums and popular tourist attractions. Kangning Zhao, a third-year Interior Design student originally from China, says, “We went to many galleries and museums, and this was really helpful because it gave me an idea of the arts environment and what is available in San Francisco. Then later, when a professor or fellow student brought up SFMOMA or the de Young in class, I wasn’t confused. The introductions to the city also made me feel more comfortable going out and exploring on my own.”
Hugo Kuo, a third-year Industrial Design student from Taiwan, agrees that one of the most valuable parts of the program was visiting a wide variety of art museums and galleries -- and being tasked with writing reviews of the exhibitions in English. “It really gives you confidence, knowing the terms. It helps you feel like you know what’s what before classes start, so you are not going in blind.” By venturing out into the Bay Area’s art world, students absorb English and gain knowledge through experience, a process very different from classroom-based learning. This portion of the program also facilitates an important sense of place and connection among program participants.
“Real American Life” Assistance
Even if they already have some familiarity with English, many international students arrive with limited knowledge of how to navigate everyday life in America. These summer programs orient them not just to the art scene but to the real essentials: setting up bank accounts, cell phone service, and debit cards; learning where to shop for food; and locating public transportation. Writing and Literature faculty member Virginia Jardim, the lead summer English instructor and CCA’s coordinator of learning resources, observes, “The students who participate in these programs start the fall semester feeling much more secure and confident, really prepared to succeed.”
Establishing a Sense of Community
Summer ESL Coordinator Grace Remy, who manages all three programs, says that every year she is very gratified to see the participants create lasting friendships. “The programs allow for the development of an amazing sense of community among the new students.” Chae echoes this sentiment: “I met my most precious friends through my program.” Each program is structured to provide individual attention and the opportunity for partnered projects and small-group work. “It’s important to have a small group,” reports Zhao, “because it gives the students the opportunity to speak up and really practice their English. You have more confidence, and it is easier to make friends.”
Each program is supported by a solid backbone of faculty and staff who are constantly working to keep the curriculum enjoyable and relevant to the needs and interests of the participants. This support continues as international students progress through their years of formal study. Jardim emphasizes the importance of the writing and presentation support made available to all CCA students through the Learning Resource Center (LRC). “We hire experienced CCA graduate students to serve as academic coaches. These coaches are specially trained, and conduct one-on-one and small-group sessions with students throughout the year. Continuity is built through this ongoing relationship between the coaches and students.”
CCA values interactions between international and American students, as these exchanges greatly enrich the experience of all students at the college. Remy notes, “We are very excited to be preparing for the fifth year of the summer English programs for international students; the first students who went through the program will be graduating this spring. The summer programs are successful because of the contributions of the participating faculty and support from many offices on campus.” Staff from Career Services, Counseling, International Student Affairs and Programs (ISAP), the LRC, CCA Libraries, Residential Life, and other offices all work together to help students thrive and get the greatest possible benefit from their years at the college.
For more information on CCA’s programming for international students, as well as foreign-language translations of the program descriptions, please visit CCA’s page for International Students as well as the program pages for each of our ESL Summer Programs: the Summer High School English + Design Program, the Summer English + Art Studio Program, and International Grad Prep Intensive.
The four-week Summer High School English + Design Program is for international high school students who have completed the 10th, 11th, or 12th grade by summer 2012. Enrollment is limited. The priority application deadline is March 23, 2012.
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