Since the FIU English Language Institute (ELI) was founded 35 years ago in 1978 by the College of Arts & Sciences, the institute has reached more than 25,000 international students and professionals from countries across Latin America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
With more than 20 instructors, many of international origin themselves, ELI offers a variety of programs tailored to individuals who have chosen English as their medium of communication for academic or professional purposes. The institute trains more than 600 students per year, many of whom travel from overseas and stay in the dorms on FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus (MMC) for the duration of the weeks-long programs.
Programs include Intensive English, an academic preparation course designed to help international students make the transition to American academic life, and Intensive Conversation, a non-academic immersion program. Also a TOEFL testing center, the institute offers a TOEFL preparation course and tests more than 1,000 individuals per year. ELI also offers community programs tailored to the needs of professionals who live and work in South Florida, of which the summer Conversational English Program is launching July 23. Students also have access to language labs where they can use software, audio facility and video lab to augment classroom learning.
“English is the language of commerce, technology and the Internet. The world is becoming increasingly global and competitive. Professionals need to have excellent oral and written skills in English if they are to succeed,” said Luis Sanchez, director of ELI. “ELI continues to serve people who want to learn the English language for academic and professional matters. We’ve been here for 35 years, but we continue to fulfill our mission with the same enthusiasm and dedication since we first started.”
Franchesca Martinez, a native of Venezuela, came to the U.S. in 2011 at the age of 16. Not knowing a word of English, she wanted to learn the language and understand the culture in order to study international business and follow in her father’s footsteps. She enrolled with ELI and took every course they offer.
“My father represents a power generator company and, for a long time, I have wanted to work for and represent that same company around the world. I know the first step in doing that is to learn English,” Martinez said. “The courses and professors helped me meet my goals of learning to read, write and speak English and I was able to pass the TOEFL exam. I’m lucky because I can study what I love, which is international business.”
Along with language training, ELI gives students an introduction to American life and culture. As part of the ELI’s mission to promote intercultural understanding, and as a way to augment what the students learn in the classroom, students have the opportunity to attend a variety of lectures, workshops and social events on FIU’s various campuses. They also have the opportunity to go on trips to different attractions in Miami.
“Teaching students from all over the world has been one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Sanchez said. “Everyday, I put myself in the shoes of our students, having had to learn several languages and adapt to a new culture myself. I’ve shared their fears, dreams and experiences. The institute has been growing and growing, and we want to continue to make a difference in the lives of our students.”
Not stopping any time soon, the ELI is working to expand its offerings and impact students by partnering with universities in Colombia, Saudi Arabia and Shanghai, China. The institute also offers courses at the FIU Pembroke Pines Center and online.