Duke MMS Student Blog
Language Resources for International Students
Six months ago I came to the United States for the first time. Clutching a long to-do list, I was thrilled and nervous. But soon I realized how much help was available. For example, the Fuqua Language Institute and International Student Orientation were among my first experiences of Team Fuqua’s supportive culture. These events not only helped me pick up my English more quickly, but also introduced me to the multicultural environment at Fuqua (read more about it). My language skills have also benefited from another great resource — Kitty Dalton, ESL Specialist with the Management Communication Center.
Since the first day of the MMS program, I have been meeting with Kitty regularly to improve my English language skills. Kitty has been very nice and helpful, and she helps me not only with my English, but also networking with alumni and MBA students. Kitty is an incredible person and a valuable asset to all international Fuqua students. To gain a better understanding of her responsibilities and daily work, I conducted an interview with her:
Tell me a little about yourself.
My position at Fuqua is ESL Specialist. To the best of my knowledge, this kind of language support is rarely seen in top tier business schools in the United States. I believe this shows how supportive the school is and it speaks to how multinational we are. Fuqua truly cares about everyone.
I work with international students one-on-one to support their English language communication skills. I am also available to talk to students about any problems they are experiencing, in confidence, and can make a referral. Examples of my services include practicing mock interviews in person and over the phone, reviewing business communications (e.g. thank you notes, cover letters and resumes), and working on pronunciation, grammar or vocabulary. Part of my job is also to make students comfortable making conversation or “small talk,” which is an important skill for American-style networking. For all these services, I provide students with lots of feedback — there’s really no better way to improve than by finding out the mistakes you are making. Students invariably say, “I said that!?”
Sounds really helpful! So what is the biggest challenge that you encounter as the ESL Specialist at Fuqua?
The MMS program is an intense 10 months — students always say how fast the time goes by. So even though I would like to be able to spend even more time with the MMSers, we can still accomplish a lot. I offer one-on-one meetings one or more times per week, usually for 30 minutes. Even though our time is short, I truly enjoy working with students from all over the world and helping them succeed.
So what is your general advice to students to improve their English language skills?
Meeting with me is a great place to start because most English language learners don’t necessarily know what areas they need to improve. I can make a quick assessment and develop a plan for future improvement. Students also need to practice as much as possible, which sometimes means getting outside their “comfort zone.” But there are other techniques that are fairly simple: speaking aloud in English softly at home or in your car (this is called covert rehearsal), reading aloud to improve fluency, watching movies in English (with or without captions) or listening to broadcasts that you truly enjoy — research shows that if you do this at bedtime, you will actually “learn” while you sleep! Research also shows that you must be exposed to a new word 7 times before you remember it. So to extend your vocabulary, the more reading you can do in English, the better.
What is the most common service you provide to international MMS students?
Probably mock interview practice is the most common, and is something that students can quickly improve through practice. We can practice typical questions like, “Walk me through your resume” and “Why should we hire you?” and more complicated behavioral questions such as, “Tell me about a project you managed from beginning to end,” or “Tell me about a time that you persuaded others to your point of view.” And as always, I give students lots of feedback afterwards.
How can international MMS students access your services?
I send out a signup email at the beginning of each term for students who would like a “fixed” meeting at the same time each week. I also provide a list of available appointments for the upcoming week for students who want to meet on an occasional basis. I also have office hours and students can drop by my office. Finally, I’m available in the Fox Center for walk-up meetings once a week. If these times are still not convenient, students can contact me and I’ll try to accommodate their schedule.