Program gives international students unique American experiences

University Park, Pa. — On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., Adem and Arzu Ozcelik visited the Lincoln Memorial and tried to catch an early glimpse of the blooming cherry blossoms. This kind of activity would not have been possible in their native country of Turkey.

The Ozceliks have been students at Penn State since August 2008 as a part of the Intensive English Communication Program (IECP), which helps students learn English as a foreign language. The IECP is a noncredit, nondegree program composed of small classes with students from all over the world.

“We are so lucky to be in the Penn State IECP,” said Adem Ozcelik. “It’s a really good university. We had the opportunity to contact the professors in our area of study so it was a great opportunity to come here for language preparation.” He plans to stay at Penn State to get his master’s degree and doctorate in physics. Adem’s wife, Arzu, also plans to stay at Penn State to get her master’s and doctoral degrees in education.

“In a time when we have to think globally, it’s a wonderful thing to bring people from all over the globe here to Penn State,” said Ann Frentzen, director of IECP.

Frentzen said the program also helps international students adjust to the culture of the United States, with lessons ranging from nonverbal communication to opening a bank account. The program attracts about 117 foreign students — ranging in age from late teens to early 40s — from around 20 different countries.

One of the Ozceliks’ favorite parts of IECP is the conversation partner program, which consists of a group of students who come together from different countries to practice their English skills, share their experiences, interests and opinions.

During their time here, IECP students also make a big impact on the local economy through the purchases of everything from basic essentials to electronics and even cars. In 2007-08, almost $721 million was spent in Pennsylvania by international students and their families. In State College alone, the figure totaled $84.5 million.

“This money would not be spent if these students weren’t here,” said Frentzen, who also said many friendships are formed across cultures.

“It’s a good example of the United States of America, because it also has a mosaic structure,” said Adem. “People are from different backgrounds so it’s a first stage for us to get used to this kind of environment. In Turkey, it’s 99 percent Turkish people, so meeting people from different races is a good opportunity.”

For more information about the program, visit http://www.outreach.psu.edu/intensive-english/index.html online.

Penn State’s Intensive English Communication Program (IECP) provides quality language instruction to nonnative speakers of English. The program emphasizes the language and skills needed for academic success in college or at a university, but also includes cultural education to prepare students for daily life in an English-speaking environment. The Intensive English Communication Program is part of Penn State Outreach, the largest unified outreach organization in American higher education. Penn State Outreach serves more than 5 million people each year, delivering more than 2,000 programs to people in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, all 50 states and 80 countries worldwide.

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Last Updated April 16, 2009