At the start of the semester, ESOL Coordinator Lisa Flanagan encouraged faculty to recommend students to the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, citing a need for students to get help as early in their Bowdoin careers as possible.
The Bowdoin ESOL program provides aid for international students and students with parents whose native language is not English.
Lisa Flanagan arrived in October to help with the Writing Project and the ESOL program, which falls in the Office of the Dean for Academic Affairs. Flanagan works with students to refine their writing, to improve their grammar, and to employ English idioms, in addition to helping them adjust to a new culture.
"My job is [to provide] writing support for students whose first language isn't English," Flanagan said. "I also help them to understand what Bowdoin expects from students."
According to Flanagan, there are a wide range of students who receive help from the ESOL program. For some international students, English may be a third or fourth language for them. Other students come from traditionally immigrant neighborhoods and have not been exposed to extensive English training in their local high schools.
"I have a mix of international and domestic students. It goes from big picture to smaller problems," Flanagan said.
High school experiences with English can be key for the students with whom Flanagan works. Often, students who have had good ESOL programs in high school do not need as much help once they arrive at Bowdoin.
"Some of these students have gone to American high schools, but their schools didn't prepare them that well. That's a huge problem," Flanagan said.
Dudney Sylla '08, whose family left Port-au-Prince, Haiti and came to Boston in 1988, agrees with Flanagan's assessment of the importance of English training in high school. His parents primarily speak Haitian Creole, so when he got to school, he received help from his schools' ESOL programs, beginning in elementary school.
"My high school was really good at preparing people. It was hard pronouncing or understanding certain words at first, since the first language I learned was Haitian Creole, but I have no problems now," Sylla said.
Fei Qu '09 came from China and is an international student. Her first language is Mandarin, and she works with the ESOL program here. According to Qu, she has found the Bowdoin support services very helpful.
"I got a lot of help from professors and especially the Learning Center. I had a writing partner, a mentor, and an English as a Second Language Advisor last semester," Qu said.
According to Qu, the toughest part of adjusting to life at Bowdoin as opposed to higher education in China has not been the language barrier but the cultural differences.
Qu's overall experience with the language has been positive.
"I can study what I like and I have tremendous opportunities," Qu said. "It helps me to think differently."