Sayaka K.

Photo of Sayaka K.
Home Country:

When did you come to the ELP?

I came here on January 9th, 2023 (Spring 1). When it comes to the end of two session (14 weeks), I would say time flies. I feel like I arrived in Philadelphia just yesterday.

Why did you come to the ELP?

I’ve been working in a food manufacturing company which has a system to send their employees to North America to improve their English skills for business use, as well as to learn another culture. They had temporarily stopped doing that due to the pandemic, but they have now resumed accepting applications for it. Even though my job doesn’t necessarily need to use English, I had had dream to learn in foreign country for a long time and that’s why I applied to it. Our company arranged with me to come to the ELP at UPenn. That wasn’t my choice, but I’m happy to have been here.

"Not only have I been able to improve my English skills, but I have also grown as a person, so now I can go back to Japan with my head held high."

When I was asked this question, I also wondered why they chose ELP to send us here. Of course, we already experienced the great school activities. According to our company’s system, they ‘ve maintained the great partnership with ELP for about 20 years. The quality of the classes, support for the students, curriculum exceeds expectations are top level, and the staffs and managers are attentive and responsive.

Furthermore, Philadelphia is one of the reasons to choose ELP. Though Philly is a big city, many people who I’ve met are very friendly, helpful, and kind. I’ve been homestaying in American person’s home, and she taught me many things about America, and I learned a lot from her. Philly is such a historical city that we are able to access many places easily which is worth visiting and able to learn many aspects of American culture. In addition, ELP provides us enough services in order to protect students’ safety.

What challenges have you faced?

Japanese, like me, are sometimes very shy, awkward to speak out in class activity and feel embarrassed about making mistakes. When I started my class, I was overwhelmed that many classmates were very proactive and spoke up their answer quickly. They encouraged me to answer to our teacher’s questions.

What goals have you reached?

I think this could be relevant to the “challenges which I faced” question. When our teacher called for volunteers for presentation in front of the class on another day, one of our classmates raised her hand. On the other hand, I reacted just “if you need any other volunteer, I will do that...”, and her reply was” it’s really up to you.” From this experience, I recognized that my attitude was completely mistaken. I should have just said, “Yes, I will do that.” I think realizing this was significant progress for me.

What have been your favorite experiences in the ELP?

I could say, “It’s everything”.

I could meet many friendly students from around the world. Most of the students are late teens to early 20s. I was 38 years old during my session. I sometimes felt a generation gap, but they talked to me so friendly that made my school life happier. I realized that many students had clear vision for the future and worked hard for their dreams and it inspired me a lot.

I sometimes had small talk with my teachers after finishing our class, which was my delightful time. I appreciate them. In that, there were times when my own experiences came to life in class. For example, I’ve introduced Japanese folklore “Ubasute”, which was relevant to the theme of the class. To explain Japanese culture in English was valuable opportunity for me. Since my company encouraged us to take part in volunteer working in Philadelphia, I could talk about my volunteer experiences in class. Additionally, I was happy when my teacher talked to another teacher about my volunteer activities and the other teacher praised me. There was also a teacher who donated his time to talk with many students. I cannot help but feel grateful for the contributions of our teachers. They helped me how to communicate with people from different backgrounds.

During my stay, I participated in two school trips. One was to Washington DC, where we could visit many significant places such as The White House and the United States Capitol. Another trip was to Amish Village, which is a unique place in Pennsylvania. We could learn some parts of American culture, and through the trips we could communicate with students who were not in our class. Moreover, there were some events happening on almost every Friday. I could visit many historical places such as Liberty Bell Center and Barnes Foundation. I like to talk with ELP tutors who are UPenn students and have a part-time job at ELP student center. I learned a lot from them as well.

Overall, how do you think you’ve grown as a person from your experience here?

Through my experience here, I was able to figure out my own subtle prejudices and biases against another culture. I made a lot of mistakes during my stay, but it has become my nourishment. Not only have I been able to improve my English skills, but I have also grown as a person, so now I can go back to Japan with my head held high.