The ESL Community of NYU

Through language and culture barriers, it’s often tough for international students to find a fitting community here at NYU.

Balancing school work with extracurriculars, internships and a social life is challenging for any student during midterm season. This struggle is heightened for more than 5,000 international students whose first language isn’t English, but many academic resources and student groups try aiding these students.

NYU’s international students come from more than 130 countries, and the university has a number of country-specific clubs to create a network of students with similar backgrounds.

There are also some broader international student groups such as the Stern International Student Association, which acts as an umbrella group for non-native English speakers at NYU Stern.

The goals of the Stern ISA is to create a welcoming place for students and to provide professional guidance through the visa and job processes. The organization also often hosts social events, such as coffee hours where students can practice their English in relaxed and intimate settings.

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Stern sophomore Grace Muchtar is the Vice President of Stern ISA, and she is an international student from Jakarta, Indonesia. While Muchtar grew up speaking English as her first language, she said that many of her friends had difficulties transitioning to culture where English is the predominant language.

“While planning events, we tried to think about what kind of events we would have wanted to go to when we first came to the U.S.,” Muchtar said. “I know that there can be culture shock and homesickness for any student, so as an association we wanted to create a comfortable community for any lost student to feel at home in.”

There are also specific academic programs for international students who need help with transitioning to coursework in English. As freshmen, many international students take an ESL Writing the Essay class that caters to their needs.

Professor Josh Weber teaches some international sections of the class, and he said that the biggest source of support for ESL students in his class is the shared sense of struggle in their transition process.

“At the beginning of the semester, the room is probably quieter because these students are more nervous, but by the second month or so, there’s a stronger sense of community,” Weber said. “It’s partially from outside the classroom, they have more events. There’s fewer events that are specifically for them, so they see a lot of the same people.”

CAS freshman Gabriel Manzano is from a little town outside of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and he said that the tight-knit ESL community can be a blessing and a curse, so he has been trying to leave this comfort zone and meet other students from different backgrounds.

“So far it’s been great,” Manzano said. “NYU is extremely welcoming, everyone is very open and respectful towards ESL students. I definitely feel like this a home away from home.”

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 11 print edition. Email Miranda Levingston at [email protected]

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