Letter to the Editor: The English Language Institute’s closure is a tragic step back

In response to a recent letter to the editor, a former English Language Institute student offers his perspective on the program’s closure.


Echo Chen

(Illustration by Echo Chen)

This is a time for disappointment. After so many years, so many students, so much education and information received, after so many things learned about a great country and about a fascinating city like New York, we — the hundreds of thousands of students who at some point in our personal history wanted to improve our English at the ELI, NYU’s English Language Institute — we learned about the news that this institution is going to disappear for economic reasons. Or maybe something else. Who knows?

[Read more: Letter to the Editor: WSN’s coverage of the ELI is erroneous]

I am from Spain and I work as a journalist. In 2016, I left my things in my country and enrolled in the ELI classes at NYU: I wanted to improve my English and I did so. But what, in parallel to learning the language, generated a deep impression in me was and still is the lived experience, as well as the excellent teachers. They became someone close to us, doing much more than academic work with dialogue, tolerance, trust and open arms to all students — wherever they came from or whatever they thought. Everyday life at the ELI helped me to believe that humans can accept and understand each other beyond religion or skin color.

During my time at the ELI, my class comprised students from Chile, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, China, Turkey, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Singapore. Only a few times in my life have I ever experienced so much harmony in such a diverse group. I think that’s the ELI, that’s New York and that’s the idea about the United States today — an idea that thousands of students have transmitted as improvised messengers when they return to their countries in every corner of the world.

The ELI is not only about learning English grammar: It is an experience of union, of forming a team, of respecting how different we are, of talking and sharing your beliefs and truths along with mine. The ELI taught me to believe in the importance of this experience, just sharing together, just learning English.

The ELI is going to disappear, and with it, a meeting point for communication and understanding disappears. This is tragic. This is a time for disappointment.

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