Francis Makamu: From Congo to Oklahoma by Way of Monterey
November 17, 2011
I came to the United States because of my job as a teaching assistant in Congo-Kinshasa. In my country, I took English classes at the American Cultural Center. Understanding English is uncommon in my country, so knowing a little bit sometimes gives you a big opportunity. My knowledge in English allowed me to pass the paper-based TOEFL and to get a scholarship to study for a master’s degree in economics at Oklahoma State University. This was my big opportunity.
As a part of my program, I needed to complete two months of intensive English to prepare me for graduate study, which I realized I needed after my initial interactions with native English speakers. This is how I ended up in Monterey, California studying in the Intensive English Program.
My first week was challenging because I wanted my English to match my proficiency in French and Lingala. Still, I was able to overcome some of the challenges by taking my English learning step by step and allowing myself to make mistakes. In fact, the teachers were patient and encouraging, and I felt more and more comfortable learning English. My listening was the first thing to improve as I started to understand words that I was previously missing. Then I began to speak with confidence and to spend more time with people around me. I even developed some great friendships.
Since then, I have spent one year working on my master’s degree in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The different courses I took at the Monterey Intensive English Language Program helped me to become aware of economic issues that I was previously not familiar with. Also, by referring to what I learned there, I have written a paper and many summaries for which I have received good grades. Moreover, because I was invited to give presentations on different topics longer than the few minutes I was used to, I can now give presentations much more comfortably. What I learned in the Monterey Institute Intensive English Program was more than a language. I learned to be confident and to build on what I already know. I will not forget that I should not be ashamed to make mistakes but to keep practicing until I get things right.