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Harker English Language institute in The Harker School, San jose, CA 95129

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On the summer of 2010, I embarked on a summer program to the States. My mom’s friend, who resides in California, recommended to me a summer at the Harker school, San Jose. Before the trip, I had imagined the States as being similar to Singapore, the only other developed country i visited in my life thus far. Although I had no idea of what my host family looked like, nor what the place would be like, I went for it- with no regrets- and indeed, this awkward moment of bravery was rewarded with the most amazing summer of my life!

Harker ELI (Harker English Language Institute) is an intensive English day program designed especially for international students, and according to its website, being perky later for boarding school admission. ELI covers Gr1-12 students, with Middle and High schoolers in Saratoga campus and the rest at Bucknall. The school seeks to provide students a chance to improve their English, to immerse in American culture and...to chill out.

The whole application process was absolutely smooth, as my host family took care of the process, all i had to give was a few PDFs for my medical report, school pastoral, etc. And that’s it, simplicity at its best. I don’t know what it would be like to inquire this program independently, but I’ll say this again, ELI staffs know their game, no hassle, no fuss. For those who are interested, they offers liaison with Oakwood apartment, a mere 10 minutes away.

During the first week of the program, I truly felt it was my second home in the US, a massive campus with the aura of constant innovations- even though I know it was well over 70 years. The diversity of the students was an absolute highlight, ninety-percent were Chinese, the rest being Koreans, Japanese from Kobe, Ukrainians, Polish and of course, a couple of Vietnamese. Personally, these Chinese happened to be the first Chinese I’ve met in my life- beside that, I was at home with everybody.

I enrolled in the first 4-weeks of the 7-weeks course. During the first 2 weeks I was constantly under creativity and homework’s pressures, in a positive way obviously. English grammar, especially gerund phrases, SAT prep, along with a large component on literature were delve into everyday, seven hours a day. Even though technology were relatively limited, it was the teacher’s drill to improve my organization, to appreciate the art of writing in its primitive form.

Probably literature was the area that really caught my creativity spirit. A very wide selection of short stories, which to this day I haven’t finished, which includes Jack London, Guy De Maupassant, Grimm (unabridged and abridged), etc. Still, out of all the awe-inspiring literature listed, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ‘The dream of a ridiculous man’ was an outstanding lesson. My teacher drove me into trying to interpret, trying to understand the whole meaning and the motivation behind the story. It was just like analyzing an artwork, language is an art, each artist’s movement of art was their style, from this I realized literature was born to the Arts.
ELI isn’t just about the serious prep and writing, on a weekly basis, one day is taken off for a special day trip to a certain destination. The destinations varied from Golden Gate bridge, Santa Cruz beach, Redwood forest and the Monterey bay peninsula. The teachers were our guide, with the exception of specialist on-site guides, they were our knowledge base. The teachers really cared, and were proud to show off their country to TCKs visiting the land. On the same par, each day after class, another 3 hours were allotted for two options, either swimming or extra English with native ‘buddies’. The buddies were simply the best, they were teens like me, thus enabling pop and teen culture to flourish in discussion alongside with serious topics. To those who choose to swim, an Olympic-sized pool is dedicated to the campers, afternoon dips with friends in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley sets the day off, leaving behind nothing but fondness.

This camp’s attendants were not clique-y at all, I was truly engaged with my new TCK friends, most of them being cross-cultural. I know it may sound posh but here it is: “ Integrity, Intercultural friendship, united in the States, combined with ELI, will create a lifelong experience”, and I still believe this is the most correct description of ELI. To this year 2011, I am still in touch with many friends, most of whom are overseas, and every Skype call reminds us of the old ELI class every time.




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