Studying abroad in the US might seem like a strange notion for many of the UW-Madison students who were born and raised in the US. But for the over 4,000 international students from over 130 countries currently enrolled in classes at the UW, it’s not such a strange idea. Before they attend an American university, however, they need to master the English language.

Jacky Tain and Xavier Fan, who are both 19, left their friends, families and lives back in China to spend at least four years studying Biomedical Engineering and Neurobiology and Chemical Engineering and Neurobiology respectfully. They chose the University of Wisconsin because of its “supreme education,” Jacky said.

Unlike other students who might study at American schools in countries outside the US and are able to get by with little knowledge of the native language, Jacky and Xavier needed to master the English language before attending classes here. Not only is the English language a tricky one to learn, but they also needed to feel comfortable enough with their oral and written skills to make new friends and to learn tough engineering and neurobiology terms in English-only classes.

Although they are kept busy with their challenging exams, both have found time to integrate themselves into Madison’s often tight-knit community. Jacky and Xavier, who were not friends prior to coming to the US, joined Badger Volunteers together. At their volunteer site, Central Wisconsin Center, they envision a better life for the residents through the application of what they learn every day in their neurobiology classes. The Central Wisconsin Center is a facility that houses residents with severe cognitive and developmental disabilities. Using their English language skills and the ideas they’ve cultivated in their engineering and neurobiology classes, Jacky and Xavier eagerly talk about how they envision helping these residents better communicate.

By applying their English language to assist with classroom learning and extracurricular activities, Jacky and Xavier continue improving and honing their language skills.

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