Monday, December 18, 2017

LCI students explore National Portrait Gallery

Students in Fairfax recently toured the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The gallery aims to "tell the story of America by portraying the people who shape the nation’s history, development and culture."

Read what some of the students had to say about their trip below.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Business Office moving to 820 building

The Language and Culture Institute’s Business Office is moving to the Special Programs Building, at 820 University City Blvd.

That means students who have questions about tuition payments, I-20 extensions, and transcript requests should now go to the 820 building.

Admissions manager Elizabeth Loar will move to the office on the left immediately inside the building entrance. Jan McGinty, senior accounts receivable specialist, will move to Room 107. Program assistant Michelle Hash will be in the reception area inside Suite 2. All three will retain their current phone numbers.

To accommodate these moves, some staff members currently in the 820 building will also be shifting offices. Wafa Al-Daily, coordinator of international activities, will move to Room 118. Patricia Parera, associate director for partnerships and new enterprises, will move to Room 125.

The main LCI office remains on the first floor of the 840 building.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Paredes, Smart-Smith take on new roles at LCI

Pamela Smart-Smith, left, and Elsie Paredes, right

Two members of the Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute administrative staff have been named to new roles, part of a reorganization announced by Director Donald Back.

Elsie Paredes will direct the Advantage VT program, which is set to begin in fall 2018. Pamela Smart-Smith, the assistant director of academics, will succeed Paredes in an interim role as director of the Intensive English Program.

“Through their leadership, Elsie and Pamela have made the Intensive English Program one of the strongest programs of its kind in the country,” Back said. “Over the past decade, the institute has helped hundreds of students to matriculate into the university’s undergraduate program.”

Advantage VT will allow high-achieving international students to take credit-bearing classes at Virginia Tech while improving their English language and university study skills. Students who successfully complete the program will be guaranteed entry to the university with advanced standing in their freshman year.

“Advantage VT will position Virginia Tech to attract talented and highly motivated international students in an increasingly competitive recruiting environment,” Back said. “Building and diversifying our intellectual capacity is key to bolstering our position as a leading global university. Exposure to different cultures and ways of thinking is critically important to our graduates, who may work in diverse workplaces or multinational firms or serve in national security or military roles.” 

Paredes has led the Intensive English Program and served as associate director of the institute since coming to Virginia Tech in 2011. Before that, she taught TESOL courses for undergraduate students at Florida International University and English as a Second Language at both Florida Atlantic University and Miami Dade College. She received her doctorate in adult education and human resource development and her master’s in teaching English to speakers of other languages from Florida International University.

“I take this new and important challenge with a great deal of enthusiasm and confidence,” Paredes said. “The years of experience and expertise with our Intensive English Program will be translated in the success of Advantage VT.”

Smart-Smith has been assistant director of academics in the Intensive English Program since 2014 and has otherwise been involved with the institute since 2012. She has more than 25 years of experience in the U.S. and abroad in the field of English as a Second Language. She has a master’s in public administration from Old Dominion University and a master’s in education from Virginia Tech in curriculum and instruction with a focus on English as a Second Language and multicultural education.  She is currently pursuing her doctorate at Virginia Tech in the same field.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to work in this new role,” Smart-Smith said. “I am thankful each day to work with our fabulous team of faculty, staff, and administrators. I plan to continue to honor our commitment to delivering excellent student-centered pedagogy that helps our students attain their goals.” 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Fairfax celebrates International Education Week with global potluck

For International Education Week, the LCI in Fairfax had a potluck where students brought in dishes from their different countries. The following countries participated:
  • Uzbekistan
  • Russia
  • Brazil
  • Oman
  • China
  • Saudi Arabia
We had a slide show where students shared their study abroad experiences. We even had shares from our professors. Some students and professors shared their culture and country. Below, find two essays from students who wanted to share their study abroad experiences in the U.S.

Daniella Pitanga (Brazil)

Two years ago, I moved with my family from Brazil to the United States to support my husband in his job. During this period, I was very busy with my family's adaptation and I could not improve my English to an academic level.

This season I decided to study at the Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute. It was a perfect decision. I am very surprised with the course's benefits. I could not imagine how thrilling this experience would be to me. Knowing the correct grammar and learning to write academic articles has been a great pleasure. The style and the techniques of writing are very different from those of my country.

I am really inspired to continue discovering the English language, the American culture, and, soon, to have a new degree from an American university.

Adelya (Uzbekistan)

What do you want your friends back home to know about the United States? America is a great country and has a lot of opportunities. I wish my friends could experience it.

First, what i want to tell them is about U.S. education. Studying in the U.S. is much better and different than back home. Second, they can meet people from all over the world. Meeting new people and learning different cultures, languages is exiting. Third, they can travel as much as they want. America is one of the largest countries and has a lot of different states.

These are main things what I want to share with my friends about America.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Photos: Scenes from the annual LCI/ISS Thanksgiving Lunch and Variety Show

Follow us on Facebook to see more photos from our annual Thanksgiving Lunch and Variety Show.

Now posted: Watch video of students, teachers -- and even Director Don Back -- doing the "Hokie Pokie"!

We are grateful to all our students and scholars who contributed their talents and time to make a wonderful variety show.
Posted by Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute on Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Photos: LCI welcomes delegation from Vietnam People's Security Academy

The LCI was honored to welcome a delegation from the People's Security Academy of Vietnam to Virginia Tech today.

Lt. Gen. Nguyễn Văn Ngọc, Maj. Gen. Phí Đức Tuấn, Dr. Nguyễn Thị Phương Lan, and Dr. Nguyen Văn Ly met with Provost Cyril Clarke and Vice President for Outreach and International Affairs Guru Ghosh, as well as LCI Director Don Back and Associate Director for Partnerships and New Enterprises Patricia Parera.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Photos: Hokies football player Terrell Edmunds visits the LCI

Thank you to Hokies football player Terrell Edmunds, who spoke to LCI students this morning about his grueling schedule, why he loves playing football, and what it's like coming out of the tunnel in Lane Stadium with "Enter Sandman" blaring and thousands of fans cheering.

Students, perhaps more familiar with soccer than football, peppered Edmunds with questions about what it's like to make such powerful hits, what his most memorable plays were, what his favorite position is, and what it takes to make it to the NFL.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

LCI students tour National Museum of African American History and Culture

Students from the LCI Fairfax recently visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

It is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African-American life, history, and culture. It was established by Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans.

Read what some students had to say about the field trip below.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Virginia Tech is a dynamic and inclusive community that consists of students, scholars, faculty, staff, visitors, and neighbors from a wide variety of cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives. We recognize and value the diversity that is present within the Hokie Nation. We practice the Principles of Community as we appreciate differences and embrace the complexities of living in a multicultural, global society.

To members of the Virginia Tech community from countries throughout the world, know that we welcome your ideas and perspectives. We believe the collaboration of cultures brings forth greater creativity, innovation, understanding, and learning for everyone. Every student deserves to thrive, and a sense of belonging and wellbeing are crucial for academic, personal, and social success. We are dedicated to affirming our new community members, creating connections for them, and assuring an ongoing commitment to their development.

Welcome to Virginia Tech and to the Language and Culture Institute!

Photos from Virginia Tech's partnership with Shandong University

Xuhao, Siangtong, and Shubham work on a microphone array to record ultrasound from bats.
Our friend Liujun Zhang, at Shandong University, sent us some photos of Virginia Tech students working to unravel the intricacies of bats' remarkable sensing and flight skills.

The students are part of professor Rolf Mueller's lab at Shandong, part of a collaborative partnership between the two universities.

Andrew, Jonathan, Liujun, and Michael hike on Yellow Mountain in Anhui province.
"The VT students help us do experiments and analyze data," Liujun says. The students have had a busy summer but have found some time for activities such as hiking mountains in China.

See more photos in our Facebook gallery:

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Are you ready to watch Monday's eclipse?

About 2:39 on Monday, Aug. 21, the shadow of the moon will cover the sun, and there will be an eclipse. In Blacksburg, the skies will darken (though it won't be pitch black) as about 90 percent of the sun is covered.

If you want to look at the eclipse, you MUST wear special glasses with special-purpose solar filters. Sunglasses are NOT good. If you look at the sun without special glasses, you can hurt your eyes forever. Special eclipse glasses may still be available at local retailers.

You can also get glasses provided by Virginia Tech Alumni Association, which is having a watch party from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Monday on the Holtzman Alumni Center Lawn. The party is free and open to the public, and pizza will be served. People are also encouraged to bring lunch.

Eclipse glasses will be given out by the Alumni Association.

Iraqi, Saudi governments honor LCI faculty

Language and Culture Institute Director Donald Back, second from right, receives a medal of appreciation from the Iraqi cultural attaché, Tahani Alsandook, second from left.
Adil Bentahar
Two Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute faculty members were recently honored by the governments of Iraq and Saudi Arabia for their efforts to help students from those countries.

The Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research awarded a medal of appreciation to Director Donald Back for his work building partnerships with Iraqi universities. Instructor Adil Bentahar, meanwhile, was recognized by the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission for helping international students acclimate to studying here.

Read more about their honors at VT News.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Benefits of going outdoors with classmates and professors

An LCI student in Fairfax wrote the following essay after last week's (rainy) picnic adventure:

We are students at Virginia Tech, located in Virginia. The school administration agreed to organize a scientific and recreational trip by visiting Nottoway Park, located in Vienna. We were eager to learn about the beauty of this natural park. On the morning of Friday, July 28, we attended the park early, and each of us brought a small back bag. This bag contains some sandwiches, bottles of water and some other things that we need. This type of trip is not only for entertainment; it has many purposes, it is a very extensive activity. Such as strengthening interpersonal relationship, developing in skills, and identifying of different type of traditional foods.

Trips can assist to increase love and strengthen human relationships between students. In this context, trips may be an important way for establishing many new relationships. For example, I met my old friend who used to study with us in VT. I really missed her. And I was worried about my other friends if they can come because the weather was rainy. Moreover, I have learned many things about my friend May such as, her real name, I also realized that after three weeks of studying with her in one class she didn't know my name! That was so funny. This kind of picnic can make a significant change in student skills. For instance, increase self-confidence of the person, and develop in educational skills such as speaking and listening. For example, I think I have spoken with all students and professors without feeling of shame or worry to make some mistakes in speaking. That was a great experience.

It is always good to go out of doors. Going out of school can gain knowledge about traditional food from different countries. When the rain stopped Mr. Bratichko started preparing the lunch for us. Each of us brought something traditional. For example. I brought with me some dates, traditional sweet called camel’s eyes which has caramel inside, and Arabic coffee. And some of my friend brought drinks also the professors brought burgers and hot dogs so we could grill them. Others made sweets by themselves. This trip taught me that the traditional foods are almost the same but it has a different name. I was surprised that the camel’s eyes exists in Switzerland as Natalia side they have it in their country with the same taste and almost same shape.

A picnic is a beneficial change. It takes people away from boring days and routine, it produces effect to life. Life has not only existed for work, but it needs human balance, enjoyment. Trips can make some changes in people for example, strengthening relationships by talking with friends and know them very well, developing skills by listening carefully and catch a new vocabulary, and identify of different types of traditional foods. It is good to run away into the open air for a day when one has the time.        

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

LCI professor leads creativity seminar in Cuba

Monica Mulholland, a professor at the Language and Culture Institute in Fairfax, has returned from a week in Bayamo, Cuba, where she facilitated a seminar on creativity and multiple intelligences in collaboration with Ana Lado, a professor at Marymount University.

The video above features snapshots of the seminar, in which participants engaged in group work to debate, role-play, and use body language and art to express themselves in the target language.

Mulholland says it was a most rewarding and inspiring experience of intercultural exchange in the context of the “Escuelas de verano para educadores” (Summer School for teachers) carried out in several Cuban cities every year both in English and Spanish.

The workshop was attended by more than 30 enthusiastic English instructors and advanced students from the Granma province.

"It was my pleasure and honor to represent VT in Cuba," Mulholland says.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Virginia Tech participating in State Department forum on internationalizing U.S. campuses

Don Back
LCI Director Don Back
From July 31 to Aug. 2, LCI Director Don Back will represent Virginia Tech at the U.S. Department of State’s eighth annual EducationUSA Forum in Washington, D.C.

More than 570 U.S. university representatives will join U.S. and foreign government officials to discuss international student recruitment and retention strategies. International education increases American global competitiveness, and creates relationships and understanding that contribute to increased national security.

“As the university’s international recruiter, the Language and Culture Institute is committed to attracting the best and brightest individuals from around the world to our community,” Back said. “Participating in events such as the EducationUSA Forum helps us develop partnerships and explore strategies to recruit such students.”

The Forum, organized in partnership with the Institute of International Education, will feature sessions on traditional as well as virtual recruiting strategies, comprehensive campus internationalization, student visas, maximizing recruitment resources, and partnering with EducationUSA advising centers around the world.

Colleges and universities, including Virginia Tech, play an important role in strengthening ties between the United States and countries around the world. The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs collaborates with accredited U.S. colleges and universities to help maintain the United States as the world’s top destination for international students and scholars and to promote diversity in international education.

Meet Jon Wiley, the LCI's new graduate assistant

The LCI is proud to welcome Jon Wiley as our new graduate assistant.

Jon is originally from Southwest Virginia and loved attending Hokies football games growing up. He studied sociology and cultural studies at Bridgewater College, earning his B.S. degree. He went on to earn a Master of Science in counseling and human development with specializations in clinical mental health and school counseling from Radford University.

Jon has worked in a wide range of settings, including residential treatment, secondary education, and community mental health agencies. Most recently, he spent several years as a family counselor and supervisor at New River Valley Community Services.

He is currently a Ph.D. student in the counselor education program at Virginia Tech.

Jon's interests include leadership, mindfulness, interprofessional collaboration, and poststructural/postmodern philosophy. In his spare time, he enjoys running and exploring the great outdoors with his partner.

When you're in the Annex, be sure to say hi to Jon.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Library of Congress field trip offers lessons in history

This month, students and faculty from Fairfax took a field trip to the Library of Congress, the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States.

It is said that the Library of Congress is the world’s largest repository of knowledge and creativity, with a growing collection of more than 162 million items, including books, print materials, sound recordings, photographs, maps, sheet music, movies, and manuscripts.

The Library of Congress was established in 1800, when President John Adams signed a bill transferring the seat of the U.S. government to Washington. The legislation described a library of “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress.”

Read more about the field trip below.

Baseball game in Salem is a hit with students

“The announcement came out of left field.” “Your answer is way off base.” “You need to step up to the plate.” “Three strikes, you’re out!

These and other baseball-related idioms moved from figurative language to literal for students attending the Salem Red Sox baseball game Friday night. Not only did LCI students have a chance to learn some of the language of baseball that carries over to American speech, but they were also able to check their understanding of language through conversations going on around them.

Even though it was the first baseball game the students had attended, they soon got into the swing of the game. One student who had seen several baseball movies had a good understanding of the basic rules. By the end of the ninth inning, the other students had a good idea of the basics as well.

In addition to the rules part of the game, students experienced the cultural aspects like standing to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for the seventh-inning stretch, trying some Cracker Jack, and joining in the eighth-inning singing of “Sweet Caroline.”

Although our cheers and support couldn’t lift the Salem Red Sox to a win over the Wilmington Blue Rocks, we did have a treat following the game. The ballpark lights were turned off and there was an extended fireworks display. One of the students said it reminded of his home in Oman where they marked the end of Ramadan with a fireworks display.

— By Bonnie Sumner

Monday, June 26, 2017

Students, faculty break Ramadan fast with potluck iftar

Last Friday, students and faculty in Fairfax, and their family members, got together for a potluck iftar.

The iftar is the meal served at the end of the day during Ramadan, to break the day's fast. Iftar is served at sunset during each day of Ramadan, as Muslims break the daily fast.

All participants brought some food from their national cuisine to share. Everyone in attendance really enjoyed all the food, good conversation, and had a great time!

— Guennadi Bratichko

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Remembering Mandela Washington Fellow John Paul Usman

John Paul Usman
Today, we remember the life of John Paul Usman, a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow from Nigeria who died a year ago during his fellowship at Virginia Tech.

JP was passionate about the causes of sustainable development, children’s rights, and peace building in his country. Work in these areas continues in his name in Nigeria.

We will forever remember JP’s infectious smile, his ability to make people feel at ease, and his desire to do good at home and around the world. And we will always remember him as a true Hokie.

Read about the John Paul Usman Award for Civic Leadership awarded by the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cheers to Susan Piercy!

On Wednesday, the LCI celebrated Susan Piercy's 17 years as a teacher, mentor, cherished colleague, and friend. We wish her the happiest of retirements!

Click below to see more photos from our Facebook gallery.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Students take a walk on the wild side at Virginia Safari Park

On a return trip to Blacksburg from his native Oman, Said Alkindi took note of a billboard alongside Interstate 81 advertising the Virginia Safari Park. Said suggested the park as a possible activity for Summer I, and we are all glad he did. What an adventure, and only a little over an hour away from Blacksburg!

En route, we went on Routes 460/11 to Elliston in order to see a glimpse of Montgomery County beyond the interstate. Of special note are Bent Tree Farm, which raises and shows Friesian and Saddlebred horses, the Elliston Straightaway, and Fotheringay Plantation. The Straightaway in years past had been used as a drag strip for locals wanting to “show what their cars could do,” a country version of "The Fast and Furious." Fotheringay Plantation was built about 1796 by Revolutionary War Col. George Hancock. Col. Hancock’s daughter Julia married William Clark, who was co-leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition to map the West. Col. Hancock, upon his death, was buried in a crypt in the mountainside in order to maintain oversight of his plantation.

When we arrived at the park, there was a long line of vehicles ahead of us. The staff was very kind as we each paid our admission one-by-one while still in the van. After parking, we headed to the petting area to await our 1 o’clock wagon ride. The miniature goats with their kids attracted our attention immediately. They scampered up to the fence seeking gentle pats on the head. After we tore ourselves away, we meandered to the reptile habitat and were thankful the large snakes were safely behind thick glass.

As we walked toward the monkey habitats, a staff member stopped and introduced us to Xavier, a baby lemur who had been abandoned by his parents. She told us about his natural habitat, his physical features, and how staff members were filling in as substitute parents. Even though we were not allowed to touch Xavier -- it may not have been wise because he was nibbling on the staffer’s fingers -- we were able to get a picture with him.

Xavier the lemur
When the time came for our wagon ride, we boarded and then received a bucket of feed from our guide. The main adventure had begun.

Our first feeding stop included llamas, a variety of deer, and Watusi cattle from Africa whose horns can span up to 10 feet. It was amazing to be able to touch all of the animals and feel the horns of the Watusi. Unfortunately, the potbellied pigs and some of the smaller deer species (fallow deer from Europe and Asia, axis deer from India, and others) were not tall enough to reach the bed of the wagon to lick up feed from the floor or to eat from the buckets we were holding. Even the fierce-looking water buffalo were willing to have their heads rubbed as we fed them.

We continued to travel along the road crisscrossing the 180-acre preserve while stopping periodically to feed other animals and view ostriches, emus, antelope, bison (yes, we even fed and touched bison; they open their mouths, curl their tongues and eat the pelleted feed we dropped into their mouths), wildebeests, and a variety of other animals from across the globe. Animals such as the white rhinos, zebras, and camels had their own enclosures inside the 180 acres.

After our hourlong wagon ride was over, we had a chance to visit the kangaroos sleeping soundly in the afternoon heat, the parakeet enclosure, and other exotic birds. We also went by the wolves, tigers, and cheetahs and were photobombed by a giraffe.

At Washington and Lee University in Lexington.
Since we were so close to Lexington, we drove over to see the campuses of Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute. We took a brief look at the Washington and Lee Museum and saw the grave of the famous war horse Traveler.

By the end of the day, were all tired but smiling, and grateful that Said had recommended the Virginia Safari Park!

-- By Bonnie Sumner