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English for International Students Program Aids Tristan Li's Academic Studies

Duke University student Tristan Quingyun Li

Duke University's EIS mission supports international students reading, writing, speaking and understanding of English

Tristan Li is from China and coming to the United States has always been on Tristan's list of things to do. He says studying in the U-S would be better for his career. He is studying at Duke University in North Carolina. "I came from China and I wanted to come to the U-S for a very long time. Even before I entered the university, I think the U-S has lots and lots of good schools and a good college where people do fascinating research and I like doing research," he says.

"I think it would be better for me, for my career to study in the U-S and to do research. I also like exploring new things, meeting new people and knowing what is going on on the other side of the world so that is the reason why I want to study in the U-S."

Much of his success during his graduate studies at Duke will depend on his ability to read, write, speak and understand English. Tristan says the English for International Students program or EIS at Duke University is useful in both his everyday communication as well as his academic performance. "The EIS program is an English program designed for international students at Duke. In recent years there are more and more international students that come to Duke and at least thirty percent of the graduate students are from countries other than the United States," he says.

"So for lots of the students their first language is not English and can you image being a foreigner being in a country not only where you need to deal with those everyday conversations, but also you have to read those literatures, you have to communicate with people about certain questions to do some services so you need to have some very strong language capability to deal with those situations," he says.

"We are not growing up speaking English. So I think that program actually offers lots of fantastic classes and it can help us to polish our English skills. For example, we have a grammar and writing class, we have an oral presentation class that I have taken and those are very good," he says. "For me I don't know what the writing style people would expect in the United States. We write quite differently in China. From that class the teacher can tell us what people expect to see in the first paragraph, what kind of sentence structures you should use when you write different papers and that is really helpful."

For all that the EIS program gives to him, Tristan says his contribution to the university is focusing on his research. "I think the best I can do for Duke University is I try my best to do my research well. Right now I study sensory neuro- biology. So in the lab we use fruit flies as a model organism trying to address one of the most important and fundamental questions in science which is how do animals smell," he says. "Actually there are many aspects you can study about this question. For example, people may look at behavior. Some people might look at the causes of some smell disorders. Actually people don't know much about the mechanism of olfaction. Also, I can bring some new elements to the school. Some Chinese elements and add some diversity which Duke treasures a lot,"he says. "So I think doing my research well is the best I can do right now."

Tristan has several more years before he completes his Ph D program. His advice to other international students interested in studying the U-S is, "I think lots of international students tend to form small clusters by which I mean some Chinese students from my department they never hang out with the people from other countries. So I think since you are studying in the U-S and you are so far away from your home country you should try your best to get involved with the environment. Communicate with the people."