Student Isabela Toccheton attended the EducationUSA Academy at Syracuse University. (Courtesy photo)

Brazilian student Isabela Toccheton says four weeks at Syracuse University in New York boosted her English skills “to another level.” She applied for undergraduate study at Syracuse.

Just like Toccheton, secondary school students from around the world now can sample U.S. college life though the EducationUSA Academy, a partnership between academic institutions, a nonprofit organization and the U.S. Department of State.

The academy helps aspiring college students boost English-language skills, shows them different U.S. colleges and universities, and exposes them to new cultural experiences.

In 2015 the first groups of students attended the academy’s summer programs at Syracuse and the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Ecuadorian participant Cinthya Alvarado (right) likes the way U.S. professors teach. “They are open-minded. They try to teach you more than what is expected,” she said. (Courtesy photo)

“I can’t say enough positive things about the program,” says Patricia Juza, director of the International English Center at the University of Colorado. “These students were incredibly motivated and intelligent. They made such good use of the time here.”

Danae Hernández Ortiz, from Mexico, attended the Colorado program and called it “an amazing opportunity. … It helps you become more self-confident and know what you want to do.” Ortiz especially valued meeting people from all over the world.

Danae Ortiz, second from front, stays in touch with the friends she made in Colorado. (Courtesy photo)

Mario Carrillo, also at the Colorado program, added, “This experience helped me to know and understand more about the U.S. culture — how the lifestyle is, how an American university is and also how to apply.”

Safety first

The colleges have strict policies to ensure students’ safety and well-being. Academy students are guided by carefully vetted chaperones, all over the age of 21, who keep close tabs on students’ whereabouts. Academy students stay in a dormitory separate from college-age students.

What goes on

Academic experience is the centerpiece. Students discover that U.S. college professors actively engage with students in class discussions and are available to answer questions during office hours.

“The best part of the program is the way my English skills improved in just a few weeks,” Mario Carrillo said. (Courtesy photo)

After his academy experience, Carrillo numbered the United States among the best places to study “because the universities have all kinds of tools the students need” to help them learn.

It’s not all intensive English and college-prep classes. Academy students explore interests in science, the dramatic arts or any of the many subjects and activities taught in U.S. universities. Visits to other universities afford them a sense of the many opportunities.

But much of the learning happens outside the classroom. There’s football, volleyball and other fun pastimes with American peers. American conversation partners of their own age help sharpen participants’ English skills, and visits with local families help them better understand American culture.

Who is eligible?

Students 15 to 17 years of age must be enrolled in or recently graduated from secondary school; be non-native, intermediate-level English speakers; and not reside in the United States. They must cover university fees and airfare.

Openings are limited, depending on the college, but after last years’ successes at Syracuse and Colorado, eight more institutions have joined. Now is the time to apply!