Lisa Mangion saw how important it was to have English language skills when she was teaching high school in Western Sydney.
With a high migrant population, many students Lisa had contact with as a high school English teacher were taking on the challenge of not just fitting into a new school, and new culture, but having to learn a new language as well.
So, Lisa decided to upskill and went back to tertiary study to obtain a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).
As part of her practical experience, she spent time at UOW College and has never left.
That was seven years ago, and Lisa is now a full-time teacher in the English Language program, which is specifically designed to help international students to meet the English language requirements of the University of Wollongong courses in which they are enrolled.
Lisa said her students come with different challenges than those she taught at high school, but she uses her background to help keep them engaged in the intensive program that equips them with the foundations to complete their undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the university.
“It is a different set of students with different demands, and it is challenging in different ways,” she said.
“At the College we are also trying to help students adjust to an entirely different country, and learn to work within a new educational system not using their native language," she said.
Many of her students are young school levers who have come straight from school in their home countries to begin their studies at UOW.
Being so far from home and learning a new language means that they are often also dealing with the same sorts of feelings and emotions that domestic students starting the university pathway face, with the added challenge of learning English as well.
However, Lisa said seeing these young, international students then excel in the university gives her a great deal of satisfaction.
“It’s a human kind of experience to be able to be a part of someone’s connection to a different culture and way of life and help them access that,” she said.
“It’s a very direct kind of reward. Every time you help someone unlock a bit of grammar and understanding of an assessment, or some other aspect of education there is an extra reward too. After all, learning is about access to information.
“I see students out and around on campus and still feel very connected with them. And I know the friendships and networks they built during their time at the College are still very strong – they still have those close friends and that connection of friendship and support with the people they met in their first class at the College before they went in to do their university degrees.”
Lisa said one of the biggest advantages for international students coming to the College is the ability to meet other international students going through the same experience as they are.
“They can learn with them and connect with them,” she said.
“One of the really important roles of the College is to create those connections.”
English Language Programs
UOW College Australia