Just across from Founders Commons, the English Center for International Women helps prepare men and women from other countries for life in America by teaching them English, computer skills, how to find a job, and adjust to American culture.
The English Center for International Women is “the best kept secret,” according to Lynn Wilkins, the associate director of Programs.
Wilkins said that this semester, they have students from Mexico and Japan, but in the past they have had students from “Mongolia, Switzerland, Brazil, Columbia, France, and a variety of Russian republics like Georgia and Siberia.”
They also provide housing on campus. It takes four to six weeks to settle in, and then tackle the daunting task of learning English. The Center serves primarily women, but since 2000 allowed men in the program who also want to improve their English skills.
In the mornings when it is all women, they have intensive English classes in which they learn English.
In the afternoons, classes are coed. They have classes such as American Culture, where they learn about fashion and art, and teachers bring in music that is American that the students can sample.
Leo Hu, a student at the Center, came from China four years ago and works at Jack in the Box part-time, attending classes in the afternoon. “Here [in America] you have to work really hard,” he said. He enjoys learning about computers and credits the teachers at the Center for helping him.
The students also have day trips throughout the year when they go to San Francisco and take in a show. This year they saw The Lion King. They also have conversation partners for these trips, who are Mills students. Conversation partners help them to communicate in English with other people. Wilkins praises Mills women and says that, “International women learn from Mills women.”
Non-students can take classes as well such as grammar, speaking and listening, computers, and American Workplace.
The Center is also partnered with Cal Works, a state program that helps people find jobs. The staff at the Center have created a career readiness curriculum and the culturally appropriate responses for job interviews. They also connect them to an agency that can provide them donated business clothes called Wardrobe for Opportunity.
Pinky Wong is the student services coordinator. A native of Hong Kong, she is also a graduate of the program and says that in Hong Kong there wasn’t time to study and go to school, because they had to go to work at eight in the morning and come home at eleven. She looks forward coming to work because “each day is different.”
“Mills is a good school, a beautiful campus,” Wong said. “Every day, I improve my English here.”