Learning a new language is always a challenging task, but it’s now easier at the University of Tennessee’s (UTK) English Language Institute (ELI).
The ELI, a branch of UTK’s Center for International Education (CIE), is a language institute that helps international students prepare for study in the United States or simply acquire English for their own personal reasons. In any given term, young people from over 30 different countries gather to learn the skills they will need for successful communication in English and for success in their academic careers. As their skills grow in speaking, listening, reading, and writing, their dreams grow ever nearer.
For over 35 years, the ELI occupied two 1910’s-era homes in the Mountcastle St. and Terrace Ave. area on the UTK campus. While the old houses offered charm and good location, they also sported wasps in the attics, leaky plumbing, windows that couldn’t quite close, and other symptoms of advanced age.
In August 2016, the ELI moved to beautiful, clean new facilities at UTK’s Conference Center, located in the heart of Knoxville’s increasingly hip downtown. Occupying about a quarter of the Conference Center’s large ground floor, the new ELI’s space was completely gutted and redesigned with new walls, lighting, corridors, classrooms, faculty spaces, and technology installments to fully meet the needs of the institute’s eager language learners as they master listening, reading, writing, and speaking English. The new computer lab makes writing and research easy, and time passes quickly for students when they socialize in the bright new student lounge in their breaks between classes.
According to teachers, the new digs rock. Ms. Joan Holladay says the new facilities make teaching and learning so much easier: “We have all the technology we need to use with our books at our fingertips,” and Mr. Ronnie Howard delights in the cleanliness, neatness, and convenience of the new facilities.
Ms. Golshan Dehkordi notes that students are enjoying their easy access to downtown’s shopping, restaurants, and entertainment venues like the Regal Downtown cinema, the Tennessee and Bijou theatres, museums, Knoxville’s main public library, and multiple street events. Advanced classes are often assigned projects that involve visits to historic Blount Mansion or James White Fort or the East Tennessee Historical Museum, all within easy walking. And at the time of writing, teacher Lauren Woods heads out the door with a group of students to WDVX’s daily free radio concert of bluegrass and other Tennessee music on the Blue Plate Special.
The task of learning English at UTK’s ELI has moved downtown, and everyone involved couldn’t be happier about it.