This month, we talk with Caroline Gear, Director of American language school: the International Language Institute Massachusetts.
Q. What’s does your school specialise in?
The International Language Institute of Massachusetts provides a hub of language learning services including: an Intensive English Program, World Languages, TESOL training, University Pathways and Free English for Immigrants and Refugees. We are a private, not-for-profit language school and our mission is to promote cross-cultural understanding and empower individuals from diverse backgrounds by providing dynamic student-centered language instruction and teacher training in an accessible multicultural learning community.
Q. When did you join IALC and why?
A friend of mine, Alexis Lasheras, had a school in La Jolla, California (the former International Centre for American English) and encouraged me to apply for membership. We are a small school not located in a major market and wanted to find a way to get the word out about ILI. IALC offers us a way to connect with quality agents and students who are looking for a personalized language learning experience in a small New England town. We also greatly appreciate the support and of course, friendships of other member schools. ILI joined in September of 2008 and we have enjoyed the benefits of our membership ever since.
Q. How is 2014 going for ILI, and how does it compare to last year?
2014 is going well with new programs located on the campuses of our partner schools. We are celebrating 30 years this year (I’ve been at ILI for 28!); having the ability to offer a university experience in addition to living with an American family has been very good for the school. We have also seen a slight increase in the number of students in our Intensive English Program.
Q. What developments do you expect in the US in 2014? How will they impact the language travel industry?
There is an ever-increasing number of students interested in attending university in the United States, so University Pathways Programs at accredited language schools will continue to gain momentum. Universities are also increasing summer programming and I expect we’ll also see an increase in students studying short-term on university campuses.
Q. Anything new this year?
We are lucky to live in a university-rich area and will continue to expand our offerings on the campuses of our partner institutions. As we work closely with our partners, we are seeing growth in summer and long-term programs.
Q. Where do the majority of your students come from?
We have a very diverse group of students. Currently we have 14 countries represented and it is very rare when one country is represented by more than 20% of the students.
Q. What are your most popular student activities?
We take the students into the community a lot for cultural lessons not only on life in the US, but also to increase students’ awareness of volunteer opportunities. Our most popular trips are to the nursing home as well as the food pantry. Students are exposed to a wide variety of backgrounds and have opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives through volunteering in our community.
Q. What makes your school special for students coming to the US to learn English?
We are a small school in a beautiful area of the world. Northampton is a very welcoming city for international students. It has all the cultural, business and educational amenities of an urban area surrounded by a beautiful, rural landscape with incredible recreational opportunities. Students have opportunities to experience US culture first hand through living with American hosts and for students interested in the university, we have 9 college and university conditional admission agreements for qualified students.
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Q. How did get started in the industry?
I did a gap year as a Rotary Exchange Student to Peru and like many of our students experienced first hand of not knowing the language. That year changed my life and when I returned to the States, I majored in Spanish and then lived and worked in Mexico and Spain. In 1986 I returned to the US and started working as a part-time instructor at the International Language Institute and here it is 28 years later and I’m the director. My how time flies when you’re having fun.
Q. Languages you speak or would like to speak?
I speak Spanish, but studied 4 years of French. I’m looking forward to working on my French for the upcoming IALC Workshop hosted by French in Normandy.
Q. Favourite travel destination?
I love to travel; New Orleans is one of my favourite places because of the food and of course, the music!
Q. Favourite pastime?
Gardening, going out to see live music, biking.
Q. Favourite meal?
I love to eat great food and Northampton has lots of fabulous restaurants that use locally grown food.
Q. Dream dinner guest?
So many to choose from! If I had to choose just one, I would want to have dinner with Isabelle Allende. She’s an incredible writer and also chose to make a difference in other people’s lives when tragedy struck her life with the death of her daughter, by creating a foundation and supporting women and children.
Caroline Gear, Director, ILI Massachusetts