A sampler of 2005 graduates
Students from more than 40 countries people the hallways of the English Language Institute. They bring a wide range of experiences and goals with them, contributing to the unique dynamic of the ELI classroom. Two samples of this rich diversity follow.
That’s when Angelika Kirchmayr first saw the Russian pairs figure skaters Liudmila Pachomova and Aleksandr Gorshkov on TV, together with their trainer, Elena Tschaikovskaja.
“That’s what I want to do,” the toddler told her mother. “I want to be an ice skating coach.”
At 4, Angelika started skating classes. By the time she was 6, she was enrolled in the Latvian National Skating School and practicing five hours a day.
What Angelika didn’t realize, of course, is that her dream would one day lead to The Pond ice rink in Newark, Delaware, where she currently helps her husband, Oleg Ovsyannikov, two-time world ice skating champion and silver medal winner at the Nagano Olympics in 1998, train skaters for national and international skating competitions. Among their students is Johnny Weir, two-time U.S. Figure Skating champion, considered among the top five skaters in the world.
Angelika herself is no stranger to ice skating competition. She won the Russian National Junior Championship for ice dancing in 1988 and the World Junior Ice Dancing Championship in 1989 before an injury forced her out of the competitive rink. She then graduated from the Russian Theatre Academy, where she studied choreography and mime, and subsequently trained figure skaters from Austria, Germany, Canada and Russia before coming to the United States.
While a student at ELI, Angelika was often seen playing on the Institute’s front yard between classes with her dog, Caesar, a frisky Rotweiler. The avid animal lover also has a cat and ferret in her house in Bear, DE, and a dog, cat and horse at her mother’s home in Austria.
“I love them both equally,” she says of her animals and of her ice skating students. “I have a big heart.”
Fatima El Ammouri, Morocco
For Fatima, and for many Middle Eastern students, a special program has enabled them to come to the United States to study English at places like ELI and to complete degrees in American universities.
This year has marked the second year in which student recipients of the U.S. government PLUS (Partnership for Learning Undergraduate Studies) Program scholarships have been sent to ELI by countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Students are nominated by their local ministries of education but must undergo a rigorous selection process including a written test and interviews by representatives of the U.S. State Department.
Fatima El Ammouri was born in the small city of Kenitra, Morocco. She grew up as an only child, never knowing her father, a soldier who died before she was born. Her mother supported her daughter by renting out rooms, and young Fatima flourished. While a student at Ibn Tofail University, Fatima took a special test to qualify for the PLUS Program scholarship. Her fluency in the oral interview made a favorable impression and was instrumental in her selection and opportunity to travel to America.
Many ELI classmates came to know Fatima’s bright smile and to respect her for her friendly, earnest and diligent approach to both relationships and study. Used to seeing her in the classroom wearing her traditional Muslim hijab (head covering), many would probably be surprised to learn that, back home in Morocco, she was an accomplished athlete.
Not only was Fatima a member of the basketball team, but she also excelled at the martial arts, studying the traditional Japanese karate style known as Shotokan. At the age of 15, she joined the Moroccan Junior Karate Team, becoming the 1999 women’s champion in point fighting.
After graduating with honors from ELI this summer, Fatima traveled to the University of Ashland in Ohio, where she hopes to complete her bachelor’s degree in international relations within two years. After that, she plans to return to her homeland to be reunited with her mother, to achieve her dream of becoming an English teacher and to serve as a bridge between the people of the United States and Morocco.