Campus News

Transitioning from Honduras to Iowa

Editor’s Note: The interview with the ESL student was conducted in Spanish, and the translation to English was made by the author of the article. 

 Many people come to the United States to start a new chapter in their lives. They are looking for better opportunities but also a safe place for them and their families. 

When they arrive here, this is the beginning of something beautiful, or it can be something challenging, especially when they come from non-English speaking countries. 

Keyvi Reconco, 32, is from Honduras and she has been living in Iowa since 2021. Before she came here for family reasons, she took basic English classes in Tegucigalpa, her hometown. “When I arrived in Iowa, I felt that I had never studied English because everything was so different,” she said. 

Her neighbor told her the Kirkwood Iowa City campus offered free ESL classes to immigrants and refugees. So, she enrolled in that ESL program to learn English. 

“One big difference is that here classes are 100% in English, while teachers there still used Spanish language in classes,” said Roconco. Currently, she is taking online ESL classes, and she is on level four, the last level of the program.    

Outside her online classes, Reconco said she practices her English a little bit in her job, because most of her coworkers speak Spanish.

 “Just one person speaks English and I try to practice with that person because we have to work and we do not have enough time.” 

According to Alexandra Lubbers, ESL coordinator at the Kirkwood Regional Center in Coralville, the college has 425 ESL students in its different locations (Coralville, Cedar Rapids and Washington) and modalities (face-to face and online). 

She said being exposed to the English language outside the classroom is very important to learning English. “If they only get English for two hours a day, four days a week, it’s harder to make progress,” she said. 

Recently Kirkwood has implemented tutoring services for ESL students. Lubbers said this service will help students who either had no literacy in their home country, or students who come from a country that uses a different alphabet. For example, Sudan, Vietnam or Pakistan. 

But there is another challenge: Childcare. The most affected are women who cannot leave their children home alone to attend ESL classes in person. “I wish to attend ESL classes in person because you can practice English with your classmates,” said Reconco. 

She has switched from face-to-face to online classes because she has a son who is attending school.  

Alexis Lee, ESL instructor in Coralville, said that ESL students are very dedicated to learning the English language. 

“They have fulltime jobs, they have families, spouses, and they come to classes. They show up. And they make it worthwhile to teach,” said Lee. 

After finishing her ESL program, Reconco said that she is planning to enroll in a new Kirkwood program. 

“My goal is to not leave Kirkwood until I am able to speak English very well. 

“I want to start a new career to improve my English, and also I would like to continue my career [education] that I have started in my country.”

Image courtesy of Alex Choquemamani | Kirkwood Communiqué

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