My Story

Student Stories

Photo of Gary Hsiao

Yi Chin "Gary" Hsiao

Country: Taiwan

ATP student: 2016

Currently enrolled in SJSU, M.S. Software Engineering

Q: What surprised you the most about U.S.?

A: “It’s a big place. I also had positive friendly interactions with the police. SJSU alerts are helpful in keeping you informed of what’s happening and aware of your surroundings.” 

Q: What’s a good memory you have of International Gateways?

A: “The teachers are kind and willing to help students.  I had help with grammar to improve my TOEFL test scores. I also met my girlfriend in the Written Communication class.”

Gary's ADVICE to students: “Don’t be afraid to speak. Try to make friends with people from different countries and who speak different languages.  Your English will improve a lot.”

   

Photo of Basem Mamdouh

Basem Ibrahim

Country: Egypt

SAS student: 2018

 

  

"I didn't know what to expect, orientation was so much fun and it gave me the opportunity to be surrounded with other international students and different countries which made me more comfortable. Presentations were really helpful to fully understand about safety, plagiarism and course registration.

Professors are very knowledgeable and it is awesome to be in the Silicon Valley and be taught by professors who know so much about each subject. I truly believe that I am better in English now and I speak with more confidence. I feel that I am open minded and learned to talk with more people from other cultures and voice my opinions."

In his first month at SJSU, Basem participated in the Campus Movie Fest, a short film competition open to all students. 

   

Photo of Reine

Reine Dominique Ntone

Country: Cameroon

ICA student: 2016-2017

Currently enrolled in SJSU, M.S. Aerospace Engineering

"I applied for Conditional Admission at SJSU during Fall 2016 hoping to start my Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Julie was my advisor and assisted me in every step of the process. She was not only collecting the necessary documents but also giving valuable advice regarding grad school and work experience. Since I obtained three previous degrees from different universities, it was not easy for the SJSU admission department to assess my eligibility for the Aerospace Graduate Program. Kate spontaneously stepped in and helped me successfully finalize my application. I am convinced there is no issue the Conditional Admissions team wouldn’t be able to assist you with."

 

   

Photo of Karen JiangMinqing "Karen" Jiang  

Country: China

ATP student: 2017-2018 

“Dumb English” is how Karen describes the language she was taught in her home country.  She explains that a positive environment that promotes using English everyday was key to her confidence in using English.  Like most students, Karen was nervous when she first arrived in the U.S. After several months of hard work on her pronunciation and and speaking skills, she no longer feels awkward speaking with a native English speaker.  

Karen’s ADVICE for students:  “Don’t be nervous. Just open your mouth.  Take every opportunity to speak English.”

 

   

Photo of Sebastian ZettelSebastian Zettel

Country: Germany

SAS student: Spring 2018

 

In his Mechanical Engineering class, Sebastian was chosen along with two other Semester at SJSU (SAS) students to have the unique opportunity to participate in the World Intelligence Driving Challenge in Tianjin, China in May 2018.  

Sebastian chose SJSU because of its location in Silicon Valley and his wish to make connections with companies in Silicon Valley for future job opportunities. In regards to his experience at International Gateways Sebastian says, “the advisors and staff helped the most by always being there when I needed help, especially in the first weeks when I needed to choose courses and join them.”

   

Photo of Hasan M.Hasan Muthafar

Country: Kuwait

ATP student: 2013

SJSU, B.S. Nutritional Science 2018 

 

In 2013, Hasan moved to the U.S. and began his studies at International Gateways with the support and encouragement from his family. It was his first experience attending school with students who did not have disabilities.  Born prematurely with cerebral palsy, Hasan has not let his disability stop him from pursuing his goals. He has been honored as a Dean’s Scholar recipient (given to students with a high G.P.A.) and graduated with a B.S. Nutritional Science in May 2018. Inspired by the health issues in his own family, Hasan is passionate about educating others about proper nutrition.

Hasan’s ADVICE to students: “I encourage students to look for events around the SJSU campus. I’m amazed at how many events SJSU has to offer for students to get involved in.” 

   

Photo of Yumi ZhouYu "Yumi" Zhou

Country: China

ATP student: 2013 - 2014

SJSU, B.A. Finance 2018

Yumi said, “I couldn’t catch what they said”, when thinking about her first SJSU classes.  Over time by using the strategies she learned in her Oral Communication and Reading Skills classes at International Gateways, Yumi was able to successfully complete the major requirements to graduate in May 2018 with a B.A. in Finance.

Her favorite part of International Gateways?  All the social events, especially the field trip to Monterey Bay. Yumi took advantage of the opportunity to meet people from all over the world.

Yumi’s ADVICE to students: “You have to participate and speak up in class to get a good grade.  Just say something in class even if you think you’ll make a mistake.”

   
Photo of Timo Bauer

Timo Bauer

Country: Germany

SAS student: 2014 - 2016

 

 

 

 

 

In between graduation and starting a new job, Timo kindly took the time to share his thoughts on his study abroad experience:

“Studying abroad at International Gateways, San Jose State University in California was the most life-changing decision of my academic and private life.  I had the opportunity to experience American student life in Silicon Valley. Hard study, a supportive environment and new international friends were the perfect recipe to master adventures in the Wild Wild West. In addition, SJSU gave me a rocket start on the path to pursue my goals. I recently completed my MBA and am now working in the marketing department for a company in the heart of Silicon Valley”.  

“Personally, choosing International Gateways was a life-changing decision because I met my wife, who was also an international student, in Chris Fathman’s Global Issues elective class.”

Timo’s ADVICE to future students: “Be open for new things and accept new directions in your life.”

   

Photo of Youssouf MagassoubaYoussouf Magassouba

Country: Mali, West Africa

ATP student: 2009

 

 

 

It’s an honor to have students like Youssouf join our program. Before he came to International Gateways for a study abroad experience, Youssouf worked in a mining company where he initiated a school program,"English Will Help You", to help the company take social responsibility towards the communities around the mine. The program is still running today.

After his experience with IG, Youssouf stayed in the U.S. and earned an M.A. TESOL.  He now teaches at a teacher’s training institution and works as an English consultant to universities and private companies in his home country.

Youssouf’s ADVICE to future students:  “My story is a success story and I will advise students to devote most of their time to study hard and take advantage of the many resources to improve their knowledge. They should not miss this lifetime experience while in the US.”

   

Photo of Nawaf AlhaqbaniNawaf Alhaqbani

Country: Saudi Arabia

ATP student: 2014-2016

Currently enrolled in SJSU, B.A. Industrial and Systems Engineering

Nawaf joined International Gateways as a beginning English language learner in 2014.  He successfully progressed from our beginner class (level 100) to complete our most advanced class at level 900.  Nawaf is now an Industrial and Systems Engineering major at SJSU and a Dean’s Scholar recipient. He was accepted to SJSU through our Conditional Eligibility Program.

Here’s what Nawaf has to say: “Being a student at IG has helped me in learning not only English, but also valuable skills such as critical thinking and public speaking. In IG, I was able to meet the world at one place by making international friends. I would definitely study at IG, if I had the chance again because it changed my whole life and prepared me for college life.”

 

   

Photo of Fabian MuellerFabian Mueller

Country: Germany

SAS student: 2018

Favorite place to eat: 4th Street Pizza, “it’s a fun place to hang out with friends”

Fabian joined the Semester at SJSU (SAS) program here at International Gateways Fall 2017.  He embraced the entrepreneur spirit of Silicon Valley by participating in SJSU’s annual Silicon Valley Innovative Challenge.  His team’s project, Travel Box, was honored with the People’s Choice Award.  Congratulations to Fabian and his team! We wish luck on your next adventure!  

Fabian’s advice to current and future students, “Try to get involved in as many possibilities as you can here.”

 

   

 Photo of Meshal AlshahraniMeshal Alshahrani

Country: Saudi Arabia

ATP student: 2011-2012

SJSU, B.S. Mechanical Engineering 2017

 

 

 

A former firefighter, Meshal Alshahrani, came to International Gateways in 2011 hoping to improve his English. Meshal reached his goal and along the way has had some incredible experiences!

After transferring to SJSU, Meshal returned to IG to work as a student assistant while studying for his B.S in Mechanical Engineering. He successfully graduated in 2017 while completing a project for NASA.

This is what Meshal has to say about going from firefighter to entrepreneur, “I got influenced by the vibes of the entrepreneurial lifestyle (in Silicon Valley). One of the advantages of IG, is that it’s in the hub. Before my goal was to get a degree and go back home and get a job. Now I want to be my own boss.”

Meshal’s ADVICE to students: “You have the chance to take risks, so take them. Try something different than your own culture. Follow your passion.” 

   

Photo of Julia

Julia Alisa Seifert

Country: Germany

SAS student: 2017

 

"Last year I studied at San Jose State University. I made lots of great friends, got to explore the area, and earned good grades. 

I was fortunate to attend courses which encouraged my interests in international relations, as well as, human rights issues.  My professors were very supportive and helpful in me finding my path in life.  It was an amazing experience and I could not have wished for better SAS advising.

I am very grateful to have had Marwa Abbas as my advisor. She was always there for all of us, emailed us back within minutes, and gave very good advice. I feel very lucky that I got the chance to meet her and feel very grateful that she did such an amazing job to guide me through this semester." 

   

Photo of Jinke

Jinke Du

Country: China

ICA student: 2018

Currently enrolled in SJSU, B.A. Business Analytics

"The biggest help for me is the International Gateways staff. I am a conditional admission student, and there is a lot of information to remember and documents to prepare. Without the help of the ICA unit it would be hard to go through the application on my own."

 

 

 

 

 

  

   

Photo of Baris

Baris Can

Country: Germany

SAS student: 2018

Baris chose to study at SJSU because of its location in the heart of Silicon Valley. He enjoyed visits to different tech companies and field trips to San Francisco and Monterey Bay. Through his Mechanical Engineering course, Baris, along with two other SAS students, had the exciting opportunity to participate in a hacking competition at the World Intelligence Driving Challenge in Tianjin, China in May 2018.  


Baris’ ADVICE to students: “Never say no. Look for opportunities. Talk to professors. And in the end you could also end up in China or elsewhere in the world.”  

 

 

Faculty and Staff Stories

Photo of Chris FathmanChris Fathman

English Instructor

Years at IG: 12

 

 

Hobbies: snowboarding, playing tennis, reading

Having taught abroad in Thailand, Chile and India, Chris brings his international experience with him to the classroom. E-waste, conflict minerals, diet and the environment are just some of the trending topics discussed in Chris’s Global Issues elective class.  

A fun fact about Chris? He enjoys cooking when he’s not teaching.  Soups are his favorite during the cooler winter months. Ask Chris for his butternut squash soup recipe when you see him!

Chris’s ADVICE to students: “Don’t forget that success is not just about preparing for the TOEFL.  It’s about language skills. You have to combine test-taking skills and English language skills to succeed.”

   

Photo of Cindy GrahamCindy Graham

Operations and Finance Manager

Years at IG: 24 (on and off)

 

 

Hobbies: gardening, baking, reading, traveling

Among her many roles, Cindy is one of the first IG staff members students communicate with before their arrival in the U.S.  During Orientation Week, she warmly greets new students to the program during the check-in process.

Having grown up in the Democratic Republic of Congo for 20 years, Cindy has a deep understanding of the international student experience. She attended school with students from all over the world.  Cindy speaks French and has basic knowledge of Lingala, one of the main languages used in the Congo.

Cindy’s ADVICE to students: “Get outside of your comfort zone and meet people. Most people will be patient with your language skills.”

   
Photo of Kim Green

Kim Green

Associate Director / English Instructor

Years at IG: 17

Hobbies: cooking, traveling, being active

Along with her duties as Associate Director, Kim also teaches the elective class, “The Story of America” every Monday and Wednesday.

A few fun facts about Kim ~ Although Kim is at every student activity engaging with students, she’s shyer than she appears to be.  With her love of travel, Kim would like to visit Morocco one day or revisit Cuba.

Kim’s ADVICE to current and future students, “Ask questions and learn from those answers. Don’t be shy.”

 

   

Photo of Ben SollerBen Soller

Academic Coordinator / English Instructor

Years at IG: 13

 

 

 

Hobbies: playing the violin, reading, listening to music

Most students will have the opportunity to get to know Ben as a student in his class or as a student seeking academic advice.  In addition to his multiple roles as teacher, advisor, and academic coordinator, Ben can be seen as Santa during Christmas or Uncle Sam on Independence Day.  Ben’s love for working with and learning from people from other cultures has kept him at International Gateways for 13 years.

Ben lived and taught in Japan before joining International Gateways.  He’s also traveled throughout Europe, Central America and Southeast Asia.  A fun fact about Ben is that he can say “no problem” in 10 different languages!

Ben’s ADVICE for students: "Read a lot. Watch English movies with subtitles. Using the language with native English speakers is the best way to learn."

   

Photo of Marianne WheelerMarianne Wheeler

English Instructor

Years at IG: 20

 

Hobbies: kayaking, gardening, reading, spending time with her children

In her 20 years with International Gateways, Marianne has worn multiple hats.  Many former students may remember her as the former Custom Programs Coordinator.  Marianne managed, organized and taught  groups of students for a unique cultural and language learning experience.  Her welcoming smile and positive energy helped students adjust smoothly to American culture and teaching styles.

Marianne’s ADVICE to students: “The students that make the most progress and that are happiest are those that take risks in their speaking, and have fun with the language and culture.”

   

Photo of Julie YangJulie Yang 

English Instructor / Graduate Student Advisor

Years at IG: 14

Hobbies: traveling, watching Korean dramas

Julie knows what it means to be an international student. In her early 20s, she left China to pursue her academic career. After earning her Ph.D. in International Education in England and then working in Canada and Boston, Julie set roots at International Gateways. In addition to her professional accomplishments and in-depth knowledge of the admissions process, Julie's warm personality and commitment to student success help to define the "heart" of International Gateways.

Julie's ADVICE to students: “Embrace the study abroad experience. Don’t be scared.”