A Guide to Atlanta -- Surviving Atlanta as an International Student

How to Balance Work and Play in a Foreign Environment


Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Exploring Your Way across the City

A Course Designed for EAP Settings

Jennifer R. Rose

Georgia State University












It’s well known that when international students are connected to their community, they do better academically, emotionally, spiritually, and are generally happier and more productive. By “connected” here, I mean that students do better when they embrace the target culture and beliefs of country they now find themselves living within. Studies have been conducted showing that when students participate with and integrate into their target culture, they rank benefits from study abroad programs much higher and generally think better of their study abroad experience. Barbara Freed cites Marriott, Siegal, and Reagan in their exploration of politeness norms in Japan in saying that “immersion in the target culture will exert a major impact on the acquisition of sociolinguistic competence” (Freed, 1998). This work found that “students demonstrate considerable change in their use of politeness phenomena after their sojourn in Japan” (Freed, 1998). Berry also found that “that those who pursue the integration strategy experience less stress, and adapt better than those who pursue marginalization while those who pursue assimilation and separation experience intermediate levels of stress and adaptation” (2008).

In her study examining the “acculturation process of international student spouses,” Seyoung Park found that when her participants reached out for help from community members, they felt happier, less depressed, and better able to cope with the demands that the English-speaking world threw at them (Park, 2016). During my practicum course in the spring semester of 2016, I came across many students who would tell me that they had no idea what to do or where to go for fun in Atlanta. Many lived on campus, without transportation, so they were limited to what public transportation could bring to their world. Even with transportation, many are left without the linguistic knowledge to thrive in an English-speaking country. The few that told me they had a car lived in the suburbs, far away from the university and were limited to what family or friends do on the weekend because of limited English ability and confidence. Even with transportation, students often lack the linguistic and social confidence to explore their new city on their own.

                This paper presents a course designed for international students studying in Atlanta to better help them integrate into the culture of the city. The primary goal is to present the course and the rationale behind its creation. Specific objectives as to the creation of the course are obtained from Intensive English Program students and from faculty and administrator interviews, following a needs analysis protocol (Basturkmen, 2013). Hopefully, the proposed course will help students feel a little more “at home” when studying away from home and ease the adjustment process in a study abroad or intensive English program setting.

Literature Review

Part I: A Look around the Community

Many students come to the US to study English with the idea that they know American culture but they know what Gary Weaver refers to as “surface culture” (1986). In his paper, Cross-Cultural Orientation: New Conceptualizations and Applications, Weaver refers to a “cultural iceberg” where there are elements of culture that stand out and are obvious to those looking in from a different culture (surface culture) and there are those elements that are not so obvious, that a person would have to spend time and dig a little deeper or be taught about through a class like this (deep culture) (Weaver, 1986). Weaver sites surface culture as the “art, music, literature, drama, dance, games, cooking, and dress” of the target culture. While “deep culture” refers to things like ideas about “modesty, beauty, childrearing, inheritance, cosmology, authority, courtship, sin, justice, work, leadership, decision-making, disease, cleanliness, deportment, problem-solving, nonverbal communication, relationship to nature, time, language, social interaction, emotion, roles related to age, sex, class, occupation, kinship, friendship, and individualism vs. collectivism” of the target culture (Weaver 1986). The idea is that you can’t truly know a culture unless you’ve lived in it, talked to the people and said more than “hello how are you,” or explored a city’s components with a native of that culture. The class in question is meant to cover both -- as much as can be covered in 15 weeks, as well as give international students the tools and the curiosity to explore more.

                Georgia State University’s IEP has a method in place to alleviate fear in students upon arrival – they begin with an on-site orientation for a week before classes start where teachers and activities leaders will tour campus and down town with students, letting them know where essential activities are, where to go for class, to eat, to hang out between classes, etc. They also supplement this with weekly community activities or outings that are usually accompanied by a native-speaking chaperone. Many other intensive English programs in the area take this approach and add an elective course component to that by making it a required part of their program or an elective course. Both approaches have benefits and drawbacks that will be discussed later. Briefly, when students go on outings that are accompanied by a chaperone, this is a good first step, but many feel like they don’t have the skills to do this alone or with non-native speaking friends. They develop a false sense of confidence because too much has been done for them when it comes to language scaffolding, and when they must run the same errand or participate in a similar activity, they experience stress that hinders the performance of the task. The idea behind creating a class for activities is that you take some of the responsibility away from the instructor or activities coordinator in these activities and place that responsibility on the students. By creating a 15-week series of assignments to explore Atlanta, the hope is that somehow you are going to create a community of learners that feels empowered to do this explore the city thing by themselves after a few weeks of confidence-building and background-building activities.  

                Before creating this class, I naturally wanted to look at other programs to see what they offered. This was handled by exploring the website of Georgia Institute of Technology’s Language Institute, where I discovered the widest variety of elective courses where students can get to know Atlanta. Listed here are some of my findings. As a part of their short course program this summer, Georgia Tech’s IEP is offering a course in American Popular Culture, and lists in the description that the course will include field trips to the CNN center and World of Coke in Atlanta. These are certainly important places to know if one is to live in the city (as well as ones of high interest to students), but I think that they represent Atlanta’s surface or tourist culture – and are certainly appropriate for short program courses. GSU IEP Director Allison Camacho said in an interview that these are important to include in a class because “students definitely want to see and experience these first” (A. Camacho, personal communication, July 16, 2016). [EF1] However, a student who is studying with an IEP long term is going to want to dig deeper into Atlanta’s culture than popular tourist destinations, and I have certainly taken that into account as I’ve designed the course. GA Tech also offers an American Studies course to their ESL students, in which students learn about the city of Atlanta, per their website course description. As a part of this course, students learn about Atlanta “from a historical and contemporary perspective, from slavery and the Civil war to Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement to the headquarters of Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and CNN, and a vibrant music scene” (“Georgia Tech Language Institute Course Catalog,” 2016). They state that course content comes from lectures, movie segments, and field trips while students are responsible for keeping oral and written journals as a part of their learning process” (“Georgia Tech Language Institute Course Catalog,” 2016). This is more of what I was envisioning when I started researching this project. So much of Atlanta’s culture, feelings, and life in general comes from an area steeped in a rich history that dates to the Civil War in general. Learners need to understand this history to understand most of why Atlanta is what it is. Additionally, when I looked at the elective courses offered as a part of GA Tech’s IEP program, I didn’t see much in the way of culture offerings among standardized test prep courses and an extra writing for STEM course in the mix. It’s important to note, too, that GA Tech offers these courses to Intermediate to Advanced learners, and that when designing a course of my own, my target proficiency will be similar – there should be some sense of equal proficiency among learners before they can set out to explore by methods of reading, writing, and speaking to native speakers.

This institution also offers an “upper level service learning English-course.” Per their website, the course uses the “service-learning” established university strategy to enhance student learning while meeting community needs. They state that “for English language learners, service-learning provides a workplace setting for applying language skills, as well as knowledge and appreciation of a local Atlanta community and its residents” (“Georgia Tech Language Institute Course Catalog,” 2016). They use the course to help international students “examine causes and effects of poverty for children in the U.S.” while they work with children and staff at Boys and Girls Clubs USA” (“Georgia Tech Language Institute Course Catalog,” 2016). This is important because many international students come to the US with images of wealth that have been painted for them by their home culture. It’s important for ESL programs to paint a realistic picture of life in the US while also promising a successful future here if that’s what the student wishes. Many students come to study in the US with hopes and dreams that go unfulfilled for years for a variety of reasons, and by taking students into the community like this – educators can better help students understand that poverty is a worldwide phenomenon, and not exclusive to one or two countries they are familiar with.

                The IEP at Georgia Southern University offers elective courses in US culture, pronunciation, English through Film and Novels, current events, standardized testing, and CALL but doesn’t list details of their courses. The University of Georgia’s Intensive English Program website lists elective courses in TOEFL, IELTS, and GRE preparation, along with idiomatic expression and college 101 but does not mention of any kind of course in American culture or population study. This knowledge combined is evidence that there is a need for such a course about southern, Atlanta history and culture in the IEP not just at GSU but state-wide, if students are going to call Atlanta or the southeastern United States home for a good portion of their lives while studying here.

Part II: Peer-Reviewed Journal Research

In their article in the English Language Teaching Journal titled Bringing the Outside World into an Intensive English Program, authors Lindsey Hillyard, Randi Reppen, and Camilla Vasquez describe the “efforts of an intensive English program to design a class that addressed the challenges of bringing authentic English into the curriculum” (Hillyard, et al, 2007). The course that they designed “exposed students to a variety of authentic English language input while providing support” (Hillyard, et al, 2007). They describe a class where students volunteered with organizations in the community that were linked with learning outcomes of other program courses (Hillyard, et al, 2007) and go on to say that the course “consisted of class meetings, electronic discussions, the community placement, paper journals, a final reflection paper, and a capstone experience” (Hillyard, et al, 2007).

The authors in this article describe their students as full-time IEP students who are mostly enrolled in Hotel and Restaurant Management and other similar fields, so the emphasis on service and helping others is relevant. Students are required to interact with the public, so this would help them gain practice with that. They say that in the planning stages of the course, they had to contact community organizations that would be receptive to having students spend time at their business (2007). The authors cite the many benefits of having different assignments for the course:  students got exposure to many different people, and many ways of interacting with people, in addition to being prepared for future academic courses. During the class sessions, students practiced role-playing situations they would find in the community placements and in their journals and online discussion boards they would talk about awareness of difficulties they’ve had (Hillyard, et al, 2007) -- which was fuel for in-class discussions. The authors also cite a benefit of this course as having students interact with real-world listeners as opposed to “sympathetic” listeners in the ESL classroom (Hillyard, et al, 2007). Students become more aware of the “inside” world, they realized in their placements that not all listeners were as sympathetic as their ESL teachers and people at the university (Hillyard, et al, 2007). A limitation of this article is the small size of this university’s IEP – they said they serve 20-30 students every semester, so obvious adjustments would have to be made at an institution such as GSU, with a much larger international student population served by their IEP. However, the authors cite in their conclusion that “we believe that the design of the class was crucial to its success – the careful articulation of local organizations’ expectations, the variety of related class activities and tasks, and the students’ enthusiastic participation coupled with the teacher’s commitment to the successful implementation of this curricular innovation, created a valuable learning experience for our students” (Hillyard, et al, 2007). The qualitative feedback they quote from students and paired organizations all proved that this was a course that benefited students greatly. They concluded their paper by saying that yes, it was difficult at first but hard work in the beginning and the multiple formats for instruction are what made this course successful and was brought back for a second year. A quick glance at the program’s current website make it unable to be determined if the course is still being offered. Perhaps an area of further research would be to determine why courses such as these have such a short shelf life, but that’s another topic for another section. This article also made me think back to my discussion with Camacho earlier – in her description of GSU IEP electives – “we do offer a service-learning themed course, but it’s an oral communication course for level 4-5” (personal communication, 2016) and it was only established last semester by one of our instructors. In talking to the creator of that course, Elizabeth McNab, she said it was incredibly difficult to “manage student interest with community need” and many times students would leave frustrated that they didn’t get as much as they would have liked out of the course because they felt they were “serving” people (personal communication, 2016). I can only imagine the headache involved for all in the planning stage.

In their article titled Procedure: The Key to Developing and ESP Curriculum found in TESOL Quarterly, author David M. Litwack focuses his attention on industrial training that uses ESL training as an essential component. Litwack (1979) outlines reasons for the use of an English for Specific Purposes (ESP) curriculum and lays out the steps to creating an ESP curriculum for a technology-oriented training program. Litwack includes lesson formats and editing techniques in his curriculum creation procedure (1979). An obvious limitation to this article is its age, however, some of the suggestions the author gives are timeless in regards to the curriculum creation process. Since this author is attempting to create a curriculum for what is essentially ESP or EAP, she will cite some of the suggestions from Litwack in the following paragraph.

The first step, says Litwack, in designing a curriculum is to “analyze trainee and job needs” (Litwack, 1979). “English language training design staff must determine what English communication needs trainees will have, that is, what English will be used for on-the-job or in further (job-oriented) training” (Litwack, 1979). He explains that staff must first determine what learner needs are before beginning to create tasks. Having this knowledge, an instructor can better tailor the curriculum and lessons to fit the needs, and it is for this reason that no curriculum about getting to know the inner workings of Atlanta is going to fit all learners. Every teacher that looks at this curriculum should tailor it to his or her students’ individual levels, but Litwack mentions that for each of the skill areas a basic set of “terminal objectives” can be determined and that is the framework that the author will take to establish this curriculum (Litwack, 1979). It is implied that once a general set of learning goals are set, they can be modified to fit each individual or group of learners. In Litwack’s course, he looked at reading comprehension, listening comprehension, oral production, and writing to establish a common set of learning outcomes (Litwack, 1979). Because the individual learning outcome of his course is so specific to the content of the course, it will not apply to the author’s current project and will be omitted from this work. The author can and does create a standard set of learning outcomes, but it is up to each teacher that teaches this curriculum to determine specific learning outcomes for that group of students.

The second step in creating a curriculum, per Litwack is to source classroom material (1979). By this he means that teachers should carefully “locate authentic material to provide lesson texts and evaluation instruments against which mastery of the objectives can be measured” (Litwack, 1979). Part of this task, he continues, includes but is not limited to “editing the material to control lexis, structure, and rhetoric” (Litwack, 1979). This is where curriculum creation for a teacher gets tricky. The author can create a set of lessons generally for a population she has taught in the past – but it would have to be updated each semester, as the city changes and the population changes, not to mention the needs of the student body – they change too.

The third step he sites is to sit down and “write and edit the material” (Litwack, 1979) and this, he says is closely linked to the sourcing process. After the curriculum is sourced, written, and edited, the next and fourth step per Litwack is to “write exercises to teach the material,” “edit the material,” and finally as the last step to “pilot and revise the material” (Litwack, 1979). What can the author take away from this? That curriculum creation is not an easy or quick process. If it’s to be done with quality, the author should follow a set of steps to source out material by searching various sources and talking to various professionals in the field – but that’s only the preliminary steps. What follows for the author is a careful selection of materials based on learner needs and other factors such as access to materials and transportation and people available. Even after the curriculum is written, it should be piloted once or twice to ensure success and then adjusted based on the pilot class. The author will consider these steps in the creation of her own curriculum during the remainder of this project.

In their work titled The international program: Curriculum design and assessment for and English-medium Economics program in the Asian EFL Journal, authors Darrell Wilkinson and Raymond Yasuda outline an intensive English-medium Economics program established to facilitate the development of various skills and knowledge needed for students to achieve their goal of being successful members of the international academic and business community (2013). The authors were working in a three-year content and language integrated learning (CLIL) program to not only provide students with the opportunity to take English-medium economics classes, but also embed those courses through a series of English for academic purposes (EAP) adjunct classes and study abroad opportunities (2013). The program, they describe, systematically builds learners’ EFL skills and allows students to better understand the English-medium lectures, actively participate in academic discourses, and provide them with a host of useful skills for their future international studies or employment (2013). The main take away the author received from this article is that his course was embedded as a part of a three-year program and did not sit separately in the Intensive English Program. The course was embedded among other courses and study abroad activities within the program. This is a recurring theme among successful IEP elective courses, the theme of cohesion and communication between departments. The author will keep this in mind when designing her course and future courses. Courses should not only meet the requirements of the program they are embedded with, but also provide students with “a host of useful skills for their future international studies or employment” (2013). What does that mean for creators of this curriculum? Teachers need to be aware of the needs of their students and tailor learning goals accordingly.

In addition, Tajino, James, and Kijima point out in their article Beyond needs analysis: Soft systems methodology for meaningful collaboration in EAP course design that “designing an EAP course requires collaboration among various concerned stakeholders, including students, subject teachers, institutional administrators, and EAP teachers themselves” (2005). They describe soft systems methodology (SSM) as a method for gathering data that was developed in management schools as “a learning system by means of which collaborative pathways are developed in a systemic way to better understand complex human problem situations” (Tajino, et al, 2005). They apply this to EAP curriculum design because it “adds a new perspective to research methodology in EAP” (Tajino, et al, 2005).

In his chapter “Introducing Needs Analysis and English for Specific Purposes,” J.D. Brown suggests that course creators ask themselves some questions before gathering data for the course (2016). A few of these questions include but aren’t limited to: “Why is the analysis being taken?” and “Whose needs are being analyzed?” (Brown, 2016). The learners for the proposed survival in Atlanta English course would already be enrolled in GSU’s Intensive English Program (international students studying English in Atlanta) and have the choice to take this course as an elective with their other course work. Given that many have experience with the courses and English for Academic Purposes, the proposed course would provide them with an opportunity to use this knowledge and provide them with skills to successfully find an area of interest in Atlanta or find something to do that requires interaction with locals in the city. The course would be taught, ideally, by someone who was familiar with the city or has lived here for at least a year and is proficient in the English language. If no one can be found with that criteria, the proposed teacher should be willing to learn about the city and eager to share knowledge with students. Helen Basturkmen asserts “ESP is understood to be about preparing learners to use English within academic, professional, or workplace environments, and a key feature of ESP course design is that the syllabus is based on an analysis of the needs of the students” (2010). Because of this, the proposed course would be fluid and flexible from semester to semester. If a group of learners enters the course and is interested in Atlanta tourism and the careers in hospitality in Atlanta, the course can take that approach, but it doesn’t have to. My hope is that once they finish the course, the learners will be empowered to teach others and help new international students with the same skills. Basturkmen also insists that “in ESP, language is learnt not for its own sake or for the sake of gaining a general education but to smooth the path to entry or greater linguistic efficiency in these environments” (2010). This is exactly what a course such as this one proposes to do. Learners will already be learning English or have already had some exposure to the language – I want them to move beyond this and use the language to explore a city they are unfamiliar with or, if they are familiar with the city, find a part of the city that they didn’t know existed and explore that. Learners will gain a greater “linguistic efficiency” for their purposes while in Atlanta. I have also used Nation’s and Macalister’s (2010) guiding questions of “What will this course be used for?” and “What content matter will the learner be working with?” when designing a needs analysis for this course.

Rationale for Course: International Students’ Perspectives            

Over my time in the MA program at GSU, I have learned by talking to IEP students that they often come blindly to Atlanta and GSU. They are excited for the opportunity to study in the United States but don’t know much about Atlanta or stay with family outside of the city. If they have transportation, they are still isolated because they lack the confidence to explore (or drive in Atlanta traffic) on their own or with other international students. Many IEP students chose Atlanta because they have a relative living here and are not completely alone, but there are some that come here because they want to be away from family and have more of a chance to practice the language in authentic contexts.

Needs Assessment Tools

                To ensure the success of the proposed course, certain measures will need to be taken in data collection around the community and institution. Initially, a poll of the students will be taken to assess their desire and interest in a course such as this, along with what it is they want to know. (Appendix A shows the questions I would ask potential and current students.) Brown suggests, “use whatever inside connections you have to enter the institution you want to study” (2016). Since I am a member of the graduate student faculty at the institution, I am already an insider in this institution, and can therefore gain access to teachers and administrators for questioning and interviewing. Some teachers and administrators are busier than others, and thus will answer questions via email in written form (Appendix B). Some will sit with me and answer my questions in person. I will identify key personnel who will help me achieve this task. For example, the director of the program, the activities coordinator, and a teacher who has been living in Atlanta and teaching in the program for at least ten years all make great candidates for information of this nature. Brown also suggests to “go through proper channels and seek appropriate permission in early and subsequent stages of the needs analysis process” (2016). This advice will be heeded. Basturkmen (2010) also points out: “perspectives of needs vary and the needs analyst has to decide whose perspectives to consider in designing ESP courses or synthesize divergent perspectives (Jasso-Aguilar, 1999). For this reason, it is important to talk to a variety of people both in the institution and outside of it and triangulate data before developing the course.

                I also think it is appropriate to get an idea of what linguistic materials and target structures students will need to produce while exploring Atlanta. For this, I will gather brochures, pamphlets, and take pictures of signs at popular community destinations so that I will have an idea of what students will need to understand while making the course. This can be accomplished by visiting local tourist attractions (CNN Center, Aquarium, Centennial Park for starters) and collecting manuals and things to analyze and create a working corpus of the city. Brown suggests “remember to do three things: listen, listen, and listen. You are not there to give your opinion. You are there to find out what other people are thinking” (2016). This can be applied both to the interviews and the data collection. While walking around and gathering information, the data collector will listen with an open mind and think about what international students can possibly gain from each situation while there. Brown also suggests to “use a variety of NA sources so that you can compare and contrast the information results that you get” (2016) and this will be taken into consideration as well. I will also poll community members and business owners (coffee shop owners, restaurant owners, theater employees for example) as to if I would be welcome with a group of international students at their place of business (Appendix C). The questions for those can be found at the end of this document as well. In addition, students will be given an evaluation packet at the beginning of the course to assess baseline proficiency to help with materials selection and assess initial student interest and to get to know the learners (Cortes, 2016).

                Based on the data and analysis done, a syllabus will be created and adjusted throughout the semester. Constant feedback will occur during the implementation of the course to assess student learning and interest and what portions of the curriculum should be kept and what should be left out of a current course for the learners at hand. With team work and constant feedback from all stakeholders, the aim of the course is to improve the lives of international students while in Atlanta and thus improve a program of study for all involved.

Basturkmen (2010) claims that, “The learners are often asked for their perceptions of needs but they may not be reliable sources of information about their own needs, especially if they are relatively unfamiliar with the job they are to perform or the subject they are to study” (Long, 1996). Of course, the learners are stakeholders in this course, and they are the ones that this this course is being created for – and thus, the course will be modeled around their needs. A complete questionnaire for them will follow, at the end of this document as well. Basturkmen also highlights the differences between language needs and learning needs by saying “Language needs are not learning needs. Although learners will need to use certain language structures or features in their target environments, this does not mean that they are ready to acquire them” (Hutchinson & Waters, 1987). For this reason, proficiency will be considered, and the course will be offered to students that are at a certain level in the program and will follow the scope and sequence of the Intensive English Program for that level. Since the IEP already offers a proficiency test for students and they are leveled based on this test, the course developer will need to use this tool in addition to additional methods of assessing proficiency for this course to be successful. One of my questions to the administrators should include what level they think is appropriate for this kind of course and materials selection must consider the level of the students for that semester.

Per a survey I conducted on July 15, 2016, in the class that I taught this summer, I discovered the following results. I gave them the opportunity to write their answers but also talk about their answers in class. IEP student Mary (name changed) replied, “I didn’t chose, my family chose for me.” Because this was an oral communication course, I used this as an opportunity to create extra discussion. When I asked Mary to tell me more about that statement, she explained that she chose Atlanta because she only knew one person here, her uncle, and she had relatives in other parts of the country. She said she needed to be in a place where she didn’t know anyone else because she wanted to challenge herself and not rely on her family to help her. Mary also said that she felt “bored, lost, and sad” when she was asked to describe her first week in Atlanta. When I asked her what her favorite things to do in Atlanta are, she didn’t have any non-academic answers. She replied to this question by saying “My favorite things to do in Atlanta are studying to have good grades.” It was clear from the rest of her response what her goals were: “to finish early and come back [to] my home town.” Mary said she would take such a course about the history and culture of Atlanta because she “needs to speak and write English well to continue with my major.” Mary is like other students -- she seems to enjoy the process of studying English in Atlanta, but needs a little more guidance as to what is here and why it’s here. Another student surveyed in the same class said he chose Atlanta to study because it’s a “beautiful city and there are a lot of places to spend free time and I have some friends here.” The same student found the IEP through a website and has been to places like Piedmont Park and the mall but said he would take a class such as this because he is an international student and wants “to learn more about Atlanta, the good parts and safety,” per the results of the same survey. This student also wanted to learn more about Atlanta’s history and fun places to go in Atlanta while studying.

                Another student, John (name changed), seemed to have other reasons for taking such a course. John came to Atlanta because he had family here, and is living outside the perimeter with his family and commutes to school. John seemed to have one question that baffled him, which was, “I do not know why this city has so many homeless, especially downtown near my university,” per this survey. When he asked this question in class during discussion, other students became interested and I could tell this was a question that baffled them as well. It baffled them because everything they had ever been taught about America in their home countries had contradicted this. After all, the USA is supposed to be the land of the rich and the home of the brave, right? John, like many other international students, received a rude awakening upon enrolling classes, that yes, there is poverty here too -- but no one explained why. A course such as this would help explain why Atlanta is so diverse economically, racially, and geographically.

                Still another student, Aaron (name changed), said during the same survey on the same day that he chose Atlanta to study because the city had similar weather to his country had heard good things from other students about the IEP here. He said he had studied English in his country for several years, but it was completely different than the English he heard spoken on the streets of Atlanta. His response to the question of how he felt when he was here for the first time was, “I was scared, I can’t understand the accent, and I can’t describe how I want to say,” according to the survey results. He went on to say that he got much help from the IEP staff at GSU, the activities coordinator and a few others helped him read a map and took them on outings to famous places like the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coke the first week they were here -- helping him navigate MARTA at the same time. He said that he would take such a class because he “wants to know more about US culture and history” and he also says “I really love Atlanta now.” Aaron’s experience is a testament to what a supportive environment can do for a willing international student that needs that extra push to experience the world around him. Imagine where he’d be without the activities coordinators – a course like the one proposed in this paper would provide a requirement for all these things – and make Aaron’s experience universal to any student that takes it, not just the ones that happen to go on the activities that are optional to the program.

In addition to this survey, I also conducted a survey on a different day, with a different class. This can be found in the back of this paper as well, and the following results were found.

Trend 1: Reasons for coming to Atlanta and Georgia State University

                When it comes to reasons for choosing the area of Atlanta, students tend to have family or friends already in the area or if they don’t they like the climate here. In response to question 1: “Why did you choose Atlanta to study when you came to the US?” 54% of the respondents said they have friends or family in the area as their main reason for choosing Atlanta as a place of study. The remaining students said that the weather was their primary reason for choosing Atlanta as a destination to study abroad. When it comes to reasons for Georgia State University (Question 2) the trend is very similar. 54% cited their reason for choosing GSU was either friends, family, or students in their home country studying at GSU previously and recommending the experience. The others cited an internet search and the general reputation of the program as their reasons for studying at GSU’s Intensive English Program. Similar trends were found for how they heard about the program (Question 3). 27% of respondents indicated they searched the web for a place to study English while another 27% of respondents misunderstood the question and replied with “good” or “useful.” It’s at this point where I can acknowledge the format of the questions in this questionnaire and language proficiency of the learners. It might have been more helpful to have the questionnaire feature questions that are more than free response questions to eliminate this confusion in the future. This can be attributed to my inexperience as a researcher with this population and adjust methods for future surveys.

Trend 2: Attitudes on Culture Shock and Initial Impressions of the City

                In response to this group of questions, similar results also presented themselves. The most obvious being the answers to question 4: “Describe how you felt on your first week in Atlanta.” 54% of the respondents responded with a positive feeling, which maybe a result of the honeymoon effect when studying abroad. The remainder of the respondents answered either neutrally or negatively, the most extreme of which said, “An unexpected thing happened. My first week was a disaster.” Again, more information could have been obtained by doing interviews, but time did not allow for this assignment. It also tells me that there should be room in the curriculum for emergency English instruction and practice if these situations are happening to students. 54% of respondents said they had someone show them around when they were here on their first week, but it was brief and the answers to the following questions indicate it wasn’t enough to be sustainable. The remainder of participants did not have anyone to show them around Atlanta and listed activities such as sleeping as their favorite things to do. When asked how they felt when they first moved here, only one respondent answered negatively, saying they felt “homesick, and a bit depressed.” Two respondents did not respond to this question, and the others had overall positive comment such as “excited and nervous,” “It was like a ‘honeymoon’,” and “People are friendly.” In response to question 6: “What did you like best when you first moved here?” 54% commented on how nice the weather was in Atlanta. The remaining respondents commented on how clean the air was (in comparison to their city in China) and how clean their dorm room was. Another respondent commented on the good quality of the food and the friendliness of the people.

Trend 3: Language Abilities and Other Comments

                Specific problems in the city from a students’ perspective relate to traffic, renting an apartment, and navigating a hair salon and giving instructions to a hair stylist, as answers to question nine indicate. One respondent indicated “I live in an area where the public transportation is inaccessible” in response to what specific problems they have encountered while living here. Another student tried to explain to a hair stylist what they wanted and found it difficult to do so. These responses make it a little easier to develop goals for a class but they also give me insight into the research process once more. I can now develop more comprehensive questionnaires that are not in use that may be more helpful in the future. Respondents told me that they wish someone had told them about the traffic, about rules and habits in Atlanta, and everything was when they don’t have a car. I can take this information directly and consider it when making curriculum decisions for this course. I can also decide to interview students for further insight. This is what students want to know when studying in Atlanta. My activities should be designed to assist students in these areas, among others. Students rated themselves 4-8 on a scale of 1-10 in how comfortable they felt with Atlanta and their language abilities while here. This tells me that there is a need for a class such as this from a student perspective.

Conclusion: Importance of Survey Results and Next Steps

                Many students surveyed (63%) said they would take a course such as this if it was offered, even though more participants are needed to draw any conclusions. This tells me that with this group of students, a class such as this would be wanted, needed, and appreciated, which was my goal in giving this part of the needs analysis.  From a student perspective, this class is very much welcomed, which helps in defending this to administrators and teachers. The results of the survey also tell me the importance of specificity in creating goals for each time this class is taught, so this survey would have to be repeated with each teaching of the course. Next steps include completing the rest of the needs analysis protocol and gaining a greater sample size. I need to talk to administrators, more students, and teachers to gain their perspective. I also need to interview community members and business owners in Atlanta and gain their perspective. In addition, the written survey format allowed me to get an idea of where students were in their written language development, so I think next steps would have to include a language test as well so that materials can be selected to be appropriate for learners in a course such as this. I would also love to create a corpus of language students need to survive in Atlanta based on these and other results.

Many students lack the knowledge of the history and culture of the city, which limits decision-making ability. I think about my own study abroad and living abroad situations – limited in language and knowledge of the target culture, I would try to venture out to a restaurant or museum as “something to do beside sit in my apartment” and end up getting lost on the subway and come home to my apartment five hours later defeated. Or if I did make it to my destination I would try to order lunch or tickets to a given event and end up frustrated because I wasn’t pronouncing something correctly and give up at this stage, still defeated, still frustrated. This can all be daunting to a student new to Atlanta, and I believe if we as instructors, administrators, and language teaching professionals work collaboratively much can be done to alleviate this fear in students.

Rationale for the Course: An IEP Director’s Perspective

                When I talked to Georgia State University’s Intensive English Program (IEP) Director Allison Camacho, she was not only excited about the prospect of a course of this nature but also provided some important insight from an administrator’s perspective, something that a teacher or course developer is not as likely to see. Although Camacho is currently the director of the Intensive English Program, she is also an instructor, so her opinion is of double value here. First, she said “it is extremely important that IEP students see tasks in their program that are going to be required of them as an undergraduate when they leave our program” (Camacho, 2016, personal communication) in response to a question about what the IEP looks for in a good EAP (English for Academic Purposes) elective course.

Camacho went on to explain that “our courses are more authentic with materials that they are likely to see either in the world or in their future classes” (A. Camacho, personal communication, 2016). By authentic, she gave the example of the structure and composition writing courses her program offers. She explained that they are doing more to ensure students learn more than just the 5-paragraph essay, because that is not the only thing they will see when they enter undergraduate classrooms upon leaving the IEP. She cited action research that is being done by her colleague Diana Wrenn in the department – going into undergraduate classrooms and looking at what those professors are requiring of their students, and applying those findings to the IEP curriculum. These are findings that led to the IEP’s authentic, research-based curriculum – and advantage that GSU’s IEP has because it’s part of the academic Applied Linguistics department. She also explained that in the 15 years since the Intensive English Program has been in existence, there hasn’t been a whole lot of elective courses simply because the courses they offer need to meet student expectations; that is, they need to be courses that give them the competitive edge over other international students to both enter and succeed in undergraduate coursework.

GSU has offered elective courses in the past, such as the extensive reading courses where students read a novel and respond to it in various ways, or test prep courses for standardized tests such as the TOEFL or IELTS, but that is about the extent of the elective coursework offered at GSU (Camacho, 2016, personal communication). Camacho also said that elective courses “give students more options and mirror what students should be doing after they leave our program” (2016, personal communication). I then asked Camacho what the top priority should be when creating a class for and EAP curriculum if that changes if that course is an elective. She replied that “the top priority should be to have clear learning outcomes and that any curriculum should stick to those learning outcomes” (2016, personal communication). She then remarked that the only difference is that an elective course has the freedom to “consider the interest level of the students” (2016). She then commented that “it’s a difficult balance to achieve, matching learning outcomes with student interests and trying to fit that to make it relevant to student’s lives” citing an example of how she changed the level 4 curriculum to marketing content after realizing that a clear majority of IEP students were wanting to declare majors in marketing in the future (Camacho, 2016). She also mentioned that the IEP is constantly changing courses to meet student interests and needs, and for this she cited the example of the oral communication classes for levels 4 and 5 experimenting with topics in service learning and cultural taboos while still maintaining the learning outcomes they will need to help students succeed in university life. She explained that the goal of core classes was to help with undergraduate admissions, while elective classes can serve other purposes (Camacho, 2016) and she remarked that “having an IEP is like having a business” because if you don’t specialize in something that others don’t you end up getting looked over by students as customers (Camacho, 2016).

I then asked her about the process to get a course approved for use in an IEP setting – as it relates to electives – and I learned that this was not as simple as it sounds. Her statement to me was “we have to be careful about which courses are going to be a part of a core curriculum, because if we start offering electives the admissions process [for our students] becomes a lot more complicated” (Camacho, 2016, personal communication). She advised me and other teachers to go back to the mission statement of the IEP and consider what students were going to gain from a course, and tailor the course to meet those needs. She then urged me to talk to other teachers for ideas and crowd source activities and learning outcomes to ensure the most beneficial learning environment for students. Names she mentioned included those that were not around this summer (Debra Snell, Margaretta Larson, Diana Wrenn, and Johnathan McNair among others). In talking to Diana Wrenn, her advice to me was to find authentic materials and stay away from formulaic ESL materials – go to the Atlanta Visitor’s Center website instead of Dave’s ESL Café and the like (Wrenn, personal communication, 2016). She speaks from personal experience as someone that has led exchange programs of students here for short-term programs and long-term programs.

The Proposed Course: Syllabus Description

                This section will be dedicated to describing the syllabus that will be in Appendix A of this paper. The course will be 15 weeks in length and divided into learning outcomes that encompass reading, writing, speaking, listening, and presentation skills. The goal of this course is for high-intermediate through advanced students to explore Atlanta through an academic lens – and allow students to become familiar with a part of Atlanta they aren’t already familiar with.  Because I have been teaching in the Intensive English Program, I found it easiest to borrow the format from an oral communication course (since students are already familiar with this format). The goal is for students to become more familiar and confident with various places around the city. On the first day of class, the syllabus will be handed to the students but so will a questionnaire for currently enrolled students. The idea is students will guide the purpose of the course with their answers. This can be found in the appendices as well. During the 15 weeks, students will explore areas of Atlanta in an organized fashion. I have designed it so each week is a different neighborhood of Atlanta, with speaking and listening and reading and writing activities on Monday and Wednesday followed by a field day on Friday – having the students explore that area on the final day of the week. By the end of the course, students will have an idea of the areas they have explored and should decide where they would live if they were moving – and must give a presentation about their decision-making process to fit the learning outcomes of the course.

                Since many students are familiar with social media and communication there, I have designed that into the course as well, with a Facebook page students will be required to visit and post throughout their exploration of Atlanta. If current events fit into the learning outcomes that semester, students will be encouraged to explore those events and how they affect the Atlanta area and the neighborhood they are studying that week.

                Listening and speaking tasks will be built into the semester as the instructor sees fit. The class should take a communicative approach to language instruction, but also use corpus tools to guide the language that is taught throughout the course. Homework will be given, but it will be strictly aligned with the course learning outcomes and may take the form of “go to a restaurant and order a meal in English” and report back to the class (via Facebook posting or class discussion) about your experience. Students will be encouraged to be reflective about their learning and growth as the semester progresses.

Discussion and Conclusion

Previously, I have discussed the literature reviewed in creating a course and creating the course itself, and considered potential outcomes of creating such a course. Most importantly, though, is the notion that course creation is a fluid process. I can think of what I would want in the course based on solid evidence-based research (presented here). If it doesn’t match what the program needs or what the students need it will be useless if it doesn’t have an audience. This course is a trial and error process, and once it is taught feedback from students and instructors will be taken into consideration for improvement in future courses. Assessment measures will also have to be developed to match the learning outcomes of the course, and part of those will include rubrics to go with speaking assignments and presentations, but part of assessment will also be self-assessment on the part of the students. I envision assessment to be on going and sustainable too, in that each instructor should match the assessment to the group of students each semester.

Appendix A: Course Syllabus

Intensive English Program

Department of Applied Linguistics and ESL

Georgia State University

IEP 0000:  An Insider’s Guide to Atlanta: Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Exploring Our Way Across the City

Spring 2017

*A note on copyright: This format was borrowed from Allison Camacho’s IEP 0740 Spring 2014 syllabus. This course is going to follow the EAP learning outcomes for an Oral Communication course very similarly, because the nature of the course is so similar*


Instructor:                    Jennifer R. Rose

Office:                                25 Park Place, 15th Floor                    

Phone:                          770-856-4640                           

E-mail:                           jrose19@gsu.edu        

Office Hours:               By appointment

Class Days/Time: Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays:  12:00 – 12:50

Class Location:   All over Atlanta, but we will probably meet in Sparks Hall 309 for class meetings.  


Required Texts and Materials

While there are no current required materials, it may be helpful to invest in a map of Atlanta, or have access to a smartphone with a GPS system (google maps will be a good resource for you during field trips or independent excursions).


Online Newspapers and Print Materials

Throughout the course you will be required to consult various online sources such as newspapers, magazines, websites, message boards, or other print materials discussed and distributed over the weeks that unfold during this course. It is your responsibility to become familiar with these resources and how to use them to best fit your needs.


IEP 0000 Facebook Page


You will be doing a fair amount of posting to a private Facebook page created just for this class. Think of this as your “ticket to Atlanta.” You will be required to post here once weekly – so that others will have an opportunity experience what you experienced that week.


Recommended Materials

  1. A Large 3-Ring Binder (for notes and to collect any handouts and have them in one place throughout the class)
  2. A computer with internet access (this is available at GSU computer labs and libraries if you do not have one at home)
  3. An open mind and spirit of adventure (and a smartphone helps too!)

Course Goal, Objectives & Learning Outcomes


An Insider’s Guide to Atlanta: Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Exploring Our Way Across the City

The goal of this course is for high-intermediate through advanced students to explore Atlanta through an academic lens – and allow students to become familiar with a part of Atlanta they aren’t already familiar with. During this course, international students will learn more about the history and culture of Atlanta in an interactive and communicative way while becoming adept members of an academic community at the same time. You as a student will learn more about the communities of Atlanta while practicing and mastering communication strategies needed for a fulfilling life both at GSU and in the community. At the end of the course, you should decide which community suits you the most and present to your classmates why you would want to live there.

Course Objectives

Student Learning Outcomes

The objectives of this course are for high-intermediate to advanced students to practice the conventions of communicating in the American university classroom while exploring what it means to live in Atlanta.  While taking this course, students will complete academic listening, speaking, and note-taking tasks, and improve pronunciation.

Presentation Skills

·         Organize one two-part presentation (pairs or groups) and one group presentation in which each student speaks for 3-5 minutes

Speaking and Listening Fluency & Usage in Academic Settings

·         Participate in conversations/discussions and reach group decisions

·         Use fixed phrases to support opinions, hypothesize, agree and disagree, and interrupt politely during discussions.

·         Demonstrate comprehension of the academic content given in different classroom formats (lectures, listening activities, readings, or classroom field trips)

·         Fulfill tasks that require students to take the initiative to speak English outside the classroom


·         Identify and produce intonation patterns during discussions and presentations

·         Use correct rhythm, stress, and word endings to maintain comprehensibility during discussions and presentations








Course Grade

In order to pass this course, you must receive a grade of a “C-” or higher on the course work.* Your course grade will be computed as follows:


·         Homework/In-Class Activities                            10%

·         Reflection Postings Online                             20%

·         Discussion Quizzes                                            30%

·         Presentations                                                   30%

·         Final Project                                                          10%


(See GSU grading guidelines for letter grades and other assessment guidelines)


Assessment of Level 3-5 Learning Outcomes

During the semester, your instructor will assess your progress in meeting the learning outcomes through a variety of classroom and homework activities as well as more formal assessment such as exams and presentations. You are expected to demonstrate that you have met the course outcomes (receive a “C-” grade, 70% minimum) in order to advance to the next level. If you are a level 5 student, you will need a C- or better to exit the program satisfactorily.


Homework/In-Class Activities

Homework and in-class activities help you practice your English.  They prepare you for quizzes, tests and other major assignments.  They show you and your teacher your progress toward meeting the learning outcomes of the course. Some of these assignments will be graded.  Graded homework and in-class activities make up 10% of your overall grade in the course.  


You will be given homework in this class (daily), and it is very important that you complete all of your homework assignments.  Assignments permit you to practice and apply the concepts we are studying, and they also provide the basis for the next day’s class work.  Sometimes your homework will be to complete a post on the website about an outing you have completed. Sometimes you will have to complete an outing and share it with the class the next day. Sometimes you will have written homework about the history of Atlanta in order to help you better understand the area. These types of activities will often be done at home, on the message board, or individually as you prepare for your in-class discussions.


The LARC & Desire2Learn

Sometimes, you may need to go to LARC (Language Laboratory in General Classroom Building (GCB) 128) to complete your homework or classwork, to access software there, or you may need to go online and record your voice using our class’s Desire2Learn website or other software.  You can record your voice at home (if you have a headset and microphone) or at the LARC.  There is a sign posted outside of the LARC that states specific times when it is closed for testing. Please make a note of these dates and times, so the closings do not interfere with your work or attendance in the LARC.


We will also use Desire2Learn several times this semester, especially for homework assignments.   Desire2Learn is an e-learning program (online) at Georgia State University that has many tools.  On Desire2Learn, you can find assignments, class power point presentations, links to important websites and course handouts.  On Desire2Learn, you can also hold asynchronous discussions with classmates and even record your voice!  Don’t worry.  We will talk about Desire2Learn in class so that you will completely understand how to use it.  The Desire2Learn website will be very important in this class. Homework assignments, reminders, and other important materials for this course will be given through both Desire2Learn and your email account.  Therefore, it is very important that you check your GSU email account daily.  After we learn about using the Desire2Learn website, you should also check the site frequently.  For now, if you’d like to take a look at the Desire2Learn website, go to www.gsu.edu and click on the Desire2Learn link under the “Students” menu.


(We will talk about Desire2Learn and the LARC in class so that you understand how to use it!  We will even go on a tour of the LARC together as a class and use Desire2Learn tools that day).


How Much Homework Will I Get?

In this class and in your future college courses, you should plan to do approximately one hour of homework for every hour in the classroom.


**In other words, for this class, you should plan to do approximately 3 hours of homework each week. 


I will not collect and grade each assignment because often you will get the feedback you need from class activities. However, in order to give you credit for your work and to let me know who is prepared to participate in class discussions, I will often monitor your homework and record how much of it you have done.


To be beneficial, homework must be done on time.  Homework will earn either a number grade or a check plus (Ö + = 100% A), a check (Ö = 75% C), a check minus (Ö- = 50% F), or a zero.


Homework is due at the beginning of the specified class period (usually on the front desk unless otherwise directed).  Have it ready to turn in before you come to class.  I do not accept homework at the end of class (unless there is a special circumstance.)  Generally, no make-up or late homework will be allowed. Exceptions are rare and will only be granted at the instructor’s discretion.




Class Participation

Since the goal of this course and other IEP courses is generally to prepare students for life in academic settings that follow, students will be provided opportunities to realize that mainstream instructors expect all students to participate in class discussions.  Mainstream instructors find lack of participation in class discussions to be considerably more troubling than ESL students’ nonnative pronunciations or accents.  Students will also be given opportunities to see that development of students’ listening-to-learn abilities is closely tied to development of their speaking-to-learn abilities.  Class participation is noted on a regular basis and is also a part of the listening assessment process.  Failure to respond to questions, provide feedback, or take part in group discussion will negatively affect the instructor’s evaluation of listening abilities and material comprehension. It is understood that this may be more difficult for those students coming from cultures where speaking out in class is not generally done, but it is a requirement in this class. Your ability to succeed in an academic setting is affected by your willingness to adapt, within the classroom environment, to the expectations of college professors in the U.S.


Reflection Postings Online

During this course, you will be required to participate in community outings on your own or in a small group once per week. You can do these with people in this class, or people outside of class. The purpose of the outings is to allow you to put what you learn in class into practice and let classmates know about what you experienced. You will be required to reflect on your outings via postings to the group page once weekly as well. The postings will allow you to process the outing and how it went (or what can be improved) and allow you let others experience the event as you experienced it too. The postings will also help you as you think about your final project and what you want to present to the class re: a neighborhood you would like to live in or work in in Atlanta.


Discussion Quizzes

These are organized discussion related to lecture and reading materials. You are given a set of discussion prompts to think about; during the quiz only some of the prompts are given. In groups of 3-5 students, you should articulate their thoughts/opinions. The prompts will come from what we have discussed in class and on the outings.



There are individual presentations and projects in the course. Three times per semester you will be required to speak for 3-5 minutes about a topic given in the previous class period. They will be relevant to particular topic we are discussing that week and should help you with your final project. They will also allow you to hear what your classmates are working on in the course.


During your oral presentations, you will be evaluated on the following:

·         Information in the presentation (interest level, relevance, etc.)

·         Organization of the presentation

·         Clarity of speech (i.e. pronunciation)

·         Quality of notes you take on your partner’s presentations


Community Outings


When you do your community outings, pay particular attention to how you got there, what people do there, how they converse, and what kinds of people you see there. Is it a formal place? Do you see a lot of couples? Did people drive there or take public transportation, if so which kind? Did they walk or ride their bikes? What particular subculture frequents this destination? You will be given more guidance on what to look for in future classes (via the reflection form) but pay attention to these things and what makes them unique when you are in and around town.


Final Project

For the final project in this course, you will be required to choose a community in Atlanta where you would want to live and/or work if you were to make Atlanta your home. You will create a television or radio advertisement for this community, trying to bring others to your living area. You should know who lives there, what it’s like, and list your reasons for wanting to live there and why others should live there too. More details will be given later in the semester, and you will be doing activities throughout the course to help you decide, but keep this in mind as we progress through the course.


Late Assignment and Make-up Quiz/Exam Policies & Guidelines

**  No late homework assignments will be accepted and no make-up quizzes or exams will be given unless you contact me BEFORE the due date.  Exceptions are rare and will only be granted at the instructor’s discretion.  The following guidelines will help you to receive proper credit in certain situations.




What if…..

I know I will be absent in a future class.

I have an emergency.  It is not a planned absence.

I was absent from class.

-tell the teacher about the date you will miss the class (in person, by phone, or by email)


-give your homework or written assignment to the teacher or plan to make-up the quiz/test BEFORE the day that you have the planned absence.



-make every effort to contact your teacher BEFORE the class or as soon as possible.  Email her, call her, leave a message.


**you must contact me on the day of your absence if you want to receive credit for homework, written work or make up work


-try to collect the assignments and information about what you missed from your instructor or classmates.  It is your responsibility to do this, not the teacher’s responsibility.  You must make the effort to complete your work and learn about what you missed.


-talk to your teacher in person as soon as you return to class.


v  Communication is key (very important)!!  If something is wrong, come and talk to your teacher so that we can work on the problem together!

v  You are responsible for asking me about any homework, writing assignments, or class activities you may have missed.  When students have emergency situations, I try to work something out; however, you should take the initiative!

v  Please note: If you call or email your instructor the night before class to ask about the assignment(s), s/he may not receive your call or email in time to respond to you before class. Therefore, contacting a classmate may be the best solution.


IEP Attendance Policy (revised April 18, 2013)

In order to make progress and get good grades, it is very important to attend class regularly.  In addition, students with F-1 visas must be full-time (18 hours) and attend regularly in order to remain in status with the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services).  Failure to meet the guidelines of the IEP attendance policy requirements may lead to withdrawal from classes and termination of F-1 visa status.


Fall and Spring Semesters

If you attend all your classes 85% of the time (4 or fewer absences in a TTh class, and 7 or fewer absences in a MWF class)….

you will receive a Certificate of Completion at the end of the semester.


If you are absent 5 times in a TTh class or 8 times in a MWF class…..

you will NOT receive a Certificate of Completion at the end of the semester and you will be placed on Attendance Probation.


You will receive an official Attendance Probation warning from the Assistant Director (by email and mailed to your home address on GoSolar). You will be expected to come to the IEP office to review the attendance policy and the consequences of your excessive absences in person.


If you are absent 7 times in a TTh class and 10 times in a MWF class and have not contacted the IEP office…

you will automatically be withdrawn from class. F-1 student’s I-20 record will be terminated and you will be out of status.




·                The chart above outlines the number of allowable absences, all of which can be used for illnesses, emergencies, transportation issues, TOEFL/IELTS test-taking, religious holidays, etc.  Students are expected to be in class unless they are ill or have an emergency.  A student is absent when s/he is not in class for any reason.  There are no excused absences. Please refer to each of your course syllabi regarding make-up policies for homework, quizzes, tests, etc.

·                You must arrive on time.  If you are not on time, you are tardy. A tardy of 20 minutes or more is an absence.  Being tardy four times is considered one absence.

·                Extreme situations (e.g. returning home for a medical leave of absence) should be discussed with the IEP administration.


Important Dates


List important dates of the semester here


Closing of the University

In case of very bad weather, log onto www.gsu.edu or listen for an announcement on local TV or radio channels. If the university is closed, tests and planned lessons will be completed on the next class day.


Georgia State Email Accounts

All students have a GSU email address (@student.gsu.edu).  The IEP and GSU will send you messages to your GSU email address.  You must check your GSU email account regularly (every day) so you don’t miss important messages from the IEP, International Student and Scholar Services (about your visa and status), the Health Clinic, Student Accounts, and other GSU offices.


Cell Phone Policy

Cell phones are to be turned off BEFORE entering the classroom.  Cell phones can be disruptive and distracting for all members of the class, especially when someone decides to take a call and exits the classroom.  Please have RESPECT for your classmates’ and your own personal academic time by remembering to turn your phone off. However, due to the nature of this course we will be using cell phones at certain times to complete certain assignments. Please be respectful and only use the applications or websites that are needed to complete the task and be respectful of your teacher’s time and the time of your fellow classmates.


Student Evaluations

Your constructive assessment of this course plays an indispensable role in shaping education at Georgia State University. Upon completing the course, please take the time to fill out the online course evaluation.




Academic Honesty Policy

The University’s policy on academic honesty is published in the Faculty Affairs Handbook and the Student Handbook, On Campus (http://www2.gsu.edu/~wwwfhb/sec409.html) available to all members of the University community. Involvement in any of these activities may result in removal from the course, program, and/or college.




Special Accommodations

Students who wish to request accommodation for a disability may do so by registering with the Office of Disability Services. Students may only be accommodated upon issuance by the Office of Disability Services of a signed Accommodation Plan and are responsible for providing a copy of that plan to instructors of all classes in which accommodations are sought.


This syllabus provides a general plan for the course.  Changes in this plan may be necessary and can be made at the discretion of the instructor.


Useful Links:


Here are a list of websites we will be using often and referring to frequently during the course:


































Course Calendar*


This course is designed for a three day per week, one-hour class period. Monday would be a knowledge in-class discussion day based on readings that students have done for homework – Wednesday would be an activity day and a “decide on outings day” with a discussion posting due by Friday before class. Friday would be an outing day, with the understanding that the outing would start at the time of the class period and end mid-afternoon. Students would have to agree before taking the class that a Friday schedule would have to be relatively clear, children would have to be in daycare, etc. Students would have to agree to take on weekend excursions with enthusiasm. This would work well with the IEP schedule at GSU if this were a 12-1pm class since students would not have to worry about being back for another class on Friday. Suggestions are welcome and obviously would have to be tailored per semester.


Week # and Date

Material Covered

Assessment/Homework Due

Week 1


Introduction to course and classmates; Needs assessment and survey; Atlanta’s geography and map activities

Language of academic discussion review or introduction

Introduction post due

Why did you choose Atlanta?

Do you live ITP or OTP?

What do you like/dislike about your community?

Week 2

Transportation Options – Which one is right for you?

Students will explore the transportation of Atlanta and decide which one is appropriate for different situations they find themselves in.

Discussion/reflection posting due – What transportation is most convenient for you in Atlanta and why? Talk about your daily routine and where you live in relation to the cost of your given option.

Week 3

Atlanta Tourist Attractions; CNN Center, Aquarium, World of Coke; Olympic Park; what the Olympics did for Atlanta in 1996; Tour of Campus if needed; Johnathan McNair’s picture activity with the history of Olympic park and what the area looked like pre-1996/media bias

Discussion posting due – which attraction did you visit this weekend? What did you learn about it?

In-class presentation about Community outing

Week 4

A Look into Atlanta’s History: Readings come from Gone with the Wind and trips include either Atlanta History Center or The Center for Civil Rights

Discussion posting due – Why is it important to keep history in mind when thinking about why Atlanta is what it is?

Discussion Quiz

Week 5




Poverty in Atlanta: Students always ask “Why are there so many homeless people downtown?” or something of the like every year. It’s important to take a week or so here to discuss this question as it relates to international students. Readings from current sources – (Nickel and Dimed can be one) but ones that ultimately lead to the conclusion that “all it takes is one unfortunate event” to be homeless. Discussion would include safety measures and what they can do to help.

Discussion/reflection due: Suppose you are an advisor/mentor for a new student to the IEP? What would you say to a student who asked you why are there so many homeless people near my school? What would you tell them? Is this different than what you would have told them when you first arrived in Atlanta? Be sure to site readings and discussion from this week’s classes.

Week 6

(Midtown, Buckhead, Old Fourth Ward)


From here on, students will learn about these through a variety of readings and discussion-based activities. They will vote on ONE area to explore and an activity to do while there during Friday’s class. They will also agree to explore one of the other areas over the weekend.



Introduction to Atlanta’s neighborhoods: teacher will prepare a list with a short description. In groups, students will read and ask questions about neighborhoods and come up with a list of questions about each one according to personal interests. Teacher will allow student exploration. Teacher will focus on three or four neighborhoods each week to explore and chose a strategy from Jenni Guse’s Communitive Activities for EAP for discussion purposes.

Discussion posting due – What did you learn (specifically) that you didn’t know last week? Be sure to post and respond to three of your classmate’s postings (see guide for an effective post and response).

Week 7

(Candler Park, Inman Park, Morningside, Kirkwood, Virginia Highlands)



Neighborhood Exploration: Intro – Students will be guided through a jigsaw (Guse, 2011, p.35) of neighborhoods they could explore and communicative activities –leading them to explore one neighborhood during class (Friday) and one neighborhood on their own. They can pick an activity here or just complete a walking tour of the neighborhood.

Discussion posting due – What neighborhood did you explore and list three things you would recommend other classmates do when they are there.

Week 8

(Decatur, Avondale Estates, East Lake)



Using “reading strategies” (Guse, 2011, p. 135) Students will be guided through a series of readings about these neighborhoods – and will complete an information sheet based on readings that will lead them to decide which of these they would want to explore as a whole group and which to explore on their own, with families and friends on the weekend. Discussion will include transportation there and what kinds of activities you can do there.

Discussion posting due – What neighborhood did you explore and list three things you would recommend other classmates do when they are there.


Week 9

(College Park, East Point, Bankhead, and Vine City)


From subjectivity to objectivity, p. 201 of Guse – teacher will find readings and images to present about these areas, letters to the editor, etc. Students will learn the difference between subjective and objective language when discussing topics such as these, and determine which is better to use in each case. Students will also learn about neighborhoods in this area and decide which one they can explore both as a class and independently.

Discussion posting due – What neighborhood did you explore and list three things you would recommend other classmates do when they are there.


Week 10

Gwinnett County OTP (Lawrenceville, Snellville, Doraville, Stone Mountain, Buford Hwy, Gwinnett Braves, etc…)


Moving from ITP to OTP – why do people do it? Interview a person that made the move from the city to the suburbs and liked it – then interview a person that lives ITP and likes it – what do they like about each area? Possible outings: Gwinnett Braves game (depending on season) or lunch out on Buford Hwy – Buford Hwy farmers market…

Discussion posting due – What neighborhood did you explore and list three things you would recommend other classmates do when they are there.


How did you get there and which area so far has been your favorite? Why?


Week 11

Fulton County OTP (Sandy Springs, Roswell, Alpharetta, Chattahoochee River rafting, etc.)



Readings from local newspapers from these areas – Sandy Springs Reporter, etc – Word Relay (Guse, 157)

Guiding question – what attracts people to live in these areas? Possible outings – river tubing (depending on season, hiking, North Point Mall, etc)

Discussion posting due – What neighborhood did you explore and list three things you would recommend other classmates do when they are there.


How did you get there and which area so far has been your favorite? Why?


Week 12

Cobb County OTP (Marietta Square, site of the new Braves stadium, Cobb Energy Center and what performances they can see there, difference between OTP and ITP will be introduced)


Readings about the new stadium, Cobb Energy Center, local papers, internet websites, and interviews from residents included here. Possible outings include a walk around the square, lunch out, an Uber trip with the class to the area or a park in Smyrna. Joint construction p. 192 (Guse, 2011)

What did you like about this area this week? What didn’t you like? Would you be likely to go here again? Why or Why not?








Week 13

Focus on hobbies, skills, personal interests

I like hiking – where can I go in Atlanta?

I want to play soccer – what can I do?


Now that students have a rough idea of what is in the city, it’s time to put those skills to good use by choosing an activity that matches their interests. They will be given resources and have to decide what activity to participate in – while documenting their decision making process Fish bowl discussion (p. 199 Guse)

Discussion posting due – What neighborhood did you explore and list three things you would recommend other classmates do when they are there. What did you do while there? Are you likely to participate in this activity again?


Week 14

Summary and work on Final Presentations


Course Wrap Up

Course Wrap Up

Week 15



Final Presentations

Final Presentations

*The dates in this calendar are a rough plan for the semester and the instructor waives the right to change dates as she sees fit to best fit the learning needs of the students.












Appendix B

Questionnaire for Potential Students

1.          Why did you choose Atlanta to study when you came to the US?

2.          Why did you choose to study in GSU’s Intensive English Program?

3.          How did you hear about the Intensive English Program at GSU?  

4.          Describe how you felt on your first week in Atlanta.

5.          Did someone help show you around?

6.          What did you like best when you first moved here?

7.          How did you feel when you first moved here?

8.          On a scale of 1-10, how comfortable do you feel with Atlanta and your language abilities here?

9.          What specific problems have you encountered since being in the city?

10.  What do you wish someone had told you before coming to Atlanta?

11.  What were/are your favorite things to do?

12.  Do you think that the IEP should offer a course about Atlanta and how to integrate into the culture here? Why or why not?

13.  Would you take such a course? Why or why not?

14.  Have you studied anywhere else in Atlanta?

15.  What else do you want to know about Atlanta that you don’t already know?





Appendix C

Questions for Teachers, Administrators, and Activities Coordinators of the IEP

1.      Do you think a course such as this would be valuable? Why or why not?

2.      How do you think this would fit in to a program here?

3.      What do you think should be the primary goal of students who come to study in Atlanta?

4.      What have you encountered as the primary problem of students who are in your classes?

5.      Tell me a little bit about your students. What is their primary concern here?

6.      Why would you like them to take a course such as this?

7.      Tell me a little bit about the curriculum of the classes you teach? How do you see a course such as this fitting into that curriculum, or do you?

8.      Talk about your experience in Atlanta. Are you a native? Would you be willing to share some Atlanta stories with students as a guest speaker or provide material for the class in some way? What’s your favorite place in Atlanta?

9.      What do you do in your free time?

10.  What do you think is the most important thing for an international student to know about Atlanta? Or to know in General? What would you like for a course such as this to get across?

11.  What advice do you have for teacher of a course such as this?

12.  Have you taught this at other institutions, and if so what do you think the ideal course size is for a course such as this?




Appendix D

Questionnaire for Community Members and Business Owners

1.      How long have you been in the Atlanta area?

2.      Would you be willing to host a group of international students learning English in your business if we promised to be polite?

3.      What does your business bring to the community?

4.      What is your favorite thing to do in Atlanta?

5.      Why are you willing to help in this way?

6.      What advice do you have for an international student in Atlanta? Why?

7.      How can we help you in any way as a way of saying thanks for your help?

8.      What are your plans? Are you going to stay in Atlanta? Why or why not?

9.      If you have experience with international students in your business, what is one thing you would like for them to learn or do in the future that would make your life better?

10.  How do you think Atlanta rates for international students and why? How can we improve?









Appendix E

Questionnaire for Currently Enrolled Students

1.      You are taking this class because you want to improve your English. Is this true? What do you wish to improve the most?

2.      Do you like learning English? Why?

3.      What do you find the most difficult in communicating with people around Atlanta? (You can circle more than one and feel free to elaborate.)

a.           Grammar

b.          Accents

c.           Idioms

d.          Sentence Complexity

e.           Handling miscommunication

f.        Greetings

g.          Something else? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

4.      How often do you communicate with native English speakers?

a.           At school only

b.          At school and an hour or two outside of class

c.           Sometimes

d.          Never

5.      What are some situations in Atlanta you would like to practice or get better with?

6.      What have you done WELL in Atlanta?

7.      How long have you studied English?

8.      Why are you studying English?

9.      What do you like to do in your free time?






Appendix F

Places to Gather Linguistic Information (Brochures, Pamphlets, Photos)

1. Aquarium

2. CNN Center

3. Coffee Shops

4. Centennial Park

5. Museums

6. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

7. Piedmont Park

8. Restaurants around Campus

9. Restaurants off Campus

10. Woodruff Park/Hurt Park

11. MARTA Busses and Trains


13. Verizon/T-Mobile/ATT for Cell phone service hook up

14. Banks/Bank Account info












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Special thanks to Allison Camacho, Dianna Wrenn, Johnathan McNair, and Mondo Davis (all affiliated with the IEP at GSU) – who all contributed their time and ideas to this project.





* There is no final in this course; you must receive a “C-” or higher on the course work.

 [EF1]Follow APA for these citations