Jianguo Mei, professor of chemistry at Purdue University, is from China. He has been teaching students in the United States for over 10 years.
Mei knows the importance of communicating effectively with her students in English. Sometimes he has problems today.
This, he said, is one of the reasons his former student Aristide Gumyusenge will be a great professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT.
Gumyusenge, who grew up in Rwanda, will begin his career at MIT in January. He is only 30 years old.
Gumyusenge is Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. He recently completed advanced research at Stanford University in California.
If Gumyusenge does a good job during the first five years, he will have a chance to be a tenured professor at MIT.
In an interview with VOA, Gumyusenge said he was eager to open the Organic Materials Lab for Smart Electronics at MIT. He is currently looking for students for his research team.
Growing up in Rwanda, Gumyusenge understood the importance of education. His father was a teacher, after all, but he never thought of teaching.
âEven after high school, I still thought I was going to study medicine,â Gumyusenge told VOA.
He arrived in the United States in the fall of 2011 after receiving a scholarship at Wofford College in South Carolina. He was part of the Rwanda Presidential Scholars Program.
Gumyusenge said it wasn’t until he started his graduate studies at Purdue University in Indiana that he thought of a career as a college professor.
He plans to continue the work he did at Purdue and Stanford on engineering electronic devices. He said some of the things people see in movies set in the future, where people wear âsmart suits and smart devices,â are about to come true.
He gave the example of a contact lenses which can measure the amount of sugar in the body.
“We are trying to make electronics which can be more compatible with the body, both mechanically and chemically.
Gumyusenge is working to create materials that can move electricity the same way metals in computer chips do today. He said the next thing is for engineers and chemists to work together so they can make products that work better with the body.
But research is only part of its job. He has to work with students, and that’s where Mei said Gumyusenge is strongest.
“Aristide’s training in English probably helps him,” Mei said, adding, “he masters the language much better than I do.”
Mei pointed out that Gumyusenge had to work as a teaching assistant while at Purdue, both teaching classes and helping students in the lab. This can cause a lot of concern for teachers who do not speak English well.
âUndergraduates demand a lot more, in fact, than graduate students,â Mei said, noting that her own difficulties with English are not as much of an issue in her work with the doctorate. students.
Gumyusenge speaks very good English. How did he learn?
Growing up in Rwanda, after the end of the civil war in her country, one of her favorite activities was listening to English broadcasts on family radio.
Whenever he got the chance, he listened to VOA Learning English programming. Gumyusenge said he came to the United States as a teenager who was able to speak well and understand American English accents through the programs.
He said the slower speed of learning English broadcasts helped him learn faster compared to English news and music programs.
âThe actual learning program, the speed was adjusted so people like me can pick it up. You don’t get it once you hit the ground here [in the U.S.]. Really grateful for the program and really appreciate all the work you all do.
In Rwanda he was able to learn to read English, but it was difficult to find people who could speak without accent. The announcers of the English programming in Rwanda had an accent. So, VOA, he said, helped him learn American accents.
Speaking English, he said, “can help you find a job.” Also, Gumyusenge said, many science videos are in English, so students can learn a little on their own by following them.
In Wofford, he found a way to speak with American students. A subject he learned to have a conversation? The Star wars movies.
He understood that it would be important for him to learn to speak confidently with Americans. At first he listened and tried to speak in the same way as his classmates.
“I guess I was lucky because I got here when I was 18-19. So I still had a few flexibility, I guess, in the brain, to allow me to learn.
While Gumyusenge doesn’t have a strong accent now, “you should have met me in 2011,” he said.
What is he saying to international students at American universities today? Don’t get too hung up on your old home life. Discover life in America while you have the chance.
âI know people who come here and don’t change anything in their daily routine,â he said. âThey live as if they still live in Kigali or Lagos.
“Be open. Allow people to approach you. Don’t close the doors too early. America is such diverse place, you will meet people from different backgrounds. And you never know who’s gonna get an iimpact on you.”
I am Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learn English. Susan Shand was the editor.
What do you think of Aristide Gumyusenge’s trip from Rwanda to MIT? What can you learn from him? Tell us in the comments section and visit our Facebook page.
Words in this story
scholarship – not. a sum of money that is given by a school, an organization, etc., to a student to help pay for his studies
contact lenses – not. a thin round piece of plastic that is worn over the eye to improve vision
compatible – adj. able to exist together without problem or conflict : goes well together
adjust – v. change (something) in a minor way to make it work better
accent – not. a way of pronouncing words that occurs among the inhabitants of a particular region or country
global – adj. involving the whole world
flexibility – not. subject to change
approach – v. moving or getting closer or closer to something or someone
diverse – adj. made up of people or things that are different from each other
impact – not. a powerful or major influence or effect