Graham School News

Diving In: Taking Advantage of the Graham School Experience

For students starting a certificate, balancing work, school, and family life can be difficult. Now imagine also starting a certificate in a different country and taking courses in your non-native language. Eliana Lopez did just that when starting the Project Management Strategy certificate in the spring of 2017.

“I had been working as a project manager at AT&T Mexico, but it was a challenge without any professional development experience, and I realized I needed formal training,” Eliana explained. “Due to my previous experience taking a certificate program, I was sure a project management certificate would be a great contribution to my personal and professional life and would open doors to new opportunities and experiences.”

While Eliana was comfortable learning more about project management principles, she was nervous about taking courses in her non-native language. It was her first time taking non-technical courses in English, but she was able to take advantage of her experience.

“It was not easy, but it was the best way to improve and prepare myself to be a full-time student,” Eliana noted. “In the certificates, international students are a minority but this gives us an advantage to learn academic English. It was helpful to be surrounded by native-speaking instructors, classmates, and staff, which forced me to think and speak in English. I was also able to learn more and dive into American culture.”

Eliana did more than just dive in. As a student, Eliana immersed herself in the Graham School community and the larger University of Chicago community. She began participating in events and activities outside of the classroom and making connections across the University. She took advantage of almost all the activities offered by the English Language Institute, including the Board Game Group, Conversation Hour, and the Academic English Pre-Preparation program.

“While participating in these activities, I was able to interact and create friendships with the staff and other participants,” Eliana said. “I was also informed about other activities, events, and programs at the University of Chicago. At the English Corner, I was able to practice English conversation skills and meet others from around the globe and build friendships, ultimately creating a community and a family while away from my own. I learned important skills like how to organize community service activities and make people feel welcome and included.”

Eliana also participated in activities like Modus Vivendi at the Center for Leadership and Involvement and was involved with the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship. Additionally, she has been a member of the Professional Development Programs Student Advisory Board (PDPSAB) for two years, which has been a new experience for her.

“Being a member of the PDPSAB is a new and different experience for me,” Eliana said. “With the goal of enhancing our leadership skills, every meeting is planned and introduces new topics that help us to meet our goals. Working with the board to turn new ideas into reality, expanding and making more opportunities accessible for our community makes me very grateful.”

Being an active member of the community has had an important impact on Eliana, both personally and professionally. She has been able to expand her network and grow as a professional, and she’s also found a love for continuing education. After completing the Project Management Strategy certificate, Eliana decided to pursue the Financial Decision-Making certificate to learn more about finance and economics. She is currently pursuing her master of science in project management at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Harrisburg, PA. She is able to live in Chicago full-time and pursue the degree online.

“My advice for all students is to take advantage of all the benefits you have as members of the University of Chicago community,” Eliana said. “Help and support others because it will come back to you in different ways. Finally, do not think you are not ready to take on a new challenge. New opportunities are always presented in their own way, and it’s up to us to take advantage of them!”


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