Students are seated at desks while the professor talks.

Lilia Angel-Post, assistant director, SIU Carbondale’s Center for English as a Second Language, gives students, including 13 Colombians, information during a recent orientation session. David Toscano, who is from Los Patios de Santander in the northeastern part of the country, is one of the participating students. (Photos by Russell Bailey)

March 25, 2024

SIU helping Colombian students enhance English skills, professional opportunities

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Thirteen vocational and technical college students from Colombia are looking to enhance their personal and professional development by participating in an eight-week academic and cultural initiative through Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Center for English as a Second Language (CESL).

The students arrived in mid-March during SIU’s spring break. While on campus through early May, they will study intensive English and take part in a wide variety of social and cultural activities, said William Hellriegel, director of CESL.

“They will be living in nearby Saluki Hall, where they will develop relationships with the diverse group of student residents there,” he said.

The aim is to foster internationalization in Colombia and make a significant impact in the various regions of Colombia where the Friends of Fulbright Foundation (FAF) operate, Hellriegel said. When students hosted by SIU perform well, they remain candidates to become future Fulbright Scholars, Hellriegel said. CESL partners with FAF and SENA, Colombia’s largest public institution that provides free vocational and technical training, to offer students of modest means opportunities for their career development through enhanced English language skills, Hellriegel said.

Media availability

To arrange for interviews with visiting students and officials with SIU’s Center for English as a Second Language, contact Lilia Angel-Post, CESL assistant director, at 618-453-6470 or

While at SIU, students will take classes that include listening and speaking, grammar, integrated language skills and academic writing, said Lilia Angel-Post, CESL’s assistant director.

Angel-Post, who is originally from Colombia, met the FAF director at an international conference nearly two years ago and learned that the organization was looking for an intensive English program for its students. Angel-Post explained she was impressed that the director “was very driven to provide higher education access to low-income and underrepresented groups in Colombia.”

cesl-david-toscano-012-sm.jpgDavid Toscano, who is from Los Patios de Santander in the northeastern part of the country, is finishing his technological training in software analysis and development.

“I believe this program will open many doors for me personally and professionally,” he said. “I hope this program will help me improve my fluency in English and develop confidence in an English-speaking academic and social environment. I also want to learn about American culture and broaden my knowledge.”

Toscano said he’s looking forward to seeing the campus and learning its history, along with exploring the region’s nature and experiencing its local culture.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in this program, and I hope to make the most of it,” he said.

Angel-Post added that students are ready to engage with the university and local community. They will participate in extracurricular activities and spend time volunteering with different organizations in Carbondale.

“We are very excited to have the opportunity to be involved in these amazing initiatives by Fulbright Colombia while also being able to bring diverse students to our SIU campus,” she said.

SIU and FAF began their collaboration in 2022 and since have partnered in both online and in-person programs, including CESL teaching intensive English via online courses to Colombian English teachers.