ELI: 25 Years of High-Quality Education and Inspiration

From providing high-quality English language education to always striving to be on top of the latest developments in language training, the English Language Institute (ELI) in Blagoevgrad has been a bright star in the academic and cultural landscape in Bulgaria for 25 years.

Asya Alexandrova, director of the institute since the beginning of this year, says she sees part of her goal and the mission of the institution as changing the lives of young people and all students who have an “open mind and desire to learn.”

Through its various programs, the ELI offers the opportunity for beginners to advanced-level students to take English for professional, academic and other purposes. The institute aims to provide means for meaningful communication on an international level, encouraging creativity, initiative and responsibility.

ELI was established in 1992 and was designed to offer English language education for prospective students of the University, people from the community, and from all over Bulgaria and Eastern Europe. Its student body, however, has grown to an even richer assortment of nationalities from around the world.

“Diversity is what makes us different and who we are,” Alexandrova said. “It is probably the best way to widen one’s horizons and truly learn.”

The whole idea of the institute is to promote high-quality education and openness to the world, important prerequisites for contemporary life. “If someone is willing to study, we will provide all that one needs to teach them what they need to know,” the director said. “Our instructors have over 20 years of experience teaching English to a variety of audiences and they still spend at least as much time as they teach preparing for class, usually much more.“

One of the instructors at the institute is Steven London, a fourth-year student at AUBG. He has been working at the ELI since 2015 as a teacher for different levels of conversational English in the Community Program. For him, ELI has become a source of a different type of value and inspiration.

“The institute has helped me develop my public speaking and teaching skills far beyond what I began with when I started teaching,” London says.

He will major in International Relations and Diplomacy but plans on continuing to teach at ELI after graduation.

Inspiring people is only one of the things that ELI offers. The institute also offers a variety of programs including preparation for SAT and TOEFL, different short-term courses in the fall, spring and summer etc.

“People know that if they are looking for high-quality English language instruction, they can come to us and we will provide it,” Alexandrova said.

ELI is a unique institution because it also provides a rare opportunity for a smoother transition from high school to college. Foreign students and students from out of town live on the AUBG campus, thus getting the chance to experience life on the college grounds and adapt to it more easily.

“Living on campus helped me experience what college students go through on day by day basis, and it helped me build a better idea about college in general,” says Cynthia Addoumieh, an ELI student. Cynthia is among the many who hope to continue their education at AUBG. “I think this is the best place for me to be at.”

In order to stay ahead of competition and live up to its good reputation, the institute is constantly trying to add to its existing programs. One of their latest developments is the English for Journalists program they’re developing with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Sofia. It will address a crucial need in the Bulgarian media landscape for more diverse news sources. The issue became problematic in the context of growing worries about fake news worldwide.

“Our tolerance of it all is bothersome, if you ask me,” Alexandrova says. “I believe there is a good practice that should be made available to journalists and that good practice begins with improving their language skills.”

The program will include both English language training and seminars on journalism topics, delivered by AUBG professors. In addition to the English for Journalists program, the institute is also working for the third time around on an EU-funded program with the Ministry of Labor.

When it comes to the future of the ELI, Alexandrova confidently says: “As a Director, my number one goal is to have more people want to come and study with us. As a leader, my number one goal is to have inspired instructors and eager employees. I want us to want to give our best.”

Story by Nikol Meshkova

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