Student Testimonial – Lenis

My name is Lenis. I came to the United States 5 years ago. At that time I did not know much English. After a while I had the need to learn. That’s why I searched and found the opportunity to study at the University Settlement Adult Literacy Program. Thanks to them and to their English classes I can now write, understand and speak English. 

University Settlement has helped me a lot in my personal and professional life. I am married and my husband only speaks English. Now I have good communication with him. In my work I also take calls and now I’m able to talk and have conversations. I am currently the operations manager for a network of restaurants located in New Jersey. My progress has been incredible. 

Thank you to University Settlement for the opportunity and thank you also for referring me to participate in courses with CAMBA. CAMBA helps immigrants in the engineering area continue their profession in the United States. It has been an excellent opportunity. 

Today I feel very proud to be here and to be able to speak, write and read in English. I miss the Adult Literacy Program so much! 

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Student Testimonial – Mara

Hi! I’m Mara, and I’m Italian. 

I have a master’s degree in Marketing and Business Communication, and three years ago I decided to move from Italy to New York to change my life. I have always thought New York is the city with a thousand opportunities, and the right place if you like challenges. 

After a year living here, COVID-19 came and I had to review all my plans. Thanks to a friend I found out about the Adult Literacy Program at University Settlement. So, in September 2020 I decided to enroll in this program. I couldn’t have made a better choice! 

Thanks to my teacher I improved my English, and I started to feel more comfortable during my daily life. I met not only a very professional teacher, amazing classmates I’m still in touch with, but also an incredible team. Everyone helped me. Mayra and the counselors worked hard on my resume and helped me to be prepared for interviews. They always motivated and supported me. Without them I couldn’t be where I am. 

This year, I have finally found a good job. I’m pursuing my career and working as a Trade Marketing Specialist at Swarovski. I’m ready for this new chapter in my life. My American dream is coming true. 

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At University Settlement, we take pride in providing the best experience possible for each student. 

We hope learning with us will lead to bigger things for them. 

For this reason, it is encouraging when we receive positive feedback from current or former students. 

Here are reviews from two of our former students:


Hi! My name is Stefania, and I am from Italy. I grew up on Sardinia, a wonderful island in the Mediterranean Sea by the way. But I lived and worked for many years in Milan. My whole career was in the Human Resources department. I was a payroll specialist in international companies, but I have never used English in my work. 

My husband and I moved to New York City in November 2020. I know we were in the middle of a world pandemic but what can I say?… We always had perfect timing! At the beginning it was hard. I spent a lot of time waiting for Covid cases to go down. Everything was closed or online. Fortunately English classes were online as well. I started studying in the Adult Literacy Program at University Settlement in September 2021, when English classes could come back in person. It was the moment that my English started improving!

Studying in person makes a real difference. In the Settlement school I found a great team. They are very supportive, they understand my feelings and encourage me to do my best. Since I guess sometimes people forget this, but in the workplace, in the schools, in every place it’s the people that make the difference. I took class every day from Monday to Thursday, I did my homework, I followed all the advice that they gave me! And after only four months, I felt more confident. I really appreciate the organization because they have a great method of teaching.

My teacher Diana is simply amazing! She is a professional and enthusiastic teacher. She pushes us every day to do something new to improve our speaking. She shares with us curiosities, idioms, experiences so helpful to better understand a new culture. Teaching, in my opinion, is not only a job–it is an attitude, and she is wonderful. 

At the same time University Settlement offers a lot of opportunities in other areas. For example, if you are interested in a new career or getting a job or volunteering or graduating from college, they can help you. My counselor Mayra is so prepared and supportive. This is very important because when you are an immigrant, you feel a little bit lost in a big city like New York, and usually you don’t know that there are so many opportunities to improve your language and your life! 

In January, Mayra suggested to me to take a course in Grace Institute, and I decided to try the entrance test. I passed my test and on February 2 I started my journey to Grace Institute! Is it difficult? Yes! Am I scared? Yes, every day, but it is a process and I feel so grateful that I have had this opportunity and that I have met University Settlement on my path.


I was born and raised in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), a beautiful country in West Africa. I immigrated to the U.S. in 2018 with only a few words in my English vocabulary.

I was afraid to speak with people and avoided eye contact. I joined the University Settlement Adult Literacy Program in September 2020 and my English level took off for the better. By June 2021 I was free of fear of people. 

University Settlement accelerated my vocabulary, grammar and sentence building with a very pragmatic combination of book study and group conversation, all guided by very experienced, patient and dedicated teachers.

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Student Writing: Changes

white and black UNKs kitchen

Here’s a piece of non-fiction from Class E4 student Silvia Cortes about some changes she decided to make in her life. When you’re finished, take the quiz to test your understanding!


by Silvia Cortes, Class E4

I realized that every big change in my life started with “Why not? Let’s do this!” This is how my journey here in the USA began with a simple “I am going to leave my job as office assistant and put my catering business on pause. Let’s see, why not? We all need a vacation.”

So there I was making government appointments to start the paperwork for my passport and visa, checking on what I should put in my suitcase for the couple of weeks I was thinking of being here.

I was nervous because it was the first time I traveled outside of my country and if it was a good decision to quit my job and pause my business just for vacation. But then again, why not?

So there we were, my mom, my brother, one uncle and two cousins and we made it to the airport and the adventure began. For them it was their second time here, but for me it was all new.

On the first day of our adventure, an accident happened to me. In the subway station, a tired man dropped his heavy suitcase and instrument case from the top of the stairs and it all came falling down towards us. My mom was in front, so I jumped in front of her to block it. The suitcase and bag sent me falling down the stairs, I hit the platform, and my leg, ankle, arm, and head were injured. That was my welcome to NYC. After a paramedic checked up on me and asked many questions about my health, we continued with our adventure. So with the help of painkillers we went to see the most famous tourist places around NYC. I didn’t want to miss anything.

We went to Rockefeller Center—the views were amazing, even for being a cloudy day. For the night my cousin bought us tickets to the Rockettes’ Christmas show. Even though I am not fan of Christmas I had to admit it was a totally cool show.

We went to visit the Statue of Liberty. Well, that was our plan but we got fooled by some people to avoid waiting so much time in line. They took us to another ferry to take a boat around the Statue but it was far away. It was disappointing because the one who was most excited was my mom. She really wanted to be there on Ellis Island, but in the end to see her face on the boat, despite the distance was worth it. She enjoyed it so much, and I cannot imagine her face if we had gotten closer.

After discovering the most popular places, I made the decision to stay in New York. Again I said to myself, “Why not?” A few weeks later I got my first job as cashier and server (among other things) at a restaurant nearby my

place of residence. Everything went good, I was good with customers, and I was everything that the manager was looking for in a person.

Nobody was aware of the pandemic that was going to impact everyone lives so much, so I thanked God that my brother decided to stay in New York too. Unfortunately my brother and my aunt lost their jobs, and I was the only one working. I could not leave my family in that situation, so I decided to stay indefinitely.

The time passed and I did not feel comfortable at all, many obligations came and people started doing nothing, waiting for me to do their stuff. I was getting tired of it, but at the same time I was thinking how convenient my work was. It only took 25 minutes walking from home, and even when I did not have time to eat, they gave me food there. During the pandemic the manager and the owner kept me as a worker so I had the opportunity to support my family by paying rent. It was so convenient but not enough. There were still things that were annoying me, and again I decided to make a change, and in the end I had nothing to lose besides my financial support—but the universe provides. Besides I wanted to take days off, so why not?

One Sunday I told the owner, “Next week is going to be the last for me working here. You have the opportunity to hire someone else and for me to train them.”

That week my best friend told me that she had tickets to come and visit. The timing could not have been better: I was free and with some savings we could go and discover some other places in the city together.

And so it was: we went to so many places, we had the opportunity to talk face to face again, to hear about our own lives in real life and not just from the chatting over the phone. I missed her so much and I didn’t want the time to pass that fast but thankfully the timing was perfect and the decision of making a change was a good one.

Click here to take the quiz!

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Literacy Review Revisited: Third Time’s a Charm!

Here’s yet another sample from Literacy Review Volume 19, this time by Advanced Writing Class student Laeticia Blanchard

Having Coffee in NYC

by Laeticia Blanchard

Since I arrived in New York City, I have enjoyed having coffee outside. What a nice array of wonderful coffee places! My husband and I immediately embraced the NYC coffee culture. Every year, we would go to the New York Coffee Festival, and we would buy the new edition of The New York Coffee Guide. We were always strolling the city to discover a new coffee spot.

You can imagine how delighted I was when I realized that a cozy coffee shop had opened in my neighborhood. I also thought that it was a good sign that this new café was called Inès, as my own daughter’s name is Inès. Serendipity! I started to spend a lot of time at this café, and it became my go-to place. Inès is the place where I used to sit and stay to read my New Yorker, write my papers, study for my English classes, and prepare the Spanish lessons I taught. Its atmosphere was simply perfect for me. As I don’t like to be alone and spend an entire day without talking to anybody, I knew that there I could find a quiet place to interact with a bunch of people and at the same time I could feel safe, listen to cool music, and chat.

But then, in March, the pandemic struck, the lockdown arrived, and I really feared for my ideal connection with this special place. I thought that all these good moments were over. In fact, after a few days, I decided to go outside and to check if my favorite coffee place was still open, and, to my great relief, it was! Of course, no more tables to linger at, no more space inside to be seated and stay for a couple of hours, but it stood tall, and during this difficult time, it became my anchor, a place even closer to my heart. I kept going there every day. I wanted to give my support and express my appreciation to the team. They were part of the essential workers. And they were definitively essential for me! I was also supporting me and my mood. These outings were structuring my day, and it was so important for me to see people outside of my household. We were all exchanging information, doubts, and feelings about what was going on around us, and it had such a comforting and almost healing effect. My daughter, Inès, soon arrived from her university to stay home with us, and I brought her with me on these daily outings to the other Inès. I introduced her to the community, and with her name causing a sensation, she immediately became part of the gang. From March to July, we shared this precious time and place together.

Finally, in August, like a lot of restaurants in New York, they were able to set a beautiful terrace in front of the café, and I spent the whole summer sipping my delicious iced lattes with oat milk and taking my routine up again, reading, writing, and chatting outside but staying close to the hustle and bustle of the place.

I can say now that Inès represents an essential part of my life and of the New York experience I appreciate every day. Having coffee in New York City is being in touch with this lively, warm, and welcoming part of the city. I feel privileged to have found such an ideal spot, and I am happy to have created this extension of my family circle. Today, I cannot conceive my life without it. Having coffee in New York City is much more than simply drinking a cup of coffee; it is going to a place that is an extension of what I call home.

To listen to Laeticia read her story or read more stories, click here!

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Literacy Review Revisited, Again

Here’s another story from Literacy Review Volume 19, this time by Advanced Writing Class student Lichan (Chloe) Yu


by Lichan (Chloe) Yu

Some like it, because it owns beauty. Some avoid it, because it is straightforward. Some even want to break it. I look in the mirror thousands of times before I go out. I adjust my makeup on my face so many times. Why can’t I get the look I want? This could ruin my whole new day. What you see in the mirror is your shadow. When you smile, it will smile back. When you cry, it will cry back. When you frown, absolutely you will see an ugly face. A mirror is only one plane, it has no way to conceal any faults. But with it, you can discover your beauty, experience your beauty, and make beauty.

In our lives, we all like to clarify others’ shortcomings and hardly ever see the advantages. This makes our relationships far apart. When I stand at the crosswalk while the red light is still on, I observe people around me. Are they satisfied with the way they look? Those diverse sad and happy faces can barely conceal themselves. What have they been through? What makes them so disappointed or so grateful? Life contains sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy. The mirror reflects this as well.

To listen to audio of the story or to read more stories, click here!

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Literacy Review Revisited

Literacy Review Volume 19 is out now! Here’s one story by University Settlement Adult Literacy Program W1 student Cesar Rojas

Eleven Pets in the House

by Cesar Rojas

The house where I grew up was in an urban area, but it was a very large house with four rooms and a backyard that was also really large. My mom loved animals, but at one time, things got out of control. We had two cats and two dogs. Then, in the same year, they all agreed to get pregnant. The cat had four kittens, and the dog had three puppies. We had eleven pets now in the house. You can’t imagine the noise the dogs made barking and the cats made running on the roof every night.

Since then, I haven’t wanted to have animals anymore.

To listen to Cesar read his story or to read more stories, click here!

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