International students at the University of Richmond have the opportunity to enroll in two classes that aim to help them improve their English writing, listening and speaking skills, as well as their knowledge of United States culture.

The two courses, “All about America” and “How to Write Everything,” are open to all exchange and international students who speak English as a second language. They are advertised to help students earn better grades on their writing assignments in all courses. The overall goal of the courses is to help students acclimate to the U.S. and UR in a fun and supportive environment, according to a notice in SpiderBytes.

“I made some of my great friends in this class," first-year Jing Dong said. "The whole environment is really relaxing so I never felt stressed out. I actually felt a lot of joy."

Leslie Bohon, an ESL specialist, has worked with international students throughout her whole career and has taught these classes at UR for the past three semesters. She draws on her professional experience as well as research to determine how to best help students as they transition to life in the U.S. 

“Research says that when students are abroad and have active mentors, they adjust faster and learn better," Bohon said. "This not only improves their language skills, but also their overall experience."

“All About America” helps international students explore U.S. culture through readings, films and other media outlets. 

The course examines topics such as education, politics and family life. It is an experimental learning course that includes field trips and select classes hosted by visiting speakers. There is also an assignment that requires students to interact with the Richmond community.

“These students need to not only have all of these topics and skills they are learning, but also practice them," Bohon said. "This is essential to their ability to adapt, enjoy, and get the most out of their study abroad."

“How to Write Everything” focuses on the importance of academic writing, which often comes as a challenge when studying abroad and learning a second language. 

Students will learn to write both formally and informally, as well as edit their classmates’ work, Bohon said. By the end of the course, students will also know how to use APA documentation and how to properly paraphrase and cite sources.

“I was very nervous coming to Richmond because I did not know how to write academically or professionally," Dong said. "Professor Bohon gave me very helpful information and was always willing to help. She really cares and it makes a difference. I have already recommended the course to many of my friends."

In addition to the skills listed in the syllabi, Bohon hopes to maximize students’ overall experiences academically, cognitively and interpersonally. She hopes they leave the U.S. believing that UR is the best university in the country.

“For international students looking to improve their writing skills, I really recommend them taking this class with Professor Bohon," Lanqin Wang, sophomore, said. "It is one of the few courses that a professor will be willing to spend so much time and energy on each assignment, focusing on every detail from structure to content."

Next fall, Bohon will conduct research to see what UR can do for English language development for international students. This will help her develop the courses, as well as help other professors give the students what they need to thrive, she said.

Contact contributor Kim Smith at