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KNOXVILLE – Eighteen college students from South America will arrive Saturday at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, for a month-long immersion into American culture.

UT’s English Language Institute (ELI) is hosting 18 students from Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela as part of a program called “Study of the United States Institutes for Foreign Leaders.” ELI received a grant worth more than $300,000 to host the program, which is administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in the U.S. Department of State.

A group of Brazilian undergraduate students also participated in the program earlier this year.

“We are pleased to be hosting these students. They come from some of the best universities in Latin America,” said ELI Director Jim Hamrick. “We’re especially excited about the opportunities these students will have to interact with people on campus and in the community.”

Before the South American students begin their U.S. studies, they will visit Volunteer Landing on July 6 (12:30 p.m.) and take a scenic riverboat ride offered by the Tennessee Riverboat Co.

Classes begin the following day, and the students will learn about how values, events and conflicts of the past have shaped American culture, politics and society.

The students will participate in a community service project during their stay, and they will visit local attractions, including the Museum of Appalachia, Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, the Smokies and Dollywood. Other field trips include the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, CNN in Atlanta, President Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate near Charlottesville, Va., and the District of Columbia.

Several UT faculty and staff will help teach the classes. They include Ron Foresta, geography professor; Marva Rudolph, Office of Equity and Diversity (OED) director; Jenny Richter, OED associate director; Lori Belew, UT Extension; and George Hoemann, assistant dean of distance education and independent study.

ELI, which began in 1978, is a part of UT’s Division of University Outreach & Continuing Education. ELI offers programs to students and professionals to help improve their English and teach them about American life. Many students are sent to the U.S. by their employers to learn to speak English more proficiently. Other students are trying to improve their English before enrolling in an American university.


Elizabeth Davis, UT media relations, (865) 974-5179,

Jim Hamrick, English Language Institute, (865) 974-1371,

Moema Furtado, English Language Institute, (865) 335-2670,