The Pathway program provides the opportunity for Church-sponsored higher education for more students without requiring them to come to campus in Rexburg.
They can take online classes and meet in weekly gros to be taught by one another. This gives flexibility for them while earning a degree.
“We have had the program for less than three years and we are already in 16 different countries,” said Gene Hayes, pathway international director.
Hayes said that along with the online courses, students meet every Thursday and Skype with native English speakers once or twice a week.
“The goal is for them to overcome fear of messing by practicing with a native speaker,” Hayes said. “It’s a safe environment for them to make mistakes.”
Hayes said that a speaking partner is the best way for international students to learn the language. He said they only have one year to be proficient in English because they have to be totally independent so they can take college- level online classes in English.
“I was interested in studying at BYU-I because I have three cousins studying there and they talk to me a lot about it” said Maria Claudia Barona, second semester Pathway student from Lima, Peru.
Barona said she is studying architecture and wants to do something like web design and development.
She said she started participating in Pathway because she could practice and improve her English. She said she realized it was a good way to gain more education because they focused on both temporal and spiritual knowledge. She said it is good to have a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. university because it is very useful in Peru.
In her free time Barona said she loves to bake, draw architectural plans and sing. In the afternoons she is a tutor for a girl in her town and helps her with her homework.
“We have class every Thursday,” Barona said. “First we have institute classes, and then at 8 p.m. we have the main gathering.”
She said they have 30 students currently attending each week. There are three gros, one on their second semester and two gros on their first semester.
“Every week we have a different person in charge of the class, it could be any of us and the idea is to share what we learned during the week,” Barona said. “For example, we practice with new vocabulary and we resolve different math problems.”
Barona said that by being in Pathway she has become a better student.
“First I think that having the deadlines and not having the opportunity to look for the teacher is a good thing because I have to be responsible for the assignments,” Barona said. “Also, knowing that the gospel is related with everything makes me think that our Heavenly Father wants us to progress and not to waste our time.”
She said she has studied English since she was little, but practicing with a speaking partner has really helped her get over the fear of speaking English.
“Every week I had to talk to my speaking partner. The last one was very nice: she was always was telling me what things I needed to improve,” Barona said.
The speaking partners are all freely give their time to help Pathway students better their English.
Similar students are having the same experience around the world.
“It helped me learn discipline because I was working and studying, I learned how to manage my time better,” said Karla Cruz, 28-year-old student from Veracruz, Mexico.
Cruz has already finished Pathway but is continuing by taking classes online to get her bachelor’s degree.
She heard about the program from a friend that was living in Puebla. Cruz moved to Puebla from her hometown Veracruz to participate in the Pathway. Puebla is six hours from Veracruz.
“It was hard,” Cruz said, “but at the same time, it was something that I wanted to do.”
She said after she was baptized at age 18 and heard about the church schools, she wanted to attend but knew it was too much money and too hard.
“When I heard about Pathway, I didn’t even think about it: I just did it,” Cruz said.
Cruz also said she had a great experience with the speaking partners.
“At first I was shy, but it helped me to develop my speaking skills,” Cruz said. “It was very helpful, but it was also very spiritual because we would share experiences with each other.”
She said her speaking partners would help with new vocabulary words and pronunciation.
She said she has also been blessed with jobs that require her to speak English a lot.
Cruz said that along with work, she can only take five to seven credits of online classes through Pathway because of her schedule. She said it will take her seven to eight years to finish her bachelor’s degree.
She said that although it will take her a long time and it will be a challenge, she is grateful for the opportunity.
“Being able to learn things and share them with a partner is great because you are talking to people with different backgrounds and experiences,” Cruz said.