Meet Ozge Erden:
Graphic Design student and Waukesha County Technical College District Ambassador for 2023-24
Congratulations to international student Ozge Erden for being named the WCTC District Ambassador for 2023-24! In spring, each of the 16 Wisconsin Technical College System institutions selects one student to represent its district as student ambassador. This student acts as an on-campus advocate, participates in a leadership development and recognition program, and receives a scholarship toward their studies.
When Graphic Design student Ozge Erden originally came to the United States from Turkey five years ago, she had already earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Erzincan University and spent two years working as a school counselor and family therapist. What she didn’t have, however, was proficiency in English-speaking skills.
In daily conversations with her elementary school students, the children often spoke to her in English – a language secondary to her native Turkish. Erden could read and write in English, but she struggled to speak it. Ultimately, her students inspired her to make a change.
“I decided to learn English because all of my students were speaking English,” said Erden, who was recently named the 2023-24 WCTC District Ambassador. “I thought, as their teacher, I should be speaking English!”
Coming to America
Erden arrived in the U.S. via an au pair program in 2018, which allowed her to live and work in the U.S. for a set period of time and immerse herself in American culture. As a condition of the program, she was also required to sign up for post-secondary classes in the U.S. She spent a few weeks in Pennsylvania before moving to Wisconsin and settling in with her host family: Sarah Vuolo, Travis Lemoine and their young children Zachary and Charlotte. Soon after, Vuolo took Erden to WCTC to help her enroll in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. This helped Erden improve her speaking and writing skills as well as her essay writing skills.
She stayed with the Vuolo-Lemoine family for a year and a half, provided care for the young children and quickly became part of the family -- earning the title of “big sister.” She finished her ESL studies at WCTC, completed her time as an au pair, and returned to Turkey in late 2020.
Becoming a Program Student
She spent the next year living and working in Turkey and England, but she had a strong desire to return to the U.S. and continue on with her schooling – this time, in a more creative area.
“I wanted to get my speaking skills down, and then I became interested in the graphics side of things,” she said. “I loved psychology, but art was in my heart all the time.”
Erden came back to the U.S. in December 2021 as an international student and began full time in the Graphic Design program, and the Vuolo-Lemoine family welcomed her back into their home and is now serving as her sponsor.
“I love this college so much. The education system is just amazing; everything is so organized and everyone is so helpful,” she said. “I can practice whatever I learn, and that’s why I wanted to come back here and practice graphic design – my dream.”
Since she’s been back, Erden has stayed busy with her program, gotten involved in the Graphic Design club, and served in different student worker roles.
Initially, she spent time working at the welcome desk, which allowed her to practice her English-speaking skills. “I was so used to hearing my host family, but here, everyone has a different (speaking) style. It really helped me a lot to hear how different people speak,” she said. Erden then worked for Career Connections, helping to create brochures and organize files, and most recently, she’s been working in the print shop on campus, where she is able to directly apply the skills she is learning in her program.
The Benefits of a WCTC Education
Having been an ESL student and also a program student, Erden said she has truly benefited from the kindness, patience and support of faculty and staff, even strangers. She appreciates the positive attitude of faculty and their openness to try new approaches – something she says she hadn’t always experienced in other educational settings – and she values the high level of instruction she’s receiving at WCTC. “Our instructors know so much, and they’re doing their best to share that information with us,” she said.
Erden is looking forward to serving in the role of district ambassador and said it was an honor to be chosen.
“I wanted to become a student ambassador because I love being a student and student worker here. WCTC has helped me a lot, and I just want to give back what WCTC gave me.”