Student Spotlight: Elena Zheltova

“ALI is the best English program that I have ever attended. Seriously. Everything there was flexible, but structured. My class had six people from different countries, and everybody was very goal oriented.”

With a law degree from Russia, Elena Zheltova came to SF State to improve her English before becoming a student in our American Bar Association-approved Paralegal Studies program.

Elena Zheltova

How did you hear about us?
Searching online. I was living on the east coast and looking for legal programs on the West Coast, and the SF State Paralegal Studies program came up. I didn't have enough time to collect the documents by the application deadline for fall and there was an issue with the TOEFL. So Joy O'Donnell recommended that instead of losing a semester I apply to the American Language Institute (ALI). I think it was a better way to go. At ALI we focused on writing skills, oral communication and presentation skills. After finishing the ALI program, I enrolled in the Paralegal Studies program.

What courses did you take? Why?
At ALI I took four classes. There are two main classes everyone takes: Writing and Speaking. The other two classes were electives. I chose American Short Stories and Business English.

What were some of the highlights?
I liked Evan Kaiser's writing class a lot. He is a great professor. He was very demanding but helpful. I learned a lot from him. The speaking class with Stephanie Trujillo was also very good. We were preparing for the presentation for six weeks by doing it in steps. We started with the library and how to search for materials and work with a database. We kept following, step by step, until we put everything together into a presentation. It was pretty interesting. My topic was sweatshops.

What teaching moments in the classroom were especially helpful?
I liked the news report assignment in the Speaking class that each of the students prepared for the beginning of the class. It was really helpful because we are learning new things from the other students. One of the students would give a news report that was really interesting and after we would discuss it for ten to fifteen minutes in a group. My topic was corporate and environmental responsibility. It was difficult to learn because I had to translate and then try to understand, but it was interesting too.

What are your career goals?
For now I just want to concentrate on the Paralegal Studies program, but becoming an attorney is my ultimate goal. My law degree is from Russia and getting a certificate from the Paralegal Studies program is going to be helpful to me because I've never worked in the American legal system. I want to learn the basics of the American system of law, do an internship and focus on immigration, corporate, or business law. While I think about it, the paralegal courses will help prepare me for law school.

How did SF State help you reach your goals?
The classes prepared me to be more confident to go to higher education at a university. Each professor individually worked with us based on our interests. The staff at ALI office was also very helpful. They want to make sure that each person pursues their goals and accomplishes them. They helped us a lot with advising and helped students stay on top of their goals.

What else can you share about SF State?
ALI is the best English program that I have ever attended. Seriously. Everything there was flexible, but structured. My class had six people from different countries, and everybody was very goal oriented. Everybody prepared their homework and participated in class. I was very lucky to be in this group of like-minded students.

I would also highly recommend to anybody who has a law degree from a foreign country to apply to the Paralegal Studies program. I think it can be very helpful if you want to practice law in your country.