MSFS second year student, Benjamin Weinberg, returns to MSFS after spending a year as a Boren fellow in Brazil where he studied Portuguese and conducted research on the Brazil’s public education system. In this interview, Benjamin shares about his experience founding a company “English from A to Z,” connecting native English speakers with students in developing countries.
Are you a MSFS student interested in funding for language study abroad? Learn more about applying to be a Boren fellow here.
How did you find out about MSFS and what made you decide to apply and attend the program?
I found out about MSFS through APSIA and attended a graduate school fair in New York City where Georgetown MSFS was represented. I decided to apply and attend this program because of its focus in building the whole professional by allowing its students to get a range of exposure to a diverse curriculum but also emphasizing character and ethics too. Having us focus on a concentration or a certification that fits in with our career interests was also appealing to myself. I liked the emphasis by MSFS on having skills workshops, taking classes from other graduate programs, and building our professional experience with internships over the summer.
What is your area of interest in international affairs?
My area of interest in international affairs is peacekeeping and post-conflict development in affected countries. I hope to focus on peace-building efforts within countries that have undergone internal conflict and contribute ways to re-build those communities and societies through different means. Specifically, I think my professional background and current entrepreneurial endeavor would lend itself well to helping improve access to quality education for those young people affected. With the rise of digital education, there is a lot more that could be done both in the public, private sectors to give those students a chance to have a great education.
What valuable skills and experiences have you gained in your first year at the program? What are you most excited about for your second year?
I have developed myself in terms of giving presentations and collaborating with others on team-based projects. In addition, I have learned how to develop a business plan as well as create a financial balance sheet, which I would have had no idea about before joining MSFS. I am most excited about focusing on both my Global Politics and Security (GPS) concentration and a potential certification in International Business Diplomacy in my second year. My Boren fellowship experience in Brazil also helped me immensely in terms of developing my research skills and the ability to use my language skills for a real-world research project.
You recently founded English from A to Z, a company that provides English lessons to non-native speakers. What motivated you to found this company?
English from A to Z is an online-based business catering to English as a Second language students in the United States and internationally who want to improve their English proficiency. I founded this business in August of 2017 with the goal of helping English as a Second Language (ESL) students develop their English language skills through private lessons, group classes, and online courses. I myself have taught ESL classes in Turkey, Colombia, and in the US as well for five years before I came to Georgetown MSFS.
From my experiences of working overseas as an English teacher and in the US, I saw that there was not enough access to qualified teachers who are native speakers but also have the professional qualifications to teach the language well. The main goal of my business is to connect those teachers to the students who don’t have access to practice their English daily, especially conversationally. The teachers I have onboard right now hail from South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada, which is great for students in other countries who may not have that kind of exposure to native speakers before in their school English classes. Due to the rise of digital platforms like Skype and Zoom, my business can connect those teachers to those students seamlessly.
What are your short and long-term plans for the business?
My short-term plan for my business, English from A to Z, is to get more students to join us in using our digital products and services including the private lessons, group classes, and online courses that are being offered. Without a consistent and growing customer base, the business will not be sustainable, so that is a top priority. I also want to expand marketing and outreach to potential clients and businesses who need ESL services in Washington, D.C., New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, and other American cities. I also hope to find other qualified people to join the management team of my business to assist with sales and software development.
In the long-term, I really hope to have this business become the most prominent option in the global ESL marketplace. Remote-distance learning for education especially will be game-changing in the developing world. I hope that students in Mexico, Brazil, India, and elsewhere can connect and learn with my teachers from the U.S., U.K., or Canada. I will do my best to ensure that our customers will get good value in terms of the products and services they are getting and that their English language skills will improve immensely when they buy in to my business.
What are the benefits of learning a second language?
I believe that there are numerous benefits to learning a second language and including that of a third or fourth language. Studies have shown that memory retention is improved, your ability to make decisions is enhanced, and you become more self-confident. It gives you a different way of looking at the world and makes you more open to different cultures. Learning another language takes a lot of hard work and dedication, speaking from my personal experience. This kind of character trait shows colleagues, employers, or business partners that you are a serious learner who is willing to make themselves vulnerable in making mistakes to learn a second language.