IEI Online Program Interview: Maiwand Kakar

The Intensive English Institute (IEI) is a program at the University of Maine that accepts and welcomes students from various countries around the world. The program strives to challenge and engage students in the English language, helping to improve fluency and accuracy in both spoken and written mediums.

Students who attend, and pass their courses, are able to either matriculate as a student of the University of Maine through the Maine Bridge program or, like the student interviewed below, transfer to a different university for further study in their preferred field. Whichever path the student may choose, IEI is here to help them further their individual educational pursuits while supporting them professionally, academically, and socially.


Maiwand Kakar enrolled in the Intensive English institute program for the 2021-2022 academic year as an online student based in Turkey. He was recommended for participation by his mentor and virtual language tutor Peter Collins from Blue Hill, Maine. Peter, who had completed the TESOL Certificate at the UMaine IEI in 2016, reached out to UMaine IEI to recommend Maiwand as a bright and motivated student who needed to improve his English to qualify for graduate school admission. 


Maiwand was a very dedicated student who didn’t allow distance and technology to impede his learning. He attended regularly, participated in class virtually and greatly improved his English proficiency. In April 2022, he successfully passed the Duolingo English test and was elated to be offered admission in the master’s program in Construction Engineering and Management at Concordia University in Canada. Maiwand also received a generous offer of personal financial assistance up to C$60,000 to fund two years of study, including tuition, housing, and other living expenses. 


Cheryl Robertson, one of Maiwand’s IEI teachers shared that one of the joys of teaching and working with international students at IEI is getting a chance to know the challenges and personal journeys many students bring to the program. Cheryl shared: “Maiwand’s story is one of the crises many of us are watching unfold in Ukraine, but also of dedication and rising above that crisis in ways that are amazing, thoughtful and thought provoking. It has been, and continues to be, a pleasure to work with Maiwand. At only 22, his positivity and commitment to learning and growing in not only English but also to his career, is unparalleled. My own mentor once said to me, “people are in your life for a reason, a season or a life-time.” This young man, who is so appreciative of the people in his life, is a “life-time.” It is a pleasure to know Maiwand, and I’m reminded that his genuine gratitude, even in the face of being a refugee for most of his young life, shows that human resilience can overcome even the most difficult of times.”

Maiwand Kakar

LinkedIn –


Tell us a bit about yourself?

I am Maiwand Kakar from Afghanistan. However, I am living in Turkey for six-years with Conditional refugee status. I finished my last year of high school in Turkey, and after that, I applied for university. I successfully graduated from University last year with a civil engineering degree.


When did you move to Turkey? Tell us a bit about your life currently

We moved to Turkey because of the unstable situation in Afghanistan. Furthermore, I have already completed 3 short internships in Construction Engineering in Turkey during my undergraduate studies.  I also worked onsite at a large apartment complex project for 3 months. In addition, I am currently volunteering my time at PMI (Project Management Institute) as an Assistant Project Manager for their English Language Academy and continuing English Language Intensive Program from Umaine.


Why is Civil Engineering of interest to you? What are your career goals?

One day, when I was in high school, I saw a photo of the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai.  When I saw it, I was very curious about how a human could build such a structure, and how the engineers and architects could find the solution to construct a building so tall.  In addition, I have seen the poor state of roads, buildings, and bridges in my native Afghanistan.  I see that our country will need to rebuild someday, and I hope to participate in that eventually.

My goal is to become a renowned Building Construction Manager.  In order to accomplish this, I would like to continue my education at Concordia University in Quebec, Canada, in their famous Master’s program in Construction Engineering and Management.


How did you connect with Peter? What support did he offer?

I have known Peter, [my mentor and English tutor], for more than 2 years. He has helped me first with general English, then with English proficiency tests, and finally with applying to master’s programs in Canada. Moreover, I met Peter by using a learning language app where Peter volunteers his time.


Tell us about your experience at IEI

The English Language Intensive program at UMaine really helped me to improve my English skills to the next level. I have had a chance to meet students from around the world, and I learned about their country’s cultures which was fascinating for me. Throughout the Program, my dear teachers, Erin-Kate Sousa and Cheryl Robertson, were very supportive. Last but not least, Orlina Boteva, the Director of the Office of International Programs (OIP) at the University of Maine, awarded me a full OIP tuition scholarship opportunity to take the IEI which I am really grateful for.