By Naomi Chandra, former A.C.E. volunteer and senior at Seattle Pacific University, majoring in Communications with a minor in Women’s Studies
I had the opportunity to volunteer at A.C.E. this winter and my focus was working with their female students. My goal was to do a study that focused on cultural differences in hopes of better understanding the A.C.E. students and provide A.C.E. with a perspective that will be of benefit in how they care for their current students, as well as future incoming students.
A.C.E. is a place where young adults from all over the world come together, from many paths in life, for one common goal: learning English. Language barriers, differences in worldview and our own walls that we put up may prevent students from opening up to new surroundings. However, several ladies at A.C.E. are handling the situation well. They have exhibited great personal strength, and are comfortable in a new environment, surrounded by a new language, far away from home. I greatly admire the personal character traits they exhibit.
As a part of my study, I held interviews with each of these wonderful women. We talked about life in relevance to school and culture. I was born and raised in Seattle, WA and have experienced mixed gender classes, male and female professors and have always been encouraged to further my studies.
Many A.C.E. students are from cultures that have gender-segregated education. Ghaida, Reem, and Renad, are from Saudi Arabia and have experienced a different life as a student in their home country and I was interested in learning exactly what these differences were and how they adapted. None of the ladies from Saudi Arabia had experienced mixed-gender education before coming to A.C.E. These women have adapted by keeping an open mind, and persevering to develop new cultural norms.
Ning, from Thailand, and Shuying, from China, have faced different struggles. While the education systems are more similar, they are both sad to be so far from their families. Ning and Shuying have benefited greatly from being surrounded by students from other countries. They cannot rely on their native languages to communicate. As a result, their English has improved greatly.
From this experience I have gained a new understanding of international women students, what their lives are like, and what challenges they face. I have developed a deeper, unique perspective that I would not have gained without volunteering. For all I have learned, I am grateful.
By: Amy Engblom, International Student Adviser, A.C.E. Language Institute at MSU, Special Correspondent to the A.C.E. Blog
One good day! 33 of us went on a bus from Bozeman, Montana to see one of the world’s most amazing geological locations with students from a number of countries including Saudi Arabia, Brazil, China, Korea, Japan, and Ecuador. Our bus driver, Mel, has spent the last four years working at Yellow Stone National Park and helped guide us through a wonderful day!
“Can we get closer to the waterfall?” asked Mubarak. We were at Artist Point in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. So then, we decided to go to a place called the, “Brink”, to see the rushing water up close. We had already made a few stops, including the famous Geyser Basin to see Old Faithful shoot steam 30m into the air and the Fountain Paint Pots to hear bubbling mud. Weary, but eager, we walked down the path at the “Brink”. It was here that our group found a special fellowship as we climbed the rocks and took photographs. The spray of the waterfall was in the air.
We ended our day at Mammoth Hot Springs, arriving in the early evening sunlight. Some students took videos of the elk herd in the nearby grass, others looked in the gift shop, and some enjoyed huckleberry ice cream. It was a trip worth repeating. Yellowstone National Park is about a 1.5 hour drive from Bozeman where our Language Institute is located. It was a full day on and off the bus, but the sites and scenery make it so worthwhile.
On April 21, 2015, a group of Muslim women from A.C.E. Language Institutes at Seattle Pacific University visited Holy Names Academy in Seattle. Holy Names is an all girls Catholic school located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. The Muslim students from A.C.E. shared about their culture, religion, and life experiences with the Catholic students from HNA. The following is a reflection from Holy Names Academy religion teacher, Sarah Wahlen.
By: Sarah Wahlen, Holy Names Academy Religion Teacher, Special Correspondent to the A.C.E. Blog
For the second year in a row, we had the opportunity to host some of the female Muslim students from A.C.E. Language Institute at Seattle Pacific University. The ladies spent the day speaking as a panel for six periods of our 9th grade Religion class, World Cultures. Since the school culture at Holy Names Academy is diverse, we strive to help students live and work in an environment of building understanding of the views of others, as well as respect for their own traditions. This class is designed to help students delve a little deeper into some of the major religions around the world with the goals of increased global knowledge, as well as motivating peace-building and compassion for others.
It was such a great day and was extra special to see some of the women return from last year and display even more confidence with regard to speaking and telling their stories. The visit of the Muslim women has truly become a cornerstone and highlight of our Islam unit. The girls so look forward to it every year and we observe them getting so much out of it. It is very powerful for them to sit across from women of a different culture and hear directly from them in their own words about what their faith means to them and how they interpret their own lifestyles within that context. It is also always a treat to observe the similarities the students discover when bringing up things like music taste, phone apps, entertainment, etc. There is never a shortage of “they are just like us” comments. Yes, indeed.
I know that this day of learning is immensely valuable for our students, as evidenced by some amazing conversations in class the following day when we spent time talking about what the experience was like for the students. The response is always an overwhelming sense of new understanding, as well as connections made with people who are sometimes viewed as so different from us. In addition, as teachers we were blessed to be able to share lunch with the women. I know I speak for all my fellow co-workers in expressing how much I learned from and appreciated the opportunity for fellowship and conversation. We are so grateful for this enlightening experience that we and our students were able to take part in and sincerely look forward to a growing partnership with A.C.E. in the years to come.
A.C.E. is also looking forward to an ongoing partnership with Holy Names in order to promote peace and intercultural friendship in the world!
By: Cheri Ladd LeCain, Director of Studies, A.C.E. Language Institute at MSU, Special Correspondent to the A.C.E. Blog
Back in the fall of 1994, A.C.E. opened a new Language Institute in a quaint little old white house on the edge of the Montana State University campus. In our “one-room schoolhouse,” the living room of the house served as a classroom for our 11 students and teacher “offices” for our staff of four. The kitchen served as our library and copy room. Isabel Childs, from A.C.E. at Pacific Lutheran University, took the reins as director, joining Hobie Hare, Betsy McGee, and me. Other long-termers at A.C.E. include Ana Valdivia (2000), Matt Rabinsky (2005), and Shannon Mahoney (2005).
MSU was very eager to bring in this new intensive English program to better serve and grow its international student population by being able to provide international students the opportunity to be conditionally admitted to the university. The institute immediately thrived and continued to grow.
Over the years students from at least 55 nations have walked through the doors of the little white house. In the 1990s, we had larger percentages of students from East Asian countries, with Japan in the forefront. We have served a number of students on U.S. grant-sponsored programs: CAMPUS X/Fulbright (Central American Program for Undergraduate Scholars), UGRAD, IREX, and USAID, and USIA, as well as other government- and business-sponsored students: Qatar University, ARAMCO, BSMP, SACM, NIMS, Zenchiku Ranch, AMIDEAST Plus, CBIE (Canadian Bureau for International Education), Kuwait Cultural Office and Bolashak, as well as students on numerous short-term programs, such as LEAP, TEA, PIE, PUK, KGU, Eiken, and GILI.
As hardy as its rustic, cowboy setting, the institute weathered some difficult and lean times that closed many other intensive English programs across the nation, namely the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s and time period after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Now, as we celebrate our 20th year of being on the MSU campus, we have just closed the doors of the little white house to move to the third floor of the more spacious Culbertson Hall, where we now have seven dedicated classrooms and seven offices to serve our 129 students and 24 staff and faculty members. The MSU Office of International Programs is conveniently located one floor above us, and the Post Office is on the first floor.
We look forward to the next 20 years!