This year, seven Mexican students from four universities in Mexico were selected by the Mexico Department of Higher Studies to study intensive English in the United States for four weeks as part of the “100,000 Strong Program”, known as Proyecta 100,000. In June and July they studied at A.C.E.’s Language Institute at Seattle Pacific University in levels 3, 4 and 5, as well as integrating into Listening, Communication and Grammar (LCG) and Reading, Writing and Grammar (RWG) classes. Five of them also volunteered to take conversation classes. Over the four weeks they attended over 110 hours of intensive English classes!
Not content with only having American food during their stay, they were craving authentic Mexican fare. When they heard that A.C.E. was hosting an Iftar Bonfire to break the fast during the holy week of Ramadan, they insisted on preparing the whole dinner for the 30+ guests. What started as a casual get-together transformed into a moonlit festival of international nations. Through conversation, food, dance and laughter, all attending were able to share and enjoy the richness of their cultures.
The students met with the Consul of Mexico in Seattle; watched the Fremont Solstice Fair, Gay Pride Parade in Capitol Hill, and the 4th of July Parade on Bainbridge Island; danced salsa, banda, rock and club; rowed, paddled and nearly capsized canoes; went bowling; volunteered their time to a non-profit; and traveled to Bellingham and later left for trips to the east coast and California. Their infectious love of life and inquisitive behavior was felt and admired by their fellow students, teachers and coordinators at A.C.E. and SPU.
As second language educators, we are constantly questioning how to help make language learning memorable, meaningful, and “real.” With these aims in mind, one of the final projects for the Level 6 students at A.C.E. at URI is to answer and ask questions in English during a mock interview. This past week students in the Academic Speaking course met with Nancy Stricklin, the Assistant to the Provost for Global Strategies and Academic Partnerships at URI to interview for a job, internship, or scholarship program of their choice.
In preparation for their professional interview, students researched various career options and job openings and practiced common interview questions in the United States. They discussed cultural differences in hiring practices, consulted each other on their interview outfits, and practiced the art of the firm handshake. In order to help students prepare, we spent class time role-playing the parts of both interviewer and interviewee. Some critical questions that arose during this time were “Is it okay to ask for some time to think?” and “How should I ask for clarification about a word or question?” Students helped each other to strategize and to prepare thoughtful, personalized answers to the ever-challenging, “Tell me about yourself” and “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” They also practiced thinking on their feet with occasional “quirky” questions like, “If you were a flavor of ice cream, what would you be and why?”
Level 6 student Natalia noted after her mock interview for an Engineering internship, “To have the opportunity to do this assignment was very constructive because it is an experience that will live during our stay in the United States. The support materials given to preparation and tips for the interview were very good and useful for our future. Personally, I had already done some interviews in Brazil and I feel confident for this kind of activity, but facing the fact of doing it in another language is especially a different challenge. So, no doubt, it is a very enriching experience which the A.C.E. course fosters to the international students.”
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.