If you ask Aki, Japanese student at A.C.E. Language Institute at Seattle Pacific University, what makes studying in the U.S. so challenging, she might mention how difficult it is to express herself in a second language. “When I have to speak in English I feel so nervous. I have to stop the conversation sometimes to explain what I mean, and I feel so bad about that.”
Yet you would never know from the way she slips into her comfort zone when talking with Sara, a linguistics major at SPU, who has become fast friends with Aki since they met last year.
At A.C.E. Language Institutes, students study on a university campus, giving them a unique opportunity to take part in campus activities and meet university students and staff. Level 6 students can even take part in university classes as part of the A.C.E. experience. Still, it often takes a push or helping hand for many international students like Aki to make that “first friend”. Enter Sara.
Sara is part of a growing population on many U.S. university campuses that embraces the diversity represented by international students and faculty from all over the globe. SPU campus alone is home to more than 150 graduate and undergraduate international students from 35 different countries. For Sara, her background in linguistics at SPU and Japanese language study in high school and community college were a natural fit for getting to know Aki.
Sara shared her point of view. “Since I’m a commuting student, and don’t spend so much time on campus, it’s also hard for me to meet international students. We both are trying to speak each other’s language and can help understand each other and communicate.” Aki voices the same thought simultaneously, and they share a laugh.
The pair have spent time around Seattle in recent weeks. Doing what? “Have we ever hung out without eating?” Italian, Japanese udon, dim sum – their shared love of international cuisine mirrors their excitement about learning from each other and the international community at SPU. Sara has already applied to study in Japan for Spring 2017. “There’s one place I want to go in Tokyo,” Sara grins: “McDonald’s!” Aki bursts out laughing. “No, no, no! I’ll take you somewhere way better.”
“Conveyor belt sushi!”
Needless to say, there is no limit to where Aki and Sara’s friendship – and appetites – will take them!
The A.C.E. Language Institute at Montana State University welcomed seven students from Namseoul University in Korea for a four week English program, January 17 – February 13, 2016. Outside of class time, the program offered students opportunities to practice communicating with native English speakers. They participated in conversation hour on Fridays to meet American students and other learners at A.C.E. Language Institute. They also were matched with MSU student volunteers who were language partners. Parker Tilton, an MSU student and language partner, described his experience:
“Our music, our food, our sports, and our schools were all very interesting to (my Korean conversation partner); as he was trying to get a clear picture of the American lifestyle. I helped him with English in expanding his vocabulary of both everyday phrases and words that are difficult to pronounce, such as fettuccine. It was always a pleasure to be around him, and I would absolutely do it again.”
Some of their best memories came from the time they spent with American host families. The students enjoyed a trip to Yellowstone National Park to soak in the boiling river, took in a MSU basketball game, played many raucous card games, and shared wonderful Korean dishes with their hosts. I-ho Pomeroy, host of two students and Bozeman City Commissioner, invited the students to join her in presenting to the lunch Rotary club on February 2. This was an important opportunity for the students to use their English and share their culture with more people in Bozeman. The Rotarians learned about Hangul, the Korean language, famous Koreans, and about the history of the country.
The students came to love Bozeman and got to know the community through a variety of avenues. They visited the Museum of the Rockies and had a great time skiing at Bridger Bowl. In order to learn more about the Bozeman community, they volunteered at the Gallatin Valley Foodbank and at The Community Café. These two non-profit organizations provide food and meals to those in need. They packed in a lot of fun, learning, and personal growth in their short time here! At the end of their English program, students received a certificate recognizing their coursework, activities and host family exchange, combined in 100 hours of English.
February 10, 2016, Seattle, WA – A.C.E. President David Woodward led the rousing and impassioned, first ever “Diplomacy Day” at Seattle Rotary #4’s meeting at the Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle. Several hundred Rotarians and guests gathered to welcome consular officials from 21 countries, including four Consul General’s based in Seattle from Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Brazil. The event included remarks from Rotary President Cathy Gibson and guests Seattle Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim and SPU Interim Dean of Business Ross Stewart, before the keynote speech from Seattle Pacific University President Dan Martin (below photo).
President Martin elaborated on Seattle’s growing presence in the domestic and international economy, and how international and cultural education can be a difference maker, to “both help businesses grow and contribute to the well-being of communities.” President Martin also mentioned the long standing partnership between SPU and A.C.E., specifically mentioning the Culture Connections program. “[It is] a program that matches SPU student volunteers with ACE students, which allows international students to practice their English skills while also allowing SPU students a glimpse of a wider world.”
See more photos from the event in the slideshow below.
A.C.E.: So, why did you choose A.C.E.?
KH: Actually I applied to SPU for their MBA program (technology information), but I didn’t have time to prepare for the TOEFL or other standardized tests. After working with my advisor in Taiwan, based on my work experience and GPA, they recommended I finish A.C.E. Level 6 first, then transfer to SPU.
A.C.E.: What was your background in before you came to A.C.E.?
KH: That’s pretty complicated (laughs). Well, at first, when I started in college, I was going to be a teacher. But I switched gears after I recognized that it’s not my purpose. I had taken some business classes during the four years, and after graduating went to a company to work as an Executive Assistant for 3 or 4 years.
A.C.E.: So you had some good experience at home and decided to come here (SPU) for the Master’s degree?
KH: Yeah. My last job was working for a company doing marketing in the U.S. and I had a chance to travel in the U.S. I realized that English is so important, and that the world is so wide. So I decided to study English harder. I first went to Atlanta for around four or five months, then transferred to a different program. After I finished the program, however, I realized that my English level wasn’t enough; I need to learn more. I also want to stay with Chi (Ko’s husband who’s also studying at A.C.E. SPU), so I decided to apply to the graduate school at SPU.
A.C.E.: What do you like about A.C.E.?
KH: Well, A.C.E. is like family, really. We were both studying at another program, and it was so big. We changed classes every hour, with different classmates and different teachers. Here at A.C.E. we have one class and two teachers. We know each other very well, and even celebrated one of our classmate’s birthdays! We have dinners at teachers’ homes as well.
We also found that A.C.E. is really hard! I have been in three different language schools, and A.C.E. is definitely the most difficult. We’d never done poster sessions, or other kinds of presentations until we got to A.C.E. When we started at Level 4, for our classwork we had to conduct a survey and do interviews, as well as a PowerPoint presentation. Now, we do a lot of presentations in class.
A.C.E.: That’s good practice for your future courses at SPU?
KH: Yes, it really is. Doing my undergraduate degree in my home country, I realized that presentation skills would be a very important skill for me to succeed in the future.
A.C.E.: When you were in Taiwan deciding where to go, did you work with an advisor? What was that like?
KH: The first time I met with my advisor, she asked me, “Well, what do you want?” And I had to think of a list of things, what type of programs I was interested in. Then she asked, “Public or private school? What part of the U.S. – east, west, north, south?” So I laid out all the conditions I had, and she helped me narrow down the list by my grades, my work experience…and not having to take the GMAT or TOEFL if possible. When I was studying at another program, I didn’t know anything about SPU. But when I got here, I really fell in love with SPU.
A.C.E.: Well, we’re definitely glad to have you here! Thanks Ko-Hsin!
A.C.E. Level 3 students got the opportunity to meet local Seattle Pacific University students up close and personal on January 29, 2016. As part of their final exam project, Instructor Sally Thomas asked students in her Listening, Communication & Grammar course to interview SPU students in a beginning Spanish class about an interesting topic of their choice. Topics ranged from favorite local coffee houses to perspectives on homelessness in Seattle. At first, both sets of students seemed nervous and shy, but after the first few minutes, they started to get to know one another. They quickly began to smile and gain confidence communicating as the interview dialogue began to flow.
Thomas noted, “This was fantastic because A.C.E. students are eager to interact with SPU students but it is difficult for them to do it on their own. Likewise, the experience was so rich for the SPU students to share across cultures.”
The SPU Professor of Spanish, Eric Vogt, was so encouraged by the opportunity that he invited A.C.E. students to interview another class of students the following week.
A.C.E. welcomes opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds to meet one another and explore other cultures. To join the conversation, learn more about our programs at A.C.E. Language Institute at Seattle Pacific University.