News Column

Students Immersed in U.S. Culture, English Language

July 16, 2013

A language school at California Lutheran University is teaching English to students from all over the world.

Many of them are getting ready to attend CLU, once they're fluent enough to take college classes in English. But, especially over the summer, some are high school students or travelers who just want to brush up on their English.

Bader Alotaibi, 24, is there because he wants to be an international pilot.

"It will help in my country because this is the first language in the world," said Alotaibi, who is from Saudi Arabia. "I want to fly and see all the world."

The school offers classes in four-week sessions, with 13 sessions offered a year. Classes are offered at 12 levels, covering speaking, listening, grammar and writing. The cost is $1,400 to $1,700 per session.

ELS Language Centers has campuses worldwide, including 63 in the U.S. Others are in Saudi Arabia, India and South Korea, among other countries.

Even if they have a campus in their own countries, many students come to the U.S. so they can immerse themselves in the English language and U.S. culture, said Ashlee Milby, center director.

"It's a pathway to a university," Milby said. "They can come here; they can learn the culture; they can make friends, learn English, and easily transfer for undergraduate or graduate studies."

At the CLU school, enrollment averages about 150 students a session, Milby said. Most come from Saudi Arabia or China, but the school also has students from Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Brazil.

The students have faced challenges including basic communication, discrimination and homesickness. Being unable to express yourself can be frustrating, they say. Hearing people shout slurs from the protection of their cars is painful. Families and friends are missed.

Stephanie Micalay, 19, of Peru, is taking her second round of classes after taking her first round at the start of the year then returning to a university in her home country. But she misses her mother, whom she calls every morning.

"I'm not sure if I'll stay here," she said. "For me, it's difficult. It's my first trip alone."

But like other students, she says being here has helped her grow up and has expanded her world.

"We're all foreign students, so you have this big chance to know the world in one place," said Liz Mendes, 23, a Brazilian who hopes to receive her master's degree here. "They have people from all over the world."

There have been some surprises, too.

"I was not counting on people being so warm, so gentle," Mendes said.

But not always.

Minbeom Kim, 19, from South Korea, recalls the day a man driving by him rolled down his window and yelled a racial slur at him. Zax Wang, 24, from China, nods his head as Kim tells the story. There's prejudice everywhere, he says. But he still wants to be here.

"If you can come to America, your education is better," Wang said.

The school at CLU is in two houses just off campus. Former bedrooms have been turned into classrooms. A living room, complete with a stone fireplace, is the main office. A kitchen serves as a spot for beginning students to take classes where popular topics are food and music.

Students live in two other houses near campus that have 20 beds, or they stay with families in the area, Milby said.

This summer, the school has three groups from Russia and two from Japan. They're here for a few months to brush up on their English. But most students are getting ready to attend college.

Universities in the U.S. require that students from overseas demonstrate their English is strong enough for college-level classes. But they may admit them conditionally, saying they can start classes once they demonstrate proficiency. They can do that through the ELS Language Centers, which have agreements with 600 college campuses nationwide, Milby said. Locally, the school has agreements with CLU, Ventura and Moorpark colleges, CSU Channel Islands and CSU Northridge.

In addition to classes, the school also offers social activities for students, including trips to Disneyland, Dodger Stadium and Universal Studios. Students also have access to CLU's gym and library. On Mondays, there's doughnut day -- maybe the most popular of all, Milby said.

On Monday afternoons, students meet with volunteers in a park at CLU to practice their conversational English. That's a benefit of being here -- being immersed in English, said Peimin Lyu, 22, a Chinese student.

"I want a different experience, so I come here," Lyu said. "English is very important in my country. ... I want to talk with more people, feel their culture."

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(c)2013 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)

Visit Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.) at www.vcstar.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services





Source: Copyright Ventura County Star (CA) 2013


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