Category: Capstone International Services

A Sweet Taste of Culture for International Students

International students experience American Christmas traditions – decorating cookies, making gingerbread houses, and singing carols – for the first time.

See the photos and the finished products at the UA News Center.

Students with UA’s English Language Institute gathered at B.B. Comer Hall to decorate Christmas cookies, make gingerbread houses, and sing Christmas carols for the first time.

 

Abdulmosen Shunib, a 21-year-old ELI student from Saudi Arabia, said the experience was neat. “This is my first time doing this. I like it.”

 

Sojin Thoi, a 23-year-old ELI student from South Korea, said she came to UA to study abroad. “I’ve never tried to make cookies and decorate them. It is so interesting. We celebrate Christmas in Korea, but we just share gifts.”

 

Bugra Bugdayci, a 24-year-old ELI student from Turkey, said being at UA has been an experience. “Making cookies is different. It is tradition. Cultural.” 

 

Cookies decorated with the Turkish flag. “I want to know who dares to eat cookie with the Turkish flag!?” said Muath Mumani, laughing and raising his finger in the air.

 

The finished product: international Christmas cookies.

 

Mio Ueoka, a 21-year-old ELI student from Japan, said this is her first time making Christmas cookies and her first Christmas. “I like it. Here at the University of Alabama it is interesting because I meet other students from all over the world.”

 

Completed gingerbread house.

 

Muath Mumani, a 39-year-old ELI student from Jordan, said he enrolled in UA’s ELI program to improve his English so he can better serve his clients at his law practice. 

 

Dogga Demir, a 28-year-old ELI student from Turkey, said the main holiday celebration in Turkey is New Year’s so Christmas is new to him. “It is a lot of eating, resting, singing, feasting. What is not to like?”

 

Pride in the creation of first-time gingerbread homes.

 

And, of course, Santa made an appearance.

University Place Elementary Students Learn about World Cultures

Tuscaloosa News

By Drew Taylor / Staff Writer

Wearing traditional Chinese garb and a panda hat, Jing Li stood Friday in the middle of a circle of intrigued students from University Place Elementary School.

As the students watched, Li began to spin, kick and softly move across the floor, performing different martial art forms, such as tai chi and changquan.

In the midst of her performance, Li stopped.

“You want to see more?” Li asked.

“Yeah,” the group shouted with excitement.

Li’s performance was one part of a showcase at the school Friday morning that included representatives from 16 different countries to commemorate International Education Week. The showcase, which was organized between the school and the English Language Institute at the University of Alabama, was called “World Friends Day” and included people explaining their cultures and what makes their country unique.

“We want all of our students to have some kind of experience with all cultures,” said Patsy McGahey, science, technology, engineering and mathematics director at University Place. “We want them to be global citizens.”

The forum was organized after Monica Hollie, a receptionist at ELI and a parent of two students at University Place, approached the school about holding an international forum there. ELI works with University of Alabama students who come from across the globe in improving their English skills. The group normally holds forums at different schools throughout the year to teach children about different cultures.

Hollie said that as much as the forum is for the children, it also helps out the ELI fellows.

“Their first language is not English, and they are here to improve their skills in that area,” Hollie said.

Zion Doughty, a third-grader at University Place, said he liked learning about different countries, such as Jordan.

“It seems really cool,” Doughty said.

McGahey said that University Place has many students who live at or below the poverty level, and they may not have had a chance to see the world or understand how other people live in the world.

“By exposing them to other countries, it broadens their experience to what they can do later in life,” she said.

Hollie said that more than just exposure to cultures, forums like the one on Friday help children relate to others in the world, in addition to making people from other cultures feel like they are understood in the process.

“Sometimes, it can be their first time to come to the U.S.,” Hollie said. “It makes it easier for them to know that a few Americans are eager to learn, not quick to criticize.”

ELI Grad Hopes to ‘Copy and Paste’ UA Experience for Son

By David Miller

College football games in the Southeastern Conference can start as late as 8:30 p.m. CST, and sometimes push through midnight.

It’s a minor inconvenience for University of Alabama football supporters, whether they’re in Bryant-Denny Stadium or watching the game remotely. Time constraints, travel, lodging and ticket expenses – it’s all worth it to see the Crimson Tide win – and win a lot – right?

In Saudi Arabia, eight hours ahead of Alabama and the Central time zone, Yahya Al-Bokhedaim and his son, Shahaeen, fight sleep each week to watch UA’s prime-time matchups. The CBS games offer a reprieve from the overnight viewings, but during late games, Shahaeen often leaves for school without knowing the final score.

Shahaeen, who recently enrolled in UA’s English Language Institute, will no longer wonder who won the game – or Alabama’s margin of victory. He’s taking the same path Yahya took in the early 1980s: learn both the English language and chemical engineering at UA.

“I want to follow that same step as my father,” Shahaeen said. “I can do that [at UA]. I want to follow his steps and be better than him.”

Yahya arrived at UA in 1983, just a year after the ELI was established. He was one of five Saudi students sponsored by oil company Saudi Aramco. Yahya has worked for Saudi Aramco since earning his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1988.

Yahya soaked in American culture and Southern hospitality during his five years on campus, a transition that was aided by a young, energetic ELI staff, he said.

“There were a lot of close friendships between the students and the faculty,” Yahya said. “Some of the faculty were pursuing their master’s or PhD, so that helped develop excellent relationships. They taught us the game of football, and once we learned, we all grew to love it. This was part of the socialization with some of the teachers.”

Yahya visited UA during homecoming week to help move Shahaeen to campus. It was Yahya’s first visit to campus since 1998 and only his second return to his alma mater since he’d graduated. Campus has grown, and there are “so many sidewalks and bike lanes,” but the same charm and “sweet home” he experienced in the 1980s existed the moment he stepped on campus, he said.

A familiar face greeted him when he visited the ELI.

“I was so happy to see the growth of the ELI – it’s become an excellent center,” Yahya said. “And it surprised me when I saw Mr. (Bill) Wallace, who is now the director. He used to be a teacher at ELI, but he remembered who I was. For them, it’s been 30 years, and they’ve had so many students come and go, so for him to have this memory of me shows how much he cares about people.

“And that’s why we’re here – we’re trying to copy and paste my experience for Shahaeen.”

Yahya and Shahaeen Al-Bokhedaim

Diwali Celebration at UA

Diwali is the Indian festival of light. The October event was cohosted by UA’s International Students Association, the UA South Asian Society and UA Honors College Assembly. Through this event, the UA community found a transformative and powerful way to experience a culture.   Click here to learn how to become involved with UA’s International and Multicultural student organizations and see more photos from the event here.

Diwali Celebration at UA

 

 

President’s Reception

On Tuesday, September 26, President and Mrs. Stuart Bell and Associate Provost, Dr. Teresa Wise hosted UA International Students and Tuscaloosa’s International Friends at the Ferguson Student Center Great Hall for a reception. President Bell took the opportunity to recognize the achievements and success of international students at UA as well as to thank the many families of Tuscaloosa’s International Friends for their commitment to international education at UA.

President Bell
President Bell meeting and interacting with international students and the Tuscaloosa International Friends families.

Cultural Retreat

On Saturday, September 23, International Student & Scholar Services and a large number of UA international students and scholars joined with the international offices and students of The University of Alabama at Birmingham, The University of West Alabama, Jefferson State Community College, Gadsden State Community College, Birmingham-Southern College, and Samford University for an amazing day of outdoor activities and fun. The International Cultural Retreat was held at Oak Mountain State Park, where students were able to play games, hike, enjoy nature, and make friends with other students from across the state.

2017 International Cultural Retreat
2017 International Cultural Retreat