Category: English Language Institute

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.”

Jing Li, from Chengdu, Sichuan in China, demonstrates kung fu to University Place Elementary students during “World Friends Day,” coordinated with the University of Alabama’s English Language Institute to showcase culture, language and arts with UA students representing 16 different countries. [Staff Photo/Erin Nelson]

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

Video Spotlight on UA International Students

Informative videos featuring three UA international students are now available from the UA Vimeo and Youtube channels.

In the videos, Yilin Wang from China, Pablo Ramos Ferrer from Spain, and Baheya Jaber from Palestine discuss aspects of living on campus and experiencing American culture, as well as the supportive, quality study environment and research opportunities at the UA.

The videos have subtitles in both English and the students’ native languages: Chinese (Yilin), Spanish (Pablo) and Arabic (Baheya).

Intensive English Program Reaccredited

The ELI is proud to announce that our Intensive English Program has been accredited by CEA, the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation, through August of 2027.

CEA is the accrediting agency for English language programs in the U.S and is recognized by the U.S. Secretary for Education. Accreditation reflects the ELI’s adherence to professional standards of excellence in areas such as student services, administration, and program design and curriculum.

This accreditation comes after an extensive period of work and review by all ELI faculty and staff, led by Self-Study Coordinator Kelly McPherson. It also continues the ELI’s tradition of being a professionally-engaged and accredited program. The ELI received its original 5-year accreditation in 2002 and a 10-year accreditation in 2007.

CEA Logo

Fall 1 ELI Welcome Activity

On Monday August 28, the ELI held its Fall 1 Welcome Activity in the Ferguson Center. Students, friends, faculty and staff enjoyed meeting each other over a dinner of hamburgers, chips, cookies, and sweet tea. The main focus of the activity, however, was a cultural experience: learning how to participate in a traditional American square dance.

Following the activity, Chih Ying from Taiwan said, “I enjoyed it because I have never danced with other people. It’s fun!” Nana from Japan said she’d like to do it again because she likes to dance with people. Ayane from Japan mentioned that she met UA students and was invited to dinner. Finally, when Sae from Japan was asked how she would describe square dancing to someone who had never tried it, she said, “It’s a little difficult, but it is a good way to make new friends.”

Upcoming ELI activities include tailgating on the Quad (Saturday, September 9) and visiting UpSurge Trampoline Park (Tuesday, September 12).

ELI Fall 1 2017 Welcome Activity - Square Dancing

The ELI in Japan

Kansai Gaidai University is a private Japanese university known for its focus on foreign languages, study abroad, and Asian Studies programs.

In 2017, the University of Alabama’s English Language Institute began a new partnership with Kansai Gaidai. Several of the UA’s ELI faculty are providing a range of academic English courses for Japanese students on site in Osaka. The first ELI@KGU classes began in April 2017 and the offerings from ELI will continue through at least 2019.

This continues a long association between the UA and KGU. The UA has been hosting international exchange students from KGU for nearly two decades.

ELI Summer Blues

On July 7, the ELI held a “Blues in the Plaza” student activity, providing transportation to the Government Plaza in downtown Tuscaloosa. Students enjoyed hanging out and listening to a live 3-hour blues and jazz concert from the Birmingham Seven.

This concert was part of a “Live at the Plaza” weekly outdoor concert series. The series is held each Friday evening in June and July at the at Government Plaza, which is a 15-20 minute walk from campus. The concert is free and listeners can bring lawn chairs or blankets or just relax in the grass and listen to great musical performances.

See Live at the Plaza for more details.