The University of Alabama’s English Language Institute has begun its second year as a partner with Kansai Gaidai University (KGU) in Japan. Several of the UA’s ELI faculty are providing a range of academic English courses for 100 Japanese students each year on site in Osaka. Courses include English-language skill courses, as well as content-based courses on global issues, world religions, and current events.
Kansai Gaidai University is a private Japanese university known for its focus on foreign languages, study abroad, and Asian Studies programs. The students enroll in the UA@KGU program in order to study abroad during their second and third years. Many graduates pursue careers in hospitality and hotel management.
ELI instructor Sybil Armstrong has enjoyed working for the program. “I have found students in the UA@KGU program to be enthusiastic, willing to work hard, cooperative, goal-oriented, and a pleasure to work with.”
In addition to the program benefiting the KGU students, ELI instructors also benefit. As Drew Sanford, the program’s director, states, “Teaching in the UA@KGU program has given me the opportunity not only to grow as an instructor but also to deepen my knowledge of the Japanese language and culture.”
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.
University of Alabama student-produced magazine, Alpine Living, has been awarded a national Mark of Excellence Award from the Society of Professional Journalists in the category of Best Affiliated Website.
This is the seventh national honor for the latest edition of Alpine Living featuring content from the travels of 15 UA students from the department of journalism and creative media to New Zealand in March 2017. The students produced a 100+ page, full-gloss magazine promoting the art, history, culture, people and traditions of New Zealand.
“I am incredibly proud of this team because they have demonstrated that when the bar is high and they strive for excellence, anything is possible,” said Dr. Kim Bissell. “Within three weeks of returning from halfway across the world, we had a print and online version of this magazine with content that was created and produced during our two weeks of travel. Alpine Living is unlike any other student-produced magazine in the country, and I am incredibly proud of this team’s efforts.”
The Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence Award recognizes the best in student journalism nationwide. Other national finalists include Harvard University and the University of Texas at Arlington.
Other national honors for the New Zealand issue of Alpine Living include the following:
Best affiliated website, Region 3 winner, SPJ Mark of Excellence, alpinelivingua.com.
Honorable Mention, Feature Story of the Year, Associated Collegiate Press Award, “The Story of the Māori,” Elayne Smith and Madison Sullivan.
Fourth Place, Multimedia Feature Story of the Year, Associated Collegiate Press Award, “Resilient,” Christopher Edmunds, Cara Walker, Taylor Armer and Thomas Joa.
Second place, Online Magazine, AEJMC Magazine Division, alpinelivingua.com.
Second Place, Service and Information Feature Story, AEJMC Magazine Division, “Sea of Dreams,” Matthew Wilson.
Third Place, Single Issue of an Ongoing Magazine–Editorial, AEJMC Magazine Division, alpinelivingua.com.
The Alpine Living staff includes UA students Jonathan Norris, Mary Kathryn Carpenter, Taylor Armer, Hailey Grace Steele, Christopher Edmunds, Madison Sullivan, Kaylin Bowen, Lane Stafford, Elizabeth Elkin, Danielle Waddell, Thomas Joa, Cara Walker, Mary-Margaret Schmidt, Matthew Wilson and Elayne Smith. Students who are a part of the editorial team include graduate and undergraduate students in journalism and creative media. They go through a competitive and selective process in order to participate.
Turkey, a country with next-level Southern hospitality.
It reads like a tourism slogan, but UA graduate student Shelby Smithson can’t describe the country, its culture and its people any better.
“Turkish people are so willing to move mountains for a guest,” Smithson said. “The warmth of the culture is very endearing.”
Like most Southerners, the Mobile native knows genuine kindness and hospitality. She experienced it firsthand when she visited Turkey for the first time last summer, spending two months learning the language, culture and social work infrastructure.
Smithson, who will earn a master’s degree in social work on Friday, received a Fulbright scholarship and will return to Turkey in September to teach English.
She recently took part in the long-running UA School of Social Work’s Washington, D.C. internship program, where she worked at the International Justice Mission, the world’s largest anti-slavery and anti-trafficking organization. She hopes one day to have a career as an international social worker and make her home in Turkey.
“I’m ecstatic and can’t wait to go back,” Smithson said. “I’ve joked with people that [the selection committee] must have thought I was just obsessed with Turkey and thought, ‘I guess we should just let her in.’ And I’m sure there was some academic consideration, but I’ve also been heavily involved in the Turkish community in Tuscaloosa – I was on the Turkish Student Association, and I studied the language for three semesters.”
International social work
Smithson’s travel passion stretches back to high school, when she first began international mission work.
She completed a one-week medical assistance mission in Honduras prior to enrolling at UA, and a two-month mission teaching English to children in Central Asia the summer before her sophomore year.
The trip to Central Asia allowed her to develop relationships with community members and immerse herself in a culture, aspects she didn’t experience during her snapshot of the poverty she observed in Honduras.
Smithson was keen to embed herself in Turkish culture last summer, hoping for a similarly rich experience from her previous service trip in Kazakhstan. In Turkey, she stayed mostly with UA PhD student and close friend Burcu Ozturk.
“[Ozturk] was a social worker in Turkey, so we were able to meet with social workers and visit agencies in Turkey,” Smithson said. “It was eye-opening.”
Smithson said she began to learn more about trauma and international human rights violations while working on her MSW at UA. She completed a yearlong independent study with Dr. Debra Nelson-Gardell, associate professor of social work and coordinator of international programs, which focused on neurobiological effects of trauma, and another independent study on international social work.
“Through the independent studies and other classes, I figured out the impact I want to make with social work. And it fit perfectly with my passion to be overseas. Then IJM was the perfect placement for me because it combined both of those things.”
While at the International Justice Mission, Smithson worked with specialists to develop training modules for field offices across the globe and provide research to plan and manage their programs.
Smithson worked specifically with the IJM’s aftercare team, which focused on restoring survivors of human trafficking and slavery and reducing their vulnerability. Throughout the spring semester, she developed training for the aftercare team’s new assessment tool and the accompanying guidance manual.
“We definitely got exposure to what was going on in the field every day, whether it was a rescue mission or a court case,” Smithson said. “I got to hear all these stories about survivors being rescued and restored, and what that looks like. They were great about giving me meaningful work.”
On her final day at the IJM, she received a surprise opportunity to help train the British Red Cross.
“I didn’t think I had any place being there,” she said. “But having that opportunity really showed me that, no matter what I was doing, it’s having a global impact.”
Internship experience aside, Smithson is grateful for the opportunity to work in D.C., an epicenter for public policy and international relief agencies. Networking was a built-in component facilitated by UA program coordinators, but students were encouraged to seek mentorships and professional relationships on their own.
Smithson said she’ll likely have to build considerable work experience before returning to Turkey full-time, but her experiences in Washington D.C. have provided contacts and a blueprint for her return.
“I didn’t realize what a difference the D.C. program was going to make,” Smithson said. “You could be on the metro with someone who works for the state department, or someone who can really make a difference. D.C. is unique that so many people who want to change the world are in this small area. I’ve made incredible connections that will take me far.”
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — For the 2018–2019 competition period, 15 University of Alabama students have been selected for Fulbright Awards. The University of Alabama is a nationally ranked Top Producer of Fulbright Student Award Winners.
“Congratulations to UA’s 2018–19 Fulbright winners,” said Dr. Teresa E. Wise, associate provost for international education and global outreach. “Globally focused on-campus curricular and co-curricular opportunities and study abroad experiences help our students develop into world citizens who foster international understanding through programs like Fulbright.”
The highly competitive Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study and research projects or for English-teaching assistantships. More than 11,000 applicants compete for approximately 1,950 awards each year. Sponsored by the U.S. State Department, Fulbright is the largest U.S. international exchange program, offering opportunities for students, scholars and professionals.
Two University of Alabama students received Fulbright Awards for research and study during the 2018–2019 academic year.
Nicole Henderson of Wellford, South Carolina, a doctoral candidate in anthropology, will pursue research titled “Um Ciclo Vicioso: Cultural Beliefs, Stigma, and Substance Use in Brazil.”
Natalie Kidd of Birmingham, a graduate in biochemistry will conduct research titled “Modulation of Regulatory/Suppressive Actions of Gamma T-cells with a Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR)” at the University of Kiel’s Institute of Immunology in Germany.
Thirteen UA graduates received Fulbright Awards to serve as English teaching assistants overseas for the 2018–2019 academic year.
Rachel Combs of Florence, a graduate in political science and German, will teach in Germany.
Jeremy Connor of Huntsville, a graduate in music performance (woodwind and percussion) and a current master’s student in German linguistics, will teach in Germany.
Carrigan Fain of Gardendale, a graduate in international studies with a minor in Spanish and captain of the UA women’s softball team, will teach in Malaysia.
Dwyer Freeman of Haddonfield, New Jersey, a graduate in German language and literature with a minor in critical theory through social study, will teach in Germany.
Maggie Holmes of Madison, Mississippi, a graduate in biology with minors in Spanish and psychology, will teach in Spain.
Madeleine Lewis of Huntsville, a graduate in religious studies and applied mathematics, will teach in Montenegro.
Richard Lewis of Birmingham, a graduate in English with minors in social innovation and leadership, business, and creative writing, will teach in Malaysia.
Taebryanna Sims of Mobile, a graduate in international studies with language study in French and Korean, will teach in South Korea.
Shelby Smithson of Mobile, a graduate with a bachelor’s and a master’s in social work and studies in the Turkish language, will teach in Turkey.
Theresa Stoddard of Eads, Tennessee, a graduate in interdisciplinary studies, global inequities and human rights, and Spanish, will teach in Spain.
Kaylyn Williams of Hoover, a graduate with a bachelor’s and a master’s in accounting, will teach in the Czech Republic.
Amanda Wolosz of Midland Park, New Jersey, a graduate in economics and finance with a minor in history, will teach in Poland.
Annika Wulff of Army Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, a graduate in communicative disorders and German language and literature, will teach in Germany.
“These students are drawn from many majors and include representatives of leadership programs on our campus, including the Blackburn Institute, the Blount Scholars Program, the Honors College, New College and the University Scholars Program,” said Dr. Beverly Hawk, UA Fulbright program adviser and director of global and community engagement in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships. “Through their individual community engagement activities overseas, these Fulbright winners will develop lasting international ties for Alabama and the USA.”
The Education Abroad office will hold the final event for the spring international exchange students. We will be celebrating their time here with pizza and tie-dying t-shirts on Friday, April 27. In attendance will also be the Education Abroad Interns who are returned American study abroad students who have been involved with the exchange students and their activities throughout their stay at The University of Alabama. While the group this semester has been small, they have been incredibly active and engaging. The international exchange students are a group of students from all over the world who come to UA to study for either a semester or an academic year. The University of Alabama currently has partnerships with over thirty different foreign institutions where we swap students each semester. A great benefit for these students and ours is that each student will pay their normal tuition rate at their institution in order to study abroad. This semester we were fortunate to have students from France, Japan, England, and Taiwan experience all that Tuscaloosa has to offer.
On Tuesday, April 24, UA students from the Capstone International Program’s 202: Introduction to Global Studies – Experiential Learning class presented videos highlighting their experiences with international students studying in UA’s English Language Institute (ELI).
As part of the CIP 202 course, UA students participated weekly in ELI courses, with course topics ranging from Current Events to Top 40 American Music. In the courses, UA students developed their intercultural competence, the ability to communicate effectively and appropriately with people of other cultures, while working with students from 17 countries spanning five continents.
The objective of Frannie James, who designed the course, was that “all students who have taken CIP 202 will be forever curious about difference – will forever celebrate their lifelong experiences of difference. They will have the cultural self-awareness, the culture-general knowledge, the curiosity, the motivation, the empathy, and the cognitive flexibility to build and sustain relationships across cultures – socially, academically, and professionally.”
The ELI students also benefit from the interaction with UA students. The ELI students share their cultural knowledge and expertise while learning more about U.S. culture and university life.
The CIP 202: Introduction to Global Studies – Experiential Learning is an introductory course for The University of Alabama’s Global Studies Certificate. It sets the stage so that a student can approach all endeavors with an international perspective.
In mid April, the University of Alabama hosted the 2018 Alabama Association of International Educators (AAIE) annual conference. This organization is the Alabama chapter of Association of International Educators (NAFSA), and holds at its core a mission to promote international educational and cultural exchange through the support of students and scholars who choose to study in the state of Alabama and of Alabamians who seek education abroad.
Approximately 120 professional staff from international education offices across Alabama attended. Presentation topics covered a range of topics including using technology in the office and creating culturally inclusive programs for students from different countries. The University of Alabama’s staff presented on eight different topics . Participants also enjoyed a keynote speech by Mr. Mark Jackson, Honorary Consul General of Japan, who stressed the importance of diverse cultural knowledge and travel.
On Monday, February 19, the UA Education Abroad office hosted the Spring 2018 Study Abroad Fair at the Robert E. Witt Activity Center on the UA campus. The fair was an opportunity for students to talk with UA faculty, staff, and affiliated study abroad program providers about the options they have to study abroad as a UA student.
More than 250 students attended the event, twice as many as attended last year. Students were able to earn a Greek point and spin to win prizes for attending the event. Information about how to use financial aid and scholarships to study abroad was also presented.
Students can still apply to study abroad for the upcoming summer and fall terms, as well as Spring 2019. For more information, students can attend one of Education Abroad’s “Study Abroad 101” sessions held daily at 2 pm in 135 B.B. Comer Hall. Students can apply to study abroad on the Education Abroad website at www.studyabroad.ua.edu.
By Shahriyar Emami | 01/24/2018 10:02pm | From The Crimson White
Santiago Mejia Villegas, a native Colombian, was first exposed to American football, a rare sport in Colombia, during his time on the Alabama campus.“It is impossible to live in the campus during the football season and not getting involved in the Crimson Tide! I had the chance to go to a couple of games in the stadium as well as to the welcoming parade and live that amazing moment like a new fan of Alabama,” he said. “I have made a few friends with whom have been in some cities nearby or in some bars and restaurants here in Tuscaloosa,” he said.
Villegas’ first language is Spanish, and he’s in Tuscaloosa to study English and business through the University of Alabama’s English Language Institute (ELI).
“English is one of the most widely spoken and written languages in the world,” Emily Brown, an English Language Institute instructor at The University of Alabama said. “One of our overall goals is to try and prepare our students for academic study in an American university setting by providing them with the cultural knowledge and awareness they will need to thrive both academically and socially.”
Villegas graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics and continued his postgraduate studies in marketing and finance in Colombia.
“Living here in Alabama but mostly in the UA campus has been an incredible opportunity …
There are so many differences between the way we live in [my] country and the way we live here because we are temporarily a student and we have to face some situations like get used to the food, to stay at the dorm because we don’t have a car or friends to go out with… but at the end everything has become in a new valuable experience,” Villegas said.
During his time at the University, Villegas has been active in the ELI, other international student groups and community church events. This past year, Villegas attended a Thanksgiving event hosted by a local church group where he said he learned cultural pieces he couldn’t have learned in a classroom.
“There it was wonderful people and delicious food and it became in a very good opportunity to know and understand the origin of the holiday and its meaning for the American culture. It was also a place where we found good and friendly people who afterwards has helped us in some casual questions like where to find a barber shop close the campus or stuff like that,” Villegas said.
While there are many people involved in the ELI program, Villegas said he believes not enough people know about it or are even aware of what they do in the program. He said he finds it easier to talk to people in the program because they speak multiple languages.
“We designed [the program] specifically for non-native speakers who live in the Tuscaloosa area and want to improve their language skills,” Brown said.
Brown said the program provides learners with the confidence they need in the English language to pursue opportunities they might not otherwise get the chance to pursue, whether that be personally, professionally, academically or socially.
“For native speakers who don’t quite understand, I tell them [ELI] is similar to when maybe they learned Spanish or French in high school or college. It’s different, however, because our classrooms often include students who speak a variety of different languages,” Brown said.
“Everything about the culture here is different and interesting in some ways, but definitely the friendly character of the people in Alabama is something I will never forget,” Villegas said.
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.”