ASU language immersion program helps Hispanic students learn English

Loida Saenz stands in the La Sala Ballroom at ASU West Campus after receiving her certificate of completion for successfully completing intensive English language training at ASU West campus on Nov. 26. The courses Saenz and her classmates took helped them improve their English speaking, writing and listening skills. (Photo by Andrew Nicla) Loida Saenz stands in the La Sala Ballroom at ASU West Campus after receiving her certificate of completion for successfully completing intensive English language training at ASU West campus on Nov. 26, 2014. The courses Saenz and her classmates took helped them improve their English speaking, writing and listening skills. (Photo by Andrew Nicla)

Hundreds of Mexican college students filled the tables in the La Sala Ballroom at the West campus, eagerly waiting for their chance to walk to the stage and receive their certificate of completion of an English language immersion program from the American English and Culture Program.

Program coordinators and other ASU faculty, including West campus Dean of Student Affairs Sharon Smith, spoke to the students before they received their certificates, applauding them for their hard work.

“(Four) weeks ago, you made the decision to study, improve your English and join us here at ASU,” Smith said. “We have enjoyed the time that you’ve been here with us. As part of being in this community, we also helped you to understand and learn more about American culture as well as ASU culture.”

In partnership with Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Proyecta 100,000 Program, ASU’s AECP is hosting several four-week English immersion programs for nearly 700 college students from Mexico from November to January.

The collaboration aims to increase student mobility between the U.S. and Mexico while also increasing the number of Mexican students who are proficient in English, allowing them to participate in more foreign-language learning opportunities.

Throughout the four weeks, students took courses at the West campus to improve their English speaking, writing and listening skills as well as participating in student life around the campus.

The first group of the program, 375 students, arrived in early November and graduated from the program on Nov. 26.

Among the hundreds of students in attendance at the graduation were Miguel Ramos and Loida Saenz.

Ramos is a college professor at Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila in Saltillo, the largest city of the Mexican state of Coahuila that is just south of Texas.

He said he decided to apply for the program after his coordinators at the university notified him of the AECP. Ramos said he was immediately intrigued.

“My coordinators in Mexico sent me an application form and the requirements that we needed to meet in order to apply for the program,” Ramos said. “That is something that I have to thank them for because if they didn’t send me the form, I wouldn’t be here. I like it here.”

Although there were many aspects of the program he enjoyed, Ramos said his favorite part of the program was attending a Sun Devil football game.

The students sat across from the ASU student section and watched the Sun Devils triumph over the Washington State Cougars. Ramos said the experience was unforgettable.

“I had never experienced a football game before — it was very loud and exciting,” Ramos said. “It was an amazing experience, and I can see how American people enjoy this kind of event. The unity that the fans have when they support their team is really amazing to see in person.”

Ramos said he appreciates his instructors' help and that the program has helped him improve his English skills as well as introduce him to new people and experiences.

“This experience is something I can share with my students, and I can invite them to participate in programs like this," Ramos said. "It’s going to be useful for them to know what I have learned here in the U.S."

When reflecting on what he learned through the program, Ramos said he was impressed by ASU and plans to return to Arizona to pursue his master’s degree and maybe even his Ph.D.

Another student in Ramos’s English immersion class was 26-year-old Loida Saenz.

Saenz is from Monterrey, the capital of the state of Nuevo León in northeastern Mexico. She recently earned her degree in architecture and is studying renewable energy.

Saenz said at first she was reluctant to apply, but after some consideration, she felt that the program would help her improve her English.

Saenz enjoyed her time at ASU and said the program not only helped improve her English skills but also exposed her to the ASU community.

“I like the way they treat people here at all of the places at ASU. The students are very friendly, helpful and they make you feel welcome,” Saenz said. “There were a lot of things to do. I really enjoyed my time here, because I had the chance to meet new people and try new things like sand volleyball.”

She also said she appreciated the architecture of the West campus.

“I really liked the structures and the buildings that the campus had to offer," Saenz said. "My favorite building was the gym, it is a unique building. Even though (West campus) was small, I loved how the buildings looked.”

Saenz said she thoroughly enjoyed the English classes because they were fun and highly interactive.

“The classes were amazing because I had the best teachers," Saenz said. "They had this energy and they made me want to go to the classes. It’s amazing how they taught us, they made us feel a part of the class and treated us like equals. My teachers helped me lose my fear to speak in English and lose the frustration I had with learning it.”

Saenz said she will tell her friends in Mexico about her experience with the program and that if she has an opportunity to return to ASU, she will do so.

“If I am able to come back to ASU, I will,” Saenz said. “This program was an amazing experience, and I have experienced so much. I can’t believe that it is time to go home.”

 

Reach the reporter atanicla@asu.eduor follow him on Twitter@andrewniclaASU.

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