English is a foreign language, and the American cuisine is a taste their palates must adjust to, yet people from across the world come to ASU to delve into the country's culture.
ASU is home to Global Launch, one of the nation's largest intensive English programs, according to organization officials.
Individuals of all ages and cultures make their way to the University to perfect their English skills and immerse themselves in the American way of life.
“For the last 40 years, we’ve served students from more than 160 countries, coming from countless backgrounds and experiences,” Global Launch Program Manager John Deal said.
Deal says the program offers a rigorous curriculum that allows students to become fluent in English within a year. It is composed of subjects that prepare participants academically and linguistically for success within ASU and U.S. society.
Global Launch was created out of the school’s recognition of the need for high-level English language proficiency, Samantha Talavera, senior marketing and communications specialist, said.
As one of the nation’s largest universities, ASU is of interest to individuals across the world from places such as Colombia, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia and more, Talavera said.
This program was initiated to ensure international applicants are equipped to not only meet the school’s expectations but to also succeed within their respective degree programs.
“We achieve this by providing dynamic English language learning curriculum for basic through advanced learners,” Talavera wrote in an email. “Global Launch has created a significant impact on the University by providing a path for more international students to enroll at ASU.”
While some students return to their home countries upon completion of the program, many others go on to obtain undergraduate or graduate degrees right here at the University.
One of those students is Amer Aljabri, 24, from Saudi Arabia. Aljabri made his way to the U.S. with the hope of learning English and eventually completing a master's degree in business law. When he arrived in the States 14 months ago, he had no English skills and knew only one person.
“I started at the very beginning, from Basic I,” Aljabri says. “I completed Global Launch this semester with successful grades and am now going to studying business law at the downtown Phoenix campus.”
He says returning home with English skills and a master's degree will allow him to find a well-paying job, such as working for a bank.
Aljabri said he also discovered a great deal about himself throughout his time in the program.
Aljabri said being surrounded by people of various cultures allowed him to understand how others live while also sharing the customs and traditions he holds close. He often brings his friends to the mosque and cooks Saudi Arabian food for them.
Acquiring a deep understanding of the world is one of Global Launch’s best features, according to Ana Gomez, a 17-year-old from Colombia in her fifth month of the program.
“I think I have learned about other cultures the most,” Gomez says. “Most of my friends are Arabic, Chinese or Japanese, so I spend most of my time with them. I have learned more than I ever could in a book or being in a class.”
Gomez said she chose to come to ASU specifically for its English-intensive program. Although she is unsure of whether she will stay at the University once she finishes Global Launch, she says she wants to be a lawyer in Colombia someday.
Learning English and having exposure to individuals of various backgrounds will allow her to better communicate with the people around her, Gomez says.
She says a large chunk of her education does not come from her time in the classroom but, rather, the activities and field trips she does with the program.
“We have activities almost every day, and I love them,” Gomez says. “I learn a lot through our after-hour conversation clubs and the trips we make to Sedona and the Grand Canyon.”
Gomez says that her Global Launch experience has come with its fair share of challenges, many of which include the cultural differences between Americans and Colombians.
“Sometimes the culture is difficult, and we are used to acting different,” Gomez says. “We (Colombians) like to hug and kiss a lot. Some people don’t like that, and it can be very weird for them.”
Malik Abduljabbar, a 23-year-old Global Launch alumnus from Saudi Arabia, said interacting with people of different cultures was one of his main challenges.
Abduljabbar explains he learned many American customs the hard way, such as not always trusting strangers, as well as leaving a tip after receiving service from a restaurant or cab company.
“When I first got here, there were a few times the manager of a restaurant would ask me if there was a problem with the service because I did not leave a tip,” Abduljabbar says. “I didn’t know, and it took me a while to realize that.”
He said he was able to overcome his academic and personal challenges with the support of the Global Launch faculty and students.
The program provides tutoring services and access to advisors from Global Launch and the various schools within ASU. There is also a staff of student workers from more than 15 countries to assist the participants throughout their time away from home, according to Deal.
“The teachers are very friendly and always open to help,” Abduljabbar says. “They are welcome to come after hours and help you pursue and learn things that are not just related to English.”
After Abduljabbar completed Global Launch in 2014, he became a full-fledged Sun Devil and is on his way to graduating with a degree in computer systems engineering from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering in May 2018.
ASU was his school of choice because Global Launch offers students the ability to bypass English proficiency tests typically required for foreign applicants, as long as they attend the University and finish the program with a B-average or higher.
Although he said he is open to any good job related to his major, Abduljabbar’s end goal is to be the CEO of a large engineering company. He mentioned that he feels the skills and principles he acquired through Global Launch will help him get closer to that goal.
“What I think makes this program so special is that it does not just focus on the textbook,” Abduljabbar says. “It believes you study throughout the course. We all kind of learned from each other ... That’s one of the cool things about studying with Global Launch.”