The ELS Language Center, located across from the CEC Cafeteria, is a place students from all over the world come to learn English.The program has a total of twelve levels starting from beginner to master level. At the end of the master level, students have learned enough English to qualify acceptance at an American university.

However, coming from Belize, I know first hand what it feels like to come to a country not speaking the main language. It can be difficult and sometimes even frustrating when it comes to communication and trying to interact with peers and teachers.

Stephan Gallego, ELS Eckerd program coordinator and international student advisor, aids in students’ integration into the program. Gallego believes that ELS students have equal access to most of the things domestic students have on campus including the library, cafeteria, fitness center, pool etc.

“There are fantastic teachers,” Gellego said.

He believes that the professors that teach ELS students have the same passion as the professors who teach other academic areas for domestic students. However, Gellego also feels that there is always room for growth.

Though the ELS program does an amazing job teaching the students how to speak English, Ali Kunculu an ELS student from Turkey, believes there can be improvements with the activities on campus.

“The Eckerd community are good people. They don’t see us a strange people but as apart of Eckerd,” Kunculu said. “[but] the activities are not enough.”

Kunculu enjoys Eckerd’s location on the water and believes that more activities with domestic students would make for a better experience.

“More activities like kayaking, pool-days and more things at the waterfront,” Kunculu said.

Some events on campus such as International Coffee Hour at the James Center on every other Wednesday, gives an opportunity for ELS, international and domestic students get to interact and drink coffee and have snacks. I believe this is a great start and initiative to get domestic students out of their dorms and over to the James Center to meet interesting people.

There are also conversation partners where ELS and domestic students can practice speaking English for at least one hour.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for Eckerd students to get credit while getting to know somebody from a completely different culture,” Gallego said. “So far the students seem to really enjoy the connection between the domestic and international so far.”

Gallego also encourages having partnerships with different places on campus such as the Reflective Service Learning office, language professors and the International Students Association.

Kunculu started the program at level 1 and is now on his final level though making connections on campus, having a conversation partner and practicing.

“After two months I started to speak a little bit, then a little bit and a little bit. And now I am here.”

The next International Coffee Hour will be held at the James Center on Jan. 9, 2019, for winter term. The next will be held on Feb. 6, 2019, and then every other Wednesday following.

I encourage everyone to attend with a mug and an open mind. You never know who you will meet or what stories they have to share. By having a simple conversation with an ELS student, you will be helping their progress dramatically.

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