Semester brings influx of international education

Sonoma State University students may be unaware of the 42 international students from around the globe that have recently joined the campus through the Sonoma State American Language Institute, a program that accepts students from all over the world and teaches them English. 

The Sonoma State American Language Institute has provided English instruction to students, professionals and others since 1979 through Sonoma State’s School of Extended and International Education.

Many of these students will go on to earn their bachelor’s or master’s degree at Sonoma State, or take their new language skills home with them for work or school.

“It’s just so much fun, the interaction with different students from different countries,” said Selene Li of Beijing, China, who, after participating in the learning program in 2012, enrolled as a student at Sonoma State. 

She is also a student ambassador at the Center for International Education. 

“It’s a way to let you know their home culture,” Li said. “You know, sometimes you can’t travel to that country, but at least you met someone from there.”

Typically, the language institute students participate in the English-learning program for at least one semester before moving on to further education or employment.

“It’s an intensive academic  English program,” said Daniela Kingwill, the language institute academic coordinator, and one of the instructors.

As with any complex subject, learning a new language requires study at various proficiency levels. With so many students at different levels, it can be difficult to integrate and create a community. The program organizes several activities that encourage foreign students to engage with each other and with Sonoma County. 

The language institute has organized a trip to Korbel Winery on March 9, to taste the wine of the Sonoma-Napa region, and then visit some local beaches. 

“We have mid-term students coming in right before that,” said Kingwill. “It will be a good way for the mid-term students to integrate with the [SSALI] students that have already been here.”

But that’s not all the international activity going on at SSU this semester. The start of the spring semester marks a turnover of international and national exchange students: some who are leaving Sonoma State to return to their home countries, and some who are setting foot at Sonoma State for the first time. In addition to these, there are many students who have just submitted applications with the hope of studying away next year.

All of these students must, at one time or another, pass through the Center for International Education. Previously located in Salazar Hall with Seawolf Services, the center  finds its new home in International Hall, just across the Salazar Green. 

International and Exchange Programs Adviser  Hope Ortiz, explained the different study-away options available at the Center for International Education. 

The Center for International Education offers two programs, the California State University International Program, where students can study abroad in 18 different countries for one year and the National Student Exchange Program which allows students to study at one of the 200 universities across the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada.

“Also, through this program we offer NSE Study Abroad, where students can study abroad to almost any country in the world,” said Ortiz. “Both NSE and NSE Study Abroad programs can be for one or two semesters. Through all of these programs, all majors can study abroad.”.

The Center for International Education is also home to Sonoma State’s International Education Exchange Council, a student organization on campus that seeks to build community with the Sonoma State domestic and international students, as well as exchange students visiting campus. 

The group plans numerous trips and on-campus events in which students can get involved. 

One such event is the Welcome Reception that coincided with the International Education Exchange Council’s Coffee and Culture gathering that meets every Thursday at the Center for International Education from noon to 1 p.m. 

The Welcome Reception welcomed the new and continuing student exchange and international students, as well as returning students and study abroad alumni. 

In recognition for upcoming National Student Exchange application deadlines, The international council will host a National Student Exchange-themed Coffee and Culture Hour each week. This Thursday’s event will be luau party. 

For those who would like to visit the Center for International Education and become a club member or learn about opportunities to study abroad, sign up for an information meeting at the Center for International Education.