Building friendships with English Language Services Students

ELS Group ShotDominican University is an intercultural goldmine.  As a communication student I have had two opportunities to get to know foreign students in English Language Services (ELS), based on the Priory Campus.  Students who enroll in ELS spend from a few months to a couple years at Dominican to learn the ever-prevalent English language.  Some students decide to stay in the U.S. to earn a bachelors or masters degree.  They visit from South Korea, Taiwan, China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Argentina, among other countries.

The first opportunity I had for intercultural conversation was with Mjeed, a male student from Saudi Arabia, during the spring of my sophomore year.  We met on two occasions for an interview about the Saudi Arabian culture.  While I learned about Mjeed's culture from back home, he was able to practice the English he was focusing so much of his time on learning.  I was surprised to learn that people in Saudi Arabia who are caught littering on the street are fined.  Religious practices of the Islamic faith and other daily activities are intermingled.  During a school day students have faith-recesses (a phrase I created) when they go for brief prayer services at a local mosque.  Women in Saudi Arabia at home are not expected to wear a hijab or veil.  The work place is slowly adjusting to a enlarging pool of female professionals.

This current spring semester I am participating in a second opportunity to spend time with ELS students.  A fellow Dominican undergrad student and I have met with a group of four Saudi Arabian male students.  We have gone to the local coffee shop, bowling alley, and Italian cafe.  The focus of this time together is to dialogue about social justice topics- homelessness, global poverty, sexual orientation issues, discrimination, labor practices etc.  My peers and I have enjoyed every moment spent with them.    We share more similarities than differences.