The English Language Institute (ELI) at the College of Staten Island celebrated its fall semester Culture Day event recently in the Campus Center’s Green Dolphin Lounge.
The CLUE-certified Culture Day event is meant as a celebration of the students who spent the semester learning English with the ELI as well sharing in their diverse cultural heritages. It is a culmination of the hard work put forth by the students and the faculty and staff alike.
CSI’s ELI welcomes students from around the world to learn English within an American cultural context with the CSI campus and its faculty, facilities, and even students all being a part of the English language learning process. Its purpose is not only to teach ELI students how to speak English but also what it means to live in a U.S. city as vast and culturally diverse as New York.
The diversity of the students is the main point of the Culture Day event as students present slide shows that highlight significant aspects of their home countries. Some of the topics included were “Breakfasts in Jordan,” by Mariam Joseph; “The Cities of Colombia,” by Diego Milan; and “Chinese Festivals,” by Guanwei Du. The slideshow presentations were a way for the students to showcase their homes, as well as their English-speaking skills.
“There is so much involved in preparing for the event, but the students make it seem so seamless,” Joanne Riggio, Academic Coordinator of the ELI, said in response to the effort that the students put forth for Culture Day. “Although we hold this event every semester, it is always exciting and informative as the student population is ever changing. The students offer us a window into their world—a look into their experiences and lifestyle.”
The event also offers really good food. In keeping with a tradition as old as eating itself, the other way the students and staff share in each other’s cultures is by sharing food. Many of the presentations were about the traditional food that each culture eats, and during the lunch break, students and staff chatted over arepas, noodles, pizza, and much more.
It was during the break when the connection between the students and their instructors was most evident. Sandra Hafner, an ELI student and Brazilian native, spoke about her experience at the ELI. “What a great experience,” she said. Hafner, who plans to attend college in the near future, said that she wanted her six-year-old son to be exposed to English as much as possible so “he could have better opportunities” than she did.
Hyo Jae, a Korean student and former student of the ELI, who is currently taking CLIP immersion courses, gushed about her experiences with the program. “This was the most helpful English program I have ever taken,” she said. “We truly became like family.”
Lenka Rohls, one of the several ELI instructors in attendance, echoed that sentiment by talking about how students who graduate from the program “report back to me that, thanks to our program, they were able to find or improve their job, enter a university (such as CSI), or even just help their children—I am so very proud of them.”
“We get a real sense of joy seeing our students succeed,” said Diane Viggiano, another ELI Instructor. And succeed they do, as most of the students leave the ELI with a confidence in speaking English that they did not have before. Many former ELI students have gone on to improve their career opportunities and several are even attending CSI as full-fledged matriculating students.