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November 2007


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1st Year Reps English as a Second Language

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noon relaxation to set up that evening’s happy hour. As Niv put it, “Even if not every activity is innovative, it still needs to be administered.” Both Niv and Rabeah’s dedication to SGA seem to be motivated by a commitment to the SAIS student body. Rabeah First year rep Niv Elis has a backsays that she believes ground in policy research and NGO that the students here work are truly one of SAIS’ great assets. She says that classroom exchanges are a resource because they challenge pre-existing beliefs and opinions because they are with practitioners and world citizens who have lived those issues. “Things are a lot more complex than we tend to believe in our sheltered worlds,” according to Rabeah. Niv shares a similar respect for the diversity of background and experience students bring to SAIS. “In the library stairwells, you can hear people talking on cell phones in six different languages,” he says, reflecting the wonderfully international flavor of our campus. As far as improvements to the community here, Niv wants to fill what he feels is a particular lack of creative outlets. Coming from an artsy Wesleyan University undergraduate background, he says he would love to see more avenues for student expression. Both also expressed a desire to see more racial and socioeconomic diversity in future classes. Niv is a conflict management concentrator, and says that the economics component of the education was one of the reasons he chose SAIS. Before starting his master’s program, Niv was a foreign policy research analyst for the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby. He also spent four months traveling in South Africa, working with Treatment Action Campaign on HIV/AIDS awareness. In his spare time he says he likes watching movie and reading novels. Rabeah concentrates in Middle East studies, and chose SAIS because she was impressed with the fusion of policy and academic perspectives. She lived in Turkey after graduating from college, then moved to Chicago to work for the Nawawi Foundation, an Islamic educational nonprofit organization. She is also interested in photography and sports. Of their mutual background in Middle East policy Niv jokes, “I think between both of us, we can find peace in the Middle East.” Both Niv and Rabeah say they are excited to bring their past experience and enthusiasm to Rabeah Sabri concentrates in the position of first year Middle East Studies and has work representative. But they experience in the non-profit sector agree that no amount of enthusiasm can help them be successful without the active involvement of the student body. Rabeah says, “We are student reps and therefore represent the student will; everyone should feel more than welcome getting in touch with us. In ourselves, we are only two people, and our experiences are limited. We need input. We are an avenue that exists for change; if an issue needs to be addressed and you don’t know how to address it, come to us.” Pam Mukerji is a 1st year MA candidate in Conflict Management

The trials international students endure to prove their proficiency By Ujjal K. Basu Roy

According to the latest SAIS catalogue, classes meet for three hours every week for the 35% of students attending SAIS are non-US 13 weeks of the SAIS semester, and replace citizens. Unless their high school education regular language courses during the semesters was conducted in English, all of these students they are taken. Foreign students who find have to take and pass the English proficiency themselves in the ESL program typically say exam before the start of the semester, and the courses are useful, but that there is neverthose that do not pass must take English as a theless much room for improvement. Second Language (ESL) classes during one or Gabriel Pierard, a first year MIPP student two semesters. Fulfilling the English language from France says, “The SAIS ESL program is requirements at SAIS, even for the most very good but there is some room for improveaccomplished speaker can be trying, and the ment. We should have i) reading of text, ii) experiences of international students in com- writing papers and iii) spoken English. We pleting them range from humorous to harrow- were only asked to write two papers on differing. ent topics as part of the ESL program. There The first step in getting through the English should be concrete real world examples such language requirement at SAIS is sitting for the as job situations as part of the curriculum. proficiency exam. Students are required to Gabriel adds that he would find the pass at a superior level in reading, listening program more beneficial if it was customized and writing, and at an advanced high level in to the ability levels of students. He says, “The speaking. For level of English among most students, students is very heterothe sheer length geneous and there Some mistakes made by new of the exam should be support for English speakers proves just as students according to (Source: great a challenge their different needs. A to completing it If he is really the best man, why isn’t she marry- customized ESL proas do the actual ing him instead? gram according to the questions being needs of different stuasked. dents would be very My mother is an inferior decorator. A n j a beneficial.” Wagener, a first I never liked mushrooms, but now they are startDaisuke Abe, a first year MA student ing to grow in me. year MA student from from Germany Japan, agrees with says, “During The article said there are only maybe five thou- Gabriel’s recommensand beers left in B.C. This is a very serious the written dation of a more taiproblem… I think maybe we should only let very exam, I was small people go beer hunting every year. lored program. “It is very fortunate that bored of writing a graduate school such as essays for four The President got off the plane and gave a big SAIS has ESL classes but hours. I was also kiss to the first ladder. in my view, there could trying not to get (Although given our president, maybe this one be room for improvetoo distracted by wasn’t a mistake after all) ment. Classes could be this nice guy sitmore customized for forting next to me.” eign students who often Anja also remembers that during the have more problems with spoken than written speaking portion of the exam she was asked to English. This would be more practical for us. Also, talk about her family situation. Her mind still SAIS should provide more resources to the ESL on the many forms that international students program to enable programs to be tailored to differhave to complete to enter the US and enroll at ent student needs.” The SAIS English program also offers SAIS, Anja replied “I am single! Is that what teaching assistants in English. TAs are available you want to know?” seven days a week to provide assistance in editing With that blunder behind her, Anja papers for regular SAIS classes. Many internationsuccessfully completed her speaking test, talk- al students, even those who passed the proficiency ing about immigration in the US and the bor- exam, use the TA services, particularly at the start der fence with Mexico, integration and educa- of the school year when they are still adjusting. tion issues in Germany, architecture in According to Sonam Lieberman, an English America, the lack of modern architecture and writing TA, the general level of the ESL students the mix of old and new architecture in gener- who seek out his services is very good. He says that while many students have asked for his help, in al. For those students who successfully general it is the same set of students who come get through the examination process (and for back time and again for assistance. Sonam adds that it is not only internationmany, this involves making it through the al students who could benefit from the writing dreaded “see me” from ESL program coordi- refresher. nator Susan Olmstead), their ESL experience “In my view, native English speakers could also may end there. But those who still need a little come for help since idiomatic expressions are more practice to succeed at SAIS enter SAIS’ always problematic . . . In general, people need a one or two semester-long ESL program. lot of help with citations and when and how to use ESL courses offered at SAIS include them.” Effective English Writing and Critical Listening/Vocabulary Development. The Ujjal K. Basu Roy is a 1st year MA candidate concentrating in South Asia studies


For more pics see page 12 Diversions 2 On Campus 4 Bologna Connection 5 SAIS Students 6 Arts and Culture 8 Op-Ed 9 November 2007 Volume 8 No...