On January 23rd, there was an ESL Without Borders meeting in McDonough Hall. ESL is short for English as a Second Language, and ESL Without Borders is a program designed to assist and mentor students whose first language is not English. The group generally meets to support their current members as well as others, in a culturally accepting environment. On the 23rd, the two leading advisors for this program, Lesley Dorhout and Kyle Warren, held the first ESL Without Borders meeting of the year with the January theme of Holiday Memories.
To accommodate for the period of time that has passed since their previous gathering, the meeting began with each attendant giving a brief introduction of themselves. Once the participants had been generally acquainted, each person participated in a “show and tell” concerning what he or she had done over the holidays, or what holiday tradition is especially meaningful to that person. Despite the cultural diversity of the group, there were similar themes in holiday activities. The most prominent of these themes was family gatherings. Most of the ESL Without Borders members celebrated the holidays with their families in unique ways and traditions, including hiding pickle ornaments in Christmas Trees, gingerbread house-making competitions, advent calendars, and holiday feasts.
Following this conversation, the ESL Without Borders members broke off into small groups and each person was provided numerous current event topics to encourage socialization and sharing of cultural information. These topics included sports, health and fitness, entertainment, technology, and the #MeToo movement. In the sports section for example, participants were asked to discuss the sports that they are familiar with, which sport their home country is most passionate about, familiarity of popular American sports, and what American sports fans can learn from those in their home country.
Others participants discussed health and fitness topics such as the most popular diets or fitness trends in America as well as their home countries, the importance of health and exercise to their families, how Americans view health and fitness, and what America can learn from other countries regarding physical, mental, or emotional health or well-being. Those with entertainment as their topic were given the opportunity to discuss popular American awards shows and how they compare with similar shows in their home countries, the most popular TV or movie stars in America and their home countries, and how Americans view entertainment differently compared to others around the world.
People with technology-related topics discussed how comfortable they were with modern technology, what role technology played in their lives, what their most serious technological concern was, and what the future might hold. Lastly, other members were able to converse about what they knew about the recent #MeToo movement, what issues American women face in today’s society and how they compared to issues of the women of their home countries, and what advice they would give to an influential politician regarding how society values and supports women.
Although the ESL Without Borders program is designed for people who speak English as a second language, one of its goals is to offer support and encouragement to students of all cultures. Club member and Professor Kim Watson said that the group was not just about cultural differences but also about sharing, and that was clearly evident in the activities that group participated in that day.