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Catarina Uribe of Bogata proudly
accepts her diploma upon completing a seven-week program on English as
a Second Language from Southeastern Louisiana University President Randy
Moffett. Uribe was one of 36 Latin American professionals who completed
the program at Southeastern.
LATIN AMERICAN STUDENTS GRADUATE IN ESL TRAINING PROGRAM
HAMMOND – It was a relatively
small commencement ceremony by the standards of Southeastern Louisiana
University where the usual number of graduates each semester numbers above
But the 36 Latin American students
beamed with just as much pride as any other graduate on the campus. They
had just received their diplomas after completing a seven-week intensive
course in English as a Second Language (ESL)
The students – 35 from Colombia
and one from Costa Rica – were busy trying out their new language skills
following the ceremony Tuesday afternoon at the university’s Alumni Center.
Their 345 hours of study included working in the new digital foreign language
laboratory, participating in other courses and programs and interacting
with their U.S. student counterparts at a number of social events on campus.
“You have enriched our lives
and those of our students, just as we hope we have enriched yours,” said
Southeastern President Randy Moffett prior to handing out the diplomas.
“You have helped open our eyes to your part of the world. While we share
many common values, we have different language, cultures and tradition.
Your presence here has helped bridge those cultural divides.”
Moffett said the training program
is the first of what the university anticipates will be many more ESL programs
for students throughout the world.
“These students are all professionals
– medical doctors, lawyers, engineers, journalists, elected officials –
who are seeking to gain a level of proficiency in English,” explained Aristides
R. Baraya, director of Southeastern’s Center for Latin American Business
and Development Initiatives.
The program was sponsored by
the Southeastern International Initiatives Office and the Division of Continuing
Education in cooperation with the University of Cundinamaraca, the largest
university in Colombia. It was another in a series of educational cooperative
ventures between Southeastern and Latin American countries. The university
has previously provided business and commerce training for young
Colombian business leaders and marketing programs for Kuna Indian artisans
“Before I came here, the only
English I knew was ‘1-2-3-4-5’ and no more,” said Catarina Uribe of Bogata,
as she counted the numbers off her fingers.
A managing editor with Bogata’s
El Tiempo newspaper, Uribe said she found the students and staff at Southeastern
to be very friendly and open to her and her Latin American colleagues.
“We visited most with the Spanish Club; we practiced our English and they
“We did not know each other when
we came here, and we did not know any English; but the teachers were very
… patient,” she said, searching briefly for the proper word. “We will go
back to our country and continue to develop our English.”
During their stay in the country,
many of the students took side trips to Houston, New Orleans, Baton Rouge
and Orlando, Fla. Uribe said her group visited the NASA space center in
Houston and Disney World in Florida.
Baraya, a native of Colombia
himself, said the Latin American students also attended several classes
in business and other fields at Southeastern. “It was a rich cultural experience
for them as well as for the many Southeastern students and faculty who
interacted with them.”
He said the visiting students
rated the university highly on evaluations that asked about the campus,
their living conditions, and quality of instruction.
In addition to the International
Initiatives Office, others assisting in the program were the Department
of Foreign Languages and the Office of International Admissions.
Southeastern’s growing international
program includes educational partnerships with foreign universities and
specially designed training programs for international groups, often with
the assistance of agencies such as the Inter-American Development Bank
and the Organization of American States. In addition, Southeastern offers
a wide variety of study abroad opportunities in a number of Latin American
and European countries.
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