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LEAP Students Adapt to Pandemic, Continue to Share Their Cultures

LEAP Students | Tom Fenton

Learning a new language is difficult and takes time, practice and immersion. The social distancing requirements and online format challenge some international students at Wright State University (WSU).  

Despite this, students in WSU’s Learning English for Academic and Professional Purposes (LEAP IEP) have adapted to the changes and are working to succeed.  

Adapting to changes 

Playing an instrumental role in the success of the LEAP program, Senior Lecturer and Director of LEAP Jeannette Horwitz aims to adjust her content to fit the demands of an online format and ensure her students succeed.  

Additionally, Horwitz enjoys learning about the various countries and their respective cultures when interacting with her students. According to Horwitz, before the pandemic, the students would bring in sweet treats from their native countries to share with their peers and would often have coffee/tea together between classes. 

To maintain that cultural exchange, they adapted by making to-go treat bags with snacks since students were unable to eat in the classrooms. Students maintained their ability to share their culture and experience the traditional treats of their peers.  

This ability to maintain relationships and cultural exchange is paired with the success of students and staff in implementing Pilot and WebEx to continue their communication and learning. Horwitz explains that students were already used to using Pilot before the pandemic, so the adjustment was smooth and efficient.  

“I would say overall students have learned at about the same pace as before the pandemic and we’ve been able to come up with alternative ways of doing things to make sure students are still making progress and meeting out learning outcomes,” Horwitz said. 

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)  

As a Professor of TESOL and Linguistics, Dr. Deborah Crusan works alongside Horwitz to ensure that students in the LEAP program can succeed. Crusan is no stranger to working with English language-learning (ELL) students to help them with their language skills, having experience teaching at WSU and around the world.  

Crusan indicates that she is not working with ELL students this semester but that she imagines that they are struggling with engagement due to their lack of interaction compared to previous semesters. It has even affected her ability to find TESOL students at WSU internship opportunities to gain in-class experience with teaching.  

“Everything is online, so the human touch is missing from their internships; I’m grateful that supervisors were willing to take students, but it must be difficult for both parties,” Crusan said.  

Student Perspective: Dina Alanazi  

Moving to a new country is one of the most challenging transitions: new language, new culture, new everything. However, Dina Alanazi has handled this transition with stride and is working eagerly to perfect her English language abilities. 

Being from Saudi Arabia, Alanazi’s native language is Arabic. She studied some English in Saudi Arabia, but most of her English was learned in the LEAP program. Her goal is to improve her English skills enough to enroll at WSU as a Computer Sciences major and work towards her degree.  

According to Alanazi, she is relieved to be having in-person classes again and looks forward to seeing more students on campus soon as things progress and become safe again.  

“I learn more and better in person and I like to be around other students. I like to sit with friends and talk with them in class. I like to see people,” Alanazi said.  

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