LEAP program introduces international students to WSU

[media-credit name=”Aimee Smith” align=”alignright” width=”200″][/media-credit]Thousands of miles away from home, far from friends and family, far from a lifestyle many at Weber State University are accustomed to, in an unfamiliar country, not knowing the native language — these are the types of things WSU international students go through every day.

Raeid Alsaigh is one international student from Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Alsaigh is currently enrolled as a full-time student at WSU and is in the Learning English for Academic Purposes program.

Alsaigh was born in Tennessee, where he lived for two years, until he and his family moved back to Saudi Arabia. There, he grew up and went through his education. Preparing to come to the United States, Alsaigh studied three years in Saudi Arabia at King Saud University; he also studied a year and a half in Indiana. He came to WSU to complete the LEAP program and raise his GPA so he can continue his studies in business administration in California.

Having only been in the Ogden area for about five weeks, Alsaigh and his cousin haven’t yet experienced the Ogden lifestyle. They only have commuted from their home to school.

Alsaigh’s schedule is a full day. He starts class at 9:30 a.m. and goes until 2:30 p.m. The rest of his time is spent doing homework. The scholarship that allows him to be enrolled at WSU doesn’t allow him to have a job and requires him to be a full-time student with 12 credits.

All of Alsaigh’s classes are developed for the LEAP program. This program is built for international students who speak English as a second language. Ada J. Revera-Aponte, an employee of the LEAP program, explained that the program is to prepare people who don’t speak English as their first language for academic classes. Revera-Aponte noted how inspiring it is to watch the international student go from needing a translator to having fluid conversations in a year’s time.

Raeid said Alsaigh came to the United States knowing just a little English.

“The LEAP program is seven levels, and each level is seven weeks,” Aslaigh said. “I came and took a placement test, and I attend Level 2.” While he was in Indiana, he finished all seven levels, but is still taking ESL classes. Aslaigh said he also has to adjust to a new writing style. Having been raised in Saudi Arabia, he explained how students are taught to read and write from right to left.

Alsaigh said that he only gets to see his family three times a year. He said the one thing he misses the most is his family. When he is back at home, he sets aside time to spend with his family and friends every day.

He compared his home to big cities like Chicago or New York.

“The driving here is much easier,” Alsaigh said.

Alsaigh said that driving the same distance from Ogden to Salt Lake City in Saudi Arabia would take almost four hours because of traffic.

Alsaigh said he likes the United States, but experienced culture shock when he first got here. Alsaigh had a hard time getting used to American food. He said he doesn’t like steak, mashed potatoes or hamburgers. In Saudi Arabia, he said they think it is strange to eat pork, just as people in the United States think it is strange they eat camel. Alsaigh is accustomed to eating rice as a main dish with a type of meat. When he and his family eat dinner, he explained how they all share from one plate set in the middle of the table, and use their hands to eat.

For special occasions, Alsaigh said he is required to wear a type of robe when he is back home, but the fashion isn’t much different from America. He said his favorite clothing brands to wear are Ralph Lauren and Polo.

Amy Reimann, chair of the LEAP program and teacher, said that to help the students in the LEAP program, they take volunteers who are willing to spend time with the international students. This helps the students with their speaking and listening and also gives them a chance to meet more people other than just the students in their LEAP classes.