Cultural Exchange and Speed Chat Rolled Up Into One
English Language Institute Welcomes Sac State Freshmen

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When a class of freshmen at Sacramento State visited the English Language Institute (ELI) they met English language learners from China, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and other places around the world.

Some were college students away from home for the first time, like the freshmen. Others were graduates and professionals including elementary school teachers, business owners, a restaurateur, a biochemist whose research specialty is nutrition, a mechanical engineer whose next step is a master’s degree, even a budding actress from South Korea.

Small groups of freshmen went from class to class chatting with the international students, a cultural exchange and speed chat rolled up into one. Their time together was limited, but long enough to make some lasting impressions. 

Freshman Aunnamarie Martinez, for instance, chatted with Daseul “Dasha” Kim of South Korea about family, holidays and tamales. “We make tamales to share and give thanks to family and friends. And I thought what would be more fitting?” She plans to make a plate of tamales for Dasha and “bring them by during the holidays and show some hospitality,” she said. “So it is very possible I have made a lifelong friend even if she is only here for a short while.”

They talked about their everyday lives, like the students from South Korea who said their school day runs from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. “I was laughing really hard when they told me their hobby was studying because hardly anybody in my generation likes to study,” said freshman Uriel Cruz-Cruz. But his laughing actually gave way to admiration because “we should all have that attitude of wanting to study and grasp knowledge when it is given to us.”

Tanyamai “Tanya” Supamart, a mechanical engineer in Thailand, met a freshman who was working her way through college and had her first job at 16. “People don’t know how hard it is to earn money,” said Tanya, and she, in turn, admired the student’s self-reliance and how “she manages her money, her time and her life.”

Many students, like En-Kuo “Evan” Chang of Taiwan, were talking to an American for the first time and so they broke the ice talking about the weather. “In Taiwan it’s very humid and I always sweat,” Evan explained, but these days he bundles in a parka and “I have learned to wear layers.”

Freshman Elona Ganchenko talked about her wedding right out of high school, prompting students to wonder how young is too young to get married. Another freshman Kira Hall mentioned she was born in Japan, then moved to Guam, the mainland U.S. and later Europe because her dad served in the military. When Beatriz Remis of Mexico asked about her favorite place, Kira answered Germany because “it’s clean and has no trash around.” 

Beatriz runs a printing shop in Mexico City and gets her supplies from China. Another ELI student Peul Sun “Ricardo” Yoon orders lighting supplies from China and South Korea and sells them back home in Guatemala. Business gets done in English, Beatriz says, “and English is easier to learn than Chinese.”

The freshmen wrote reflections of their visit to ELI. Nadine Sherkasi captured a lasting memory: “When we all came in, they had wonderful smiles on their faces. It was phenomenal how these students are so determined to study the English language. Overall, this was an amazing experience to meet all these international students. I just made about 15 new friends. I hope to see them around campus.”

The freshmen are in the First-Year Experience Program at Sacramento State (Course: Natural Sciences & Mathematics 21: First Year Seminar) taught by Professor Vanessa Arnaud.

For more information on the English Language Institute, please visit