By FIONA MURPHY – This school year, IHS has welcomed a number of students from other countries- many of them permanent high school students incorporated into the ESL program and residing with their nuclear families in Indiana.
While many of the incoming foreign exchange students at IHS are the center of attention, often times, many of the other students learning English as their second language have a more difficult transition period, partially due to the fact that they did not necessarily elect to move across the world.
The English language learners (ELLs) of IHS have deeply interesting stories and find it commonplace to need more time and support to aid them in integrating smoothly into the new school atmosphere.
One of the primary aides in integration of these new students is the enthusiastic and supportive Mrs. Versace, IHS and IJHS’s sole English as a second language (ESL) teacher. Because of the efforts of Mrs. Versace as well as the concerted efforts of the ESL program, district, and Indiana community, the ESL students have found Indiana to be conducive to their new lifestyles.
Freshman Anas Abulaila, who moved to Indiana in January from Palestine, stated that his favorite aspect of Indiana is that, “The people here are very kind, and things are very different here, such as the teachers.” Many of the new students provided their take on the homey nature of Indiana.
“My favorite thing so far about Indiana would be the food, I really enjoy hamburgers,” stated Korean freshman Eunhye Kim with a chuckle.
In terms of school climate, a number of students find IHS to be a world (or, at least country) different from their old school.
For his first semester here at IHS, sophomore Hassan Almatani of Saudi Arabia has found school life to be very different because he “had four classes a day for 85 minutes each in my old school,” while also noting that the people of Indiana have been very friendly and welcoming to him.
Sophomore Jessie Chiu was born in Taiwan, grew up in China, and moved to Indiana last July. She noted, “There are many differences between my school in China and IHS. First, the break between classes in China were 10 minutes, but many times I had to stay at school until nine to study in my old school.”
Finally, regarding lifestyle changes, many of the students have not found the Indiana-lifestyle to be too unconventional.
“The sports aspect is much different here in Indiana. In Saudi Arabia, we play soccer every day,” stated senior Majed Alshehri, who moved to Indiana five years ago.
Freshman George Zhang of Beijing, China moved to Indiana last summer and noted, “The fresh air here is my favorite thing. I also enjoy the fact that we do not have a lot of homework so I don’t have to stay at school until 12.”
Because of this reduction in homework-load, he has found more time to participate in school activities.
Despite many viewing a different first language as an impediment to becoming integrated into the American school system, the IHS ESL program helps to embrace the original culture of the incoming students from other countries while aiding not only the student, but the student’s family, in transitioning smoothly into the IHS community.
[PHOTO BY FIONA MURPHY]
Photo caption: ESL students engage in a lesson with Mrs. Versace.