Exchange students from all over the world have been learning English at Sam Houston State University through the English Language Institute this summer.

The English Language Institute (ELI) at Sam Houston State University helps foreign exchange students learn English and prepares them to take English language exams required to get into U.S. schools.

This summer 22 students from Europe, Latin America, and several Asian countries have been taking intensive ESL courses to help them prepare for English speaking standards here and in their own countries.

“In most of the countries our students come from they are expected to be bilingual with English,” said James Moore, teacher and intern program coordinator.

The intensive ESL courses at SHSU teach foreign exchange students how to read, write, and speak English at the level of a native speaker.

“The courses are very intense but they have to be in order for the students to be able to speak English at a high level,” said Moore.

The students attend class Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and then in the afternoon from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The class the students take in the morning is to help them work on grammar, reading and writing skills.

For their afternoon class the students can choose from a list of electives including a TOFEL prep course, cultural studies class and an academic skills course.

Each class has no more than ten students, which allows for the teachers to have plenty of time developing each student’s English speaking skills.

“It’s really impressive how self-motivated a lot of the students are — we teach them a lot in class but they work very hard outside the classroom as well,” said Moore.

Aside from their coursework the exchange students have had plenty of opportunities to directly engage with American culture on field trips.

On Thursday the students went to Houston and visited the Museum district, stopping at the Museum of Natural Science, Museum of Fine Arts and Holocaust Museum before returning to Huntsville.

On weekends, several students have also taken trips on their own to Houston, San Marcos and other cities in Texas.

Yuki Fukui, a criminal justice/pre-law student from Osaka, Japan, lives in some apartments near campus, and he has been very impressed with the southern hospitality and religious devotion.

“Everyone has been more kind and friendly than I expected—In Japan not very many people are religious but here people are very religious,” said Fukui.

In Japan, the primary religions are Buddhism and Shinto. Christianity is practiced by a small percent of the population but on Sundays most people work.

The students attending the ELI program attend college in their home countries and a few have some experience with learning English but have not yet been fully immersed in learning the language.

“(With) the ELI classes here we have more of an opportunity to meet with American students and connect with them—in Korea we do not learn very much about communication we mostly learn just how to understand the language,” said Donghyun Moon, from Seoul, Korea.

Moon, is part of a group of several students from Kyonggi University in Seoul, Korea. Kyonggi University has a well-established exchange program with SHSU and they regularly send exchange students to the ELI program.

Currently, South Korea sends more students to the ELI program and schools in the United States than any other country.