ALCI students get involved…in BIG Ways!

Over the past couple months, a record 45 ALCI students participated in a CSUSM campus leadership initiative known as Tukwut Leadership Circle (TLC). This program is founded on the ideal that university success is important both inside and outside of the classroom. Through this program, students attended 7 Leadership Workshops, volunteered for 7 hours of Civic Engagement, and dedicated a minimum of 7 hours to Campus Involvement. Additionally, other program requirements included setting SMART goals, engaging with a Peer Leader, refining their resume, writing a reflection paper, and participating in a panel exit interview.

With those numbers, we are proud to report ALCI students are responsible for giving over 315 hours to the community and over 630 hours to campus initiatives–a huge impact! One project that benefited from the dedication of ALCI students was the M:POWR Mural Project at Mountain Shadows (pictured below). Through projects like the one, ALCI students were working to make a change in the community, but they began to recognize change in themselves as they learned about Servant Leadership.

With TLC graduation right around the corner, we are extremely proud of the students for their time, dedication, and energy that they devoted to Tukwut Leadership Circle and we hope it is an experience they can take with them when they return home to their respective countries of China, France, Germany, India, Morocco, Panama, & South Korea.

Introducing – Jenifer Hermes, New Director of ALCI


We are pleased to announce and introduce the Director for the American Language and Culture Institute (ALCI), Dr. Jenifer Hermes. Jenifer started her new position on November 9, 2015.

Dr. Hermes comes from a long-established career both in academia and more specifically, English as a Second Language. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Washington in Education with an emphasis in curriculum and instruction and a master’s degree in TESOL from Temple University. Formerly a director of the English Language Institutes at both Illinois State University and Eastern Washington University, Jenifer is well prepared to engage the dynamic team of dedicated staff and students at ALCI. She has traveled extensively and lived in Japan and Mexico.

Please join us in welcoming Dr. Jenifer Hermes to her new position!
Contact information:

An anniversary & a birth…ALCI has so much to celebrate!

The International Mentorship Program Celebrates its 1 Year Anniversary!

Last Fall, the International Mentorship Program was created to connect ALCI students with the community while providing students an opportunity to practice conversational English outside the classroom. Exactly one year later, the program is here to stay and continues to grow. This Fall, all ALCI students who are studying full-time in the Intensive Academic Preparation program are participating in the program as a result of course partnerships with Surviving and Thriving, Conversation, and Academic Bridge. All of ALCI students have been paired with a mentor from the community who come from a variety of different backgrounds, including education, business, engineering, design, international studies, and more. Participants have been placed in small groups where multiple countries are represented including China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Vietnam. At last, after only the first week, the mentors have had nothing but wonderful compliments to say about our ALCI students & we couldn’t help but agree with them!

Pictured below: 1 Year Anniversary of Mentorship (Wednesday Group)


The Global Partnership Program is born!

On Tuesday, September 15th, a new program was officially born & has been named the Global Partnership Program (GPP). This program is unique in the sense that it brings together students from both ALCI and Global Education. The goal of this program is to serve students who are new to the United States and/or new to CSU San Marcos. They have been partnered with CSUSM domestic students who have also studied abroad and can relate to the ups and downs that come along with the experience. We have 16 wonderful GPP Leaders who are grouped with 26 eager international students who come from Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Morocco, Norway, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Sweden, & Vietnam. Every Tuesday the students join together in small groups during U Hour for various topics of conversation. This 5-week program is just one more way we are working to bridge the gap between domestic and international students at CSUSM while making the world more connected one relationship at a time.

Pictured Below: GPP’s Birthday (September 15, 2015)

black and white

Staff Profile – Shaquelle Smith, Student Assistant

Shaquelle Smith has been with the American Language and Culture Institute as a student assistant since April 2015.  She is an international student studying at Cal State San Marcos and provides excellent support in our office.  If you have time to talk to Shaquelle about her experience at the university and in the United States, we highly recommend you do.  Here is a little interview to get you acquainted:

Where were you born?  Where is your home country?

I was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. I grew up in Krimpen aan den IJssel.

What are you studying and why?

I am studying global studies. I like learning about people’s culture and language. I chose this major because I am very interested in culture and in globalization. Global Studies is an interdisciplinary major and gives me the opportunity to discover various subjects.

What has been your biggest challenge as an international student?

Leaving my home country behind and starting over again. I came to America by myself without knowing anyone. I learned English in school before, but going to America gave me the first opportunity to speak English. I learned a lot from living on my own and to study far from home in a second language.

Are you part of any CSUSM student organizations?

Yes I am currently the vice-president of the Global Studies club, and a member of global connections.

If you could pick one thing to take back to your home country from the United States, what would it be?

The mountains. I love seeing the view of mountains every day.

What are you looking forward to the most this semester?

Meeting more people and of course graduation.

What do you do for fun when you have time off from studying?

I enjoy going to the beach, or touring through California.

Have you visited any other US states?  Which ones?

I have visited New York. I spent three days visiting and sightseeing New York City.

Can you juggle?

Unfortunately I cannot. Maybe a goal for this year 🙂

Any advice for ALCI students?

Don’t be afraid. Try new things and try getting as much out of your comfort zone. The step you already made to decide to study abroad is a huge deal and already a big step. Don’t be afraid to try new stuff and to meet new people. Be open for change because studying abroad will change you and when you go back you will notice the personal development you have made. Get out as much as you can from this opportunity.

Thank you for interviewing with me, Shaquelle!

By Sylvia Harrington

Instructor Mention – Rock On Blog by Sharon Hightower

The American Language and Culture Institute has many talented and creative instructors.  Our very own Sharon Hightower, Public Speaking and Film instructor, has a personal blog that you might be interested in.

Read her latest entry at:  Rock On, The Way We Were

If you have been wondering about the WGYLM – What gives your life meaning? posters and flags on campus then this is a good read for you.

Check it out!

Alumni Profile – Jun Yanagasawa


Jun Yanagasawa is a different young man than the culture-shocked student I met a couple of years ago.  He’s a little taller, a little broader in the shoulders, and a lot more confident.

Jun comes from a semi-rural area, but moved to Tokyo to study at the Khanda Institue of Foreign Languages.  After completing his studies there, he attended Grossmont Community College in San Diego.  Not being able to transfer directly to a university, he came to ALCI in order to matriculate under our agreement with CSUSM.  Thinking he could directly start taking university courses, he was stunned to find himself placed in our program.  To combat his depression, and he began working out.  Now, he appreciates the time he spent with ALCI and how much it prepared him for the challenges of university classes, which were far more difficult than he had imagined.

Jun has always been interested in people, and this curiosity set him on a path to major in psychology, which he really became interested in while reading a friend’s anthropology textbook.  Determined to satisfy his curiosity, he goes beyond his comfort zone to avail himself of as many opportunities as he can, such as talking to strangers, making friends from different parts of the globe, being a student volunteer, and joining a hockey team, the No Stars, of which he is not only the sole international member, but the youngest as well.

School is not the only way to learn, he says, and I know that some of his most important lessons have not been acquired in the classroom.  Perhaps the most important lesson he learned was the necessity of having balance in his life.  He discovered that spending all of his time studying was not the way to be his most productive, and now he devotes an appropriate amount of time to friends, exercise, and academic pursuits.

While he plans to return to Japan for the summer, he will return to finish his BA and then earn his MA in Psychology.  Chasing his dreams, pushing himself to make international friends, being open to new adventures, and being willing to make mistakes have all played an important role in his mastering English and preparing himself for his future.

Hardships make good stories, and I know that Jun has many interesting stories to tell.  He will say that he is not special in any way, and perhaps he is no more special than the rest of us.  He is, however, an example of someone living his best life.

Interviewed by Elizabeth Sansom

Resources: Websites and English Language Resources

by Celeste Coleman

Do you want to spend your time online more productively? These free web resources are every English language learner’s dream come true!
Writing and Grammar
Purdue OWL: This website is Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab. The materials are free for anyone to access. They are useful for native speakers of English and for non-native speakers. You can get a lot of tips about how to improve your writing, including how to organize effectively, how to cite your sources,and how to use more complex grammar. You can access the site at  
Many Things: This website has many different types of resources for ESL students, but my favorite is the pronunciation section. It might look a little old, but it is still very useful. It gives numerous exercises and tips about how you can make your pronunciation sound more like a native speaker’s. You can visit the site here: 
Free Rice: On this website, you can practice your English vocabulary in a fun, interactive game. A word comes up on the screen, and you have to pick the closest synonym to that word. For every one you get correct, Free Rice donates 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program to help hungry people around the world. You can see your bowl of rice growing as you play, so you have the satisfaction of knowing you are helping others while helping yourself. (This is real rice for real people, not pretend!)The game also learns about your level, so it doesn’t give you words that are too easy or too difficult.Check it out at
You might wonder, “Why should I spend time on typing? I can already type in my native language.”Actually, knowing how to type in your native language is helpful, but it can only get you so far. The way the letters are laid out on the English keyboard is strange: Q is next to W, N comes before M, and Z is somewhere in the middle! For that reason, it takes careful practice to be able to type quickly in English,even for native speakers. Typing speed is important, since some timed writing tasks you encounter in the future (like on the TOEFL or in your university classes) must be typed, not handwritten. Want to see if your typing speed is where it needs to be so that you can write down your ideas quickly enough? You should try Typing Test .  It’s simple: you type for one minute, copying a text that is provided. The program evaluates both your speed and your accuracy. You want your typing speed to be around 50 words per minute and your accuracy close to 100%. Many international students are shocked to find out that their score is much lower than that. What can you do to improve? One handy tool is the tutor at This website has many lessons from beginner to advanced. They will teach you howto place your hands properly and which fingers to use for which keys. It will take some practice, just like learning a new sport, but if you keep up the effort, soon you too can be typing quickly without looking at the keyboard.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about some of the great resources available online to students like you.  Coming up soon on our blog, look for my article about cool smartphone apps you can try!