Monday, October 3, 2011

IELI Conversation Partners

UNT has a unique program called the Intensive English Language Institute, where students from all over the world can master English in preparation for enrollment at American universities.  The IELI program attracts hundreds of motivated students from countries like China, Japan, India, and Saudi Arabia.  In order to help these students improve their conversational skills, the IELI program joins students with volunteers, known as their "conversation partners," who meet with them once a week just to talk.  This year I signed up to be a conversation partner, so I have two awesome girls to meet with on a regular basis.

The first girl I met with is a young lady from Saudi Arabia who wants to study environmental engineering.  She comes from a large family.  All four of her siblings are either currently studying in the U.S. or plan to do so later.  She lives with an uncle who is also studying at a nearby university.  When I asked her what she likes most about living in the U.S., she replied, "The freedom."  You see, where she's from, women are not allowed to drive cars.  Anywhere she went, she would have to be accompanied by her father or one of her brothers.  She told me that even with a university degree, she would not be able to get a good job in her own country; all of the most challenging and important jobs are reserved for men.  I feel so sad that smart, capable young women like her have so little to look forward to in Saudi Arabia.

My other conversation partner is from Japan.  She's already facing some of the difficulties of living far away from her family.  Her father is in the hospital with some kind of lung problems and will probably be having surgery this week, and she can't go visit him.  What a sense of helplessness she must be feeling right now.  She told me that she wants to become a Christian because going to church and praying helps her feel stronger in these tough times.  How amazing it is to see the sprout of a seed someone else has planted in this young woman's life!  I am so thrilled about meeting with her again and talking to her about God.

Please remember these two amazing girls as you pray for me and the UNT campus!