Students from around the world enroll in the Applied English Center to hone their English skills.
Al-Reesh Sulaiman, a native Kuwaiti, graduated from a good high school in his country. But he couldn't satisfy his English proficiency.
"My English teacher didn't teach good English because he was Arabic teacher," Sulaiman said. "And we had only one English class for everything. It wasn't enough."
Sulaiman has been learning English for almost a year at the Applied English Center at Kansas University, where people from around the world have come to learn English for 31 years.
In this summer session, students at the center represent 24 different countries and 10 language backgrounds.
After he graduates from the center, Sulaiman will study petroleum engineering at KU. He plans to work for a petroleum company in his country.
"English is a very common language," Sulaiman said. "In almost every country in the world, we can find someone who will help us, especially for business and for pleasure, if we can speak English."
The Kuwaiti government has paid Sulaiman's tuition and has provided him with $1,250 a month as a scholarship until he finishes his education here.
The center is a small community within KU. Its headquarters is in Lippincott Hall, and the staff is composed of 19 faculty members and 20 graduate assistants.
About 120 students are enrolled at the center for the summer session, including Eiko Yoshikawa, 47, who is taking a course with her daughter, Mutsumi.
She came to Lawrence from Osaka, Japan, last August with her husband, Kentaro, a visiting scholar in KU's department of microbiology, and their two daughters.
"My daughters and I came here because of his job," she said. "I was afraid of speaking English for the first few months. But I wanted to do something that I couldn't do in Japan. I thought I could learn English here."
After 11 months, she has gotten used to speaking a little English and enjoys her class and American life, she said.
Yoshikawa said the cost of tuition was too expensive for her to take the courses full time, so she is enrolled in a grammar course. Her daughter, however, is enrolled full-time.
The center's tuition is about $4,000 for 16 weeks during the fall and spring semester and $2,400 for eight weeks in the summer session.
The total cost of the center, including living expenses, is about $7,700 for regular semesters and $4,200 for the summer session. That includes tuition, fees, room, meals, textbook, health insurance and personal expenses.
Students study grammar, listening and speaking, reading and writing four hours a day. There are five levels of study.
Elizabeth F. Soppelsa, director of the program at KU for 15 years, said, "Some students come to AEC just because they want to learn English for a short time. However, most students, about 75 percent, are students who want to go to college in the United States."
Although AEC participants in Lawrence can go on to any number of colleges, about 80 percent of the students enroll at KU.
Of about 2,000 international students who enrolled last spring at KU, more than 700 had studied English at the center.
International students who want to enter KU must pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language or the AEC's English Language Proficiency Test Battery.
AEC assists students' adjustment not only to the English language and the university, but also to American customs and lifestyle, Soppelsa said.
"So we have a lot of orientations to try to ease them into this environment and to help them understand what's happening to them," she said. "Recreations and orientations give participants another view of the country and cultural opportunities."
More than 8,000 people have enrolled during the program's 31 years.
China, South Korea, Japan and Malaysia are the countries most often represented. Students from Spanish-speaking countries and oil-wealthy Arabic countries also make up a large part of the center's student population.
Yadira E. Arrocha, 23, Panama, may enter KU's graduate sociology program for this fall semester. She graduated from a college in Panama last year.
"English is not difficult. But when I was in Panama, I had never studied English. I had never listened to people speaking English," she said. "There is no second language in my country. We learn and speak only Spanish."