A visiting international student with experience teaching English to youths was among a Kalamazoo College contingent that recently returned from presenting at a statewide teaching conference.
On October 14, Lina Alalami—from Aman, Jordan—was joined by Learning Support Specialist and ESL Coordinator Candance B. Combs, and students Paola Guzman Jimenez and Kenia Coronel Gonzalez at the Michigan Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (MiTESOL) conference. Together, they spoke on “Engaging College Students as Teachers’ Assistants in Kalamazoo Public Schools.”
Alalami holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in foreign languages (German, Italian and English literature) with a minor in journalism from the University of Jordan. Influenced by diverse communities in Aman, Alalami developed an eagerness to learn new foreign languages and gain insights regarding different cultures. In addition, she wants to pursue a career where she can work to bring understanding between cultural groups around the world, especially in the Middle East.
One of the reasons why she decided to join K as a visiting international student is its great reputation with the K-Plan on an international level. She said K has a unique academic environment that cares about on- and off-campus communities.
At K, Alalami works closely with Combs in the academic course LANG295: One in a Billion, a class where K students each week visit newcomer classrooms in some of the Kalamazoo Public Schools to provide academic support to children and teens from Afghanistan, Rwanda, Syria and Central America. Through a collaboration with the Kalamazoo Teaching Volunteers, a Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Center for Civic Engagement student-led program, Alalami also works as an assistant tutor at Maple Street Middle School, where she teaches Arabic to non-Arabic students. Additionally, she teaches English to ESL students and refugees as an assistant tutor at Millwood Middle School.
At the MiTESOL conference, Alalami discussed the Kalamazoo Teaching Volunteers, her student engagement and the Newcomers Newsletter produced by students in Combs’ classes.
“I always tend to be proactive and I want to give back to the community,” Alalami said. “I have been volunteering since the age of 13. My sense of altruism is something that drives my enthusiasm and commitment to support the newcomers.”In her on-campus involvement, she is part of the Arabic Student Union and actively contributes by supporting the events that help students learn more about Arabic culture. As an international student from a different cultural background, she feels a responsibility to step out of her comfort zone and counter stereotypes that students may have heard in the broader world. Similarly, she enjoys connecting with and learning from others.
“Being active on campus gives me an opportunity to meet and connect with a lot of K students,” Alalami said. “I have the chance to meet people with a wide range of different interests and passions. It makes me happy to learn something new every day about our college and student activism. I also saw at K-Fest that we have a diverse set of student organizations that contribute to our campus community. Kalamazoo College is a student-centric college that makes every student a proactive citizen.”
Editor’s note: This story was written by Blagoja Naskovski ’24. He serves as a social media ambassador for the College Marketing and Communications team.