By A.J. Dixon
With students from around the world, you can imagine that many of the students at Renison English Language Institute (ELI) have some very interesting stories. As part of a new series called “Student Spotlight”, we will be regularly sharing these unique stories with you.
For our debut article, we interviewed Salha Alharthi, a student in level 300 of our spring English for Academic Success (EFAS) program. Salha is from Khobar, a coastal city in Saudi Arabia, and she began her EFAS studies in January 2016. Salha currently lives in Waterloo with her husband, Mohammed, while she pursues her EFAS studies.
Back home in Saudi Arabia, Salha studied chemistry at the University of Dammam. After completing her undergraduate degree, Salha applied a few different times for a graduate student position at the University. The first time, Salha passed the graduate level exam only to have her application suspended through no fault of her own as the institution underwent an administrative reorganization. The second time, a similar situation happened as Salha passed the exam but saw her application inadvertently cancelled for administrative reasons.
As you can imagine, this situation was more than a little discouraging, but Salha persevered, with her third application to the graduate program being accepted by the University. Salha excelled in her chemistry studies, with the University of Dammam subsequently offering her a lecturer position at the institution. Salha completed her master’s degree in chemistry in 2014.
Both the University of Dammam and the Government of Saudi Arabia encouraged Salha to continue her studies abroad. Salha was awarded a scholarship by the Saudi Arabian Government to pursue English language studies in Canada at Renison ELI, and has done well during her time in the EFAS program. As a result of her hard work, Salha was given the Student Achievement Award in April 2016 by Assistant Director Elizabeth Matthews for obtaining the highest grade overall in level 200 during the winter 2016 term of EFAS.
Salha has found life in Canada to be both interesting and challenging. When she first arrived in January, Salha was greeted with a hefty dose of winter weather. Although she had fun making a snowman and snowballs, she eventually decided the weather was “too cold”, a sentiment that more than a few Canadians would likely agree with. With the arrival of spring, Salha found the bright colours of the flowering plants to be very different than the vegetation back home in Saudi Arabia.
Inside the classroom, Salha has found the environment at Renison ELI to be very supportive of her and her classmates’ studies, with Salha remarking that “the instructors are very encouraging and helpful; they want to hear the personal stories of the students and learn more about them”. At the same time, Salha acknowledged that excelling in English language studies requires a large time commitment on the part of students, but it’s a commitment she feels is more than worth it.
Perhaps the most difficult thing about Salha’s time in Canada hasn’t been the program itself, but rather being separated from her two young sons: Mesfer and Nasser, with Mesfer being only eight months old. Salha’s parents have been very supportive by taking care of their grandchildren while Salha and Mohammed are in Canada. Modern technology has helped bridge the distance, with Salha calling and sharing pictures and videos with her sons back home, but Salha remarked that it’s “still not the same” as being at home with her children. Although Salha misses being with her sons (noting that one of her favourite things was playing soccer and video games with them back home), Salha says that she remembers that many families “…are separated permanently because of things like war, which reminds me that my family is one of the lucky ones”.
Salha is optimistic for the future, and she is hoping to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Waterloo, with a research emphasis on organic polymers. When asked to provide future Renison ELI students with advice, Salha said it “is important to get to know other foreign students, as they will help you to practise your English speaking skills…learning books is good, but nothing replaces speaking with someone in English”. After completing the interview with Salha, that advice is something which this writer would definitely agree with. Renison ELI wishes Salha the very best in her future endeavours.
About the Renison English Language Institute
The Renison English Language Institute (Renison ELI) has offered high quality English as a second language (ESL) programs and courses since 1970. We welcome more than 1000 students each year to Renison University College.
Housed within Renison ELI are the English Language Centre (ELC) and English Language Studies (ELS). We invite you to explore our programs and courses, and look forward to welcoming you to the Renison community.