ORONO, Maine — Dirigo Pines is a world away from Brazil, Spain, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, but five students at the University of Maine’s Intensive English Institute tried to bring the world a little closer to residents in the assisted living facility.
The students in a class taught by adjunct faculty member Faye Olsen made PowerPoint-like presentations Monday afternoon about each of their home countries to a group of eight Dirigo Pines residents. The presentations were an effort to spread awareness about the different nations, and for the students, it was a chance to prac-tice English.
The students, Olsen said, were to create an organized presentation about their lives and native countries. Olsen said the IEI also helps prepare students for school — two of the students will start taking classes at UMaine next fall — and being in front of a live audience was a crucial experience.
“They will have to be presenting papers, so this is a wonderful opportunity to practice their English and just present,” Olsen said. “I think organizing the information and being able to tell your story was also important.”
Brazil native Marcel Rugini spoke about the Amazon region, the city of Rio de Janeiro, and the passion his countrypeople have for soccer. Yuya Fukushi of Japan told the residents about the mix of religions in that country and the long underground train tunnels people use to move from island to island. Laura Exposito discussed the Catalonian area of Spain, demonstrated traditional dances and talked about paella, a popular national food.
Agel Alkhadi discussed the modern architecture in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, and desert regions of Saudi Arabia, while Alaa Albutairi, who is half-Saudi and half-Kuwaiti, shared information about the climate of Kuwait and the types of cultural entertainment there.
The students used few notes and seemed to have memorized little. For the most part, they used pictures to move along the presentation and provide themselves with conversation prompts. The students talked about their countries’ flag and showed maps of their countries, and some displayed family pictures.
“The pictures helped, so they were able to follow what was on the screen,” Olsen said.
Some members of the group also did similar presentations at a school in Veazie, but the IEI students wanted a chance to do the same thing in front of adults. It was the first presentation in English for Albutairi, who will begin business classes at UMaine next semester.
“It’s like, I have to catch up with the words I have to say,” she said after the presentations were finished. “It’s easier to say it in Arabic because that’s my language, [so] with English I have to think, what does it mean. My mind is still in Arabic.”
Dirigo Pines residents Frank and Anita McGary said they attended the presentations because they were looking for something to do for the day.
“This was the first time we’ve heard of something like this here,” Anita McGary said. “There’s so much to offer here.”