Table Talk

by: Hoda Joudi Haghighi

CESL international students
Students on campus.

I met Beth for the first time when I started living in Ambassador Hall as an international student. She is a retired Center for English as a Second Language (CESL) employee. She always carries a small bag with some snacks to offer to students to start a long conversation on the table- talk about their life in their hometown or SIU. She always has something to share with random people, establishing a good friendship. Now, she is a treasure box filled with lots of memories and stories of lots of students from all over the world. 

She invited me several times to her house or her museum. She gathered lots of objects from different countries that were from students which could reflect their culture. She always makes tea with special flavors from a variety of regions, Candies from Japan, Halva from India.

Even though she looks like she lived a long life, she is still a young soul. A warm welcoming smile with kind black eyes reminds us of our family. She is a good option for international students to improve their English by chatting with her. I listened to her for a year and a half and found some interesting stories about students. 

As she used to work at CESL, that means she has several experiences with students with low English skills who used to come to CESL to improve their English before starting their education in the US. She works as a freelance translator from English to English to help American residents understand international people’s accents. From repairing a car to making an appointment with doctors and buying a ticket, she helps both sides. 

Faner Hall, home of the Center for English as a Second Language CESL.
Faner Hall, home of the Center for English as a Second Language.

One evening as I came back from university, I saw her face brightened in the sunset light, a big smile covering her face and asked me to join her for a few minutes. She looked at me and narrated one of her fun stories about a Saudi guy who arrived at CESL, and then it was her mission to accompany him as an English-to-English translator.  

She said, “There I was, being the gracious hostess, giving my Saudi student a tour of Carbondale and trying to find a place to occupy. As I was driving around the city, suddenly he shouted: ‘Miss. Beth … me … angry. Miss. Beth … me … eat … you’. I stepped on the brake, and the car stopped immediately. I screamed as my heart jumped out of my chest, ‘What?’ while my mind was working very fast to find the meaning of his weird sentence. He pointed to Burger King. He meant ‘I am hungry, I want to eat food with you!’ That is how I developed my knowledge about international students’ English.” 

Are you an international student interested in studying at SIU. Learn more about international admissions here. Want to learn English at SIU? Learn more here.

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