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    Saito ended up graduating from Fresno State in 2016 with a B.S. in Business Administration - Entrepreneurship, and returned to Japan where he now works as an IT consultant.
Saito highly recommends international students to study for a semester at AEI before enrolling in an American university.
“A lot of students try to go to university directly from their country, but studying in their home country about English and studying in the US is very different because you’re not surrounded by English,” he said. “You pretty much learn how to take the test in their home country. It’s better to learn it in the US.”
It’s especially helpful if students are inter- ested in studying at Fresno State, Saito said.
“It’s like a joint between your home country and the university. A lot of Fresno State students are helping AEI. It’s good to make those connections. University students love helping international students.”
One way AEI enhances the American experience for international students is by offering free or low-cost classes to per- manent residents through the Community Exchange Opportunity program. This di- versifies the classroom, said Alyssa Tobar, AEI’s Admissions and Advising Specialist.
“We want our international students to get an authentic sense of American life, so we also open up our classes to community members who are learning English,” Tobar said.
AEI partners with Fresno State’s Depart- ment of Recreation Administration to teach students how to play classic American games and host activities and events.
“They run little programs for our students, which usually involves bringing them outside for various activities and games,” Merson said. “Sometimes it's inside with Jenga blocks or different games, but that's another way we get our students out there and out of the classroom, interacting with Americans and practicing English.”
Saito said he enjoyed these cultural ex- perience classes, especially when they watched classic movies.
“We did a potluck and shared the food from different countries since we had Saudi students, Korean students, and Chinese students. That was a rich experience that I will always remember,” Saito said.
Students carved pumpkins around Hallow- een and crafted hearts with English mes- sages around Valentine’s Day, Tobar said.
“It seems a little silly but they really enjoy it, and they like to be able to talk to each other. Events like this allow us to mix students studying at different proficiency levels,” she said. “During those parties, they're able to talk with teachers, other classmates, faculty, and invite people they’ve met in the community.”
MoViNg to oNliNe iNstructioN
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, AEI students spent 20 hours per week in class- rooms on Fresno State’s campus in the lab school, Tobar said. Additionally, AEI of- fered special trips to San Francisco, Cayu- cos, and other nearby getaways to offer the students a fun way to practice English and get to know one another.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the California State University’s statewide suspension of in-person instruction, AEI moved its program online in the middle of the late spring session, Merson said.
  24 California State University, FRESNO

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