Request More Information
How do giraffes sleep? A girl asked her teacher, but he did not know the answer.
He went home reading and enjoying tracing the question until he got the answer. He asked himself a smart question. Why did this girl not do the same and enjoy following the knowledge I did? He replied, "Not long ago the answer would have been obvious: She cannot read. But today, there is no technical obstacle to creating a "Knowledge Machine" that would allow any student to navigate through a virtual knowledge space where they could see how giraffes sleep . " This teacher was Dr. Seymour Papert, a leader in the field of learning. He was the co-director of the renowned Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology . This is the case for plenty of students because they expect to get information quickly, easily, and clearly. INTO Mason through many faculty members who have great experience offers the highest innovative teaching methods to us. It makes us as students get the best of this experience, whether we are learning academic English to develop our language skills or to go to college. I have enjoyed the experience of being in this institute as a learner after having spent seven years of my life designing education. The institute delivered me with a vast awareness, provided me with unprecedented cultural diversity, and allowed me to practice my culture freely.
Learning Academic English at INTO Mason was a wide positive learning experience. I can attend two English-focused classes and then enter my third class, where we would learn an optional course that we love and have a wonderful time practicing what we have learned. In fall 2022, for example, I selected Global Dialogue with Americans course instructed by Professor Michael Smith, an Internationalization Liaison, and a member of the Academic English faculty . We take our class in which we meet and work with domestic Mason colleagues in their classrooms, and we experiment with being a seating student at an American university. Furthermore, we contribute to their research. Consequently, my colleague Mohammed Ashour and I successfully won a Fall 2022 Global Affairs Student Research Week. Along with our fellow students at the Global Affairs Program, our research has been selected by a group of Global Affairs faculty as one of the winners for the undergraduate student category the best research prize for the fall . Thus, we were honored at the Spring 2023 Global Affairs Graduation and Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, May 17, 2023, at the Center for the Arts. Beyond that, INTO Mason education was not just about class attendance, but also there were a lot of diverse activities, for example, the Mason Destination Initiative, which allowed us to engage with and learn from the academic community, workshops, free courses, and gain the necessary academic skills. There were also departments and centers devoted to helping us write, learn, and research at the library. We had their faculty spending a lot of time teaching us in their office hours. I remember how the schedule was full for Professor Christine Wilson, who taught me Oral communication skills course in level 7 when I tried to get an office hour with my fellow students. Moreover, in more than one course, we were making short plays that portray all roles as if we were in public life. we pronounce the requests we want from the coffee shop or the restaurant or even the supermarket well. One student acted as a laborer, and the other acted as a client. The instructors evaluate and guide us. Quite frankly, I sometimes get out of some classes with written notes in which some of the beautiful teaching methods and techniques made learning easy and beautiful for me as a student. Learning at the institute was not restricted to the language alone. I came out of it with a great deal of awareness and understanding that allowed me to deal with a diverse and different society.
The cultural diversity that I experienced on my educational journey attracted my heart. Every day that I got up in the morning to go to my lectures, I knew for sure that I was going to learn something new, not just in English but in all different social aspects. I spent 78 hours in classrooms with more than 10 teaching staff from different cultural backgrounds - America, British, Italy, Korea, and Venezuela – I cannot imagine the amount of knowledge and experience I can gain in a single week, how about 16 months which is all my journey in INTO Mason. In addition, I learned for free from my classmates their own languages Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, and Russian. I greet them in their own languages sometimes, and they treat me the same. I learned to speak English in more than one tongue and to understand it. Moreover, I learned the perfect way to understand and deal with American culture through my professors. They listen to us with the diversity of our cultures, share barriers with us, and make it easier for us to solve any problem we face. I always remember for example, what Professor Bonny Páez, an academic English Program Coordinator and a full-time Senior Instructor at INTO Mason was like when I was her student in level 3 Oral Communication Skills . She understood our difficulties as second language learners because she had the same experience, and she was simplifying for us to understand words. She really has insight into our need to hear the words slowly. When she wants us to pick up a word that is mandatory in the class, she pronounces it so slowly. She gives us that privilege as she explains them every time. I hope to have cultural diversity always in my educational journey. Great cultural diversity has made everyone accept, assimilate, and adapt to the practice of cultures.
INTO Mason creates all the means to encourage us as students and teachers to practice our cultures. Without feeling stranger, I practiced the culture that I love effortlessly. As a Saudi and as a Muslim, I felt some discomfort before coming to study. I was worrying about my prayer which intersected with my lectures. I was surprised by all the facilities that were provided for us, especially the prayer room in which we could ablute and pray. Sometimes, if I was at the Mason campus, I go back to the Institute because I know that the place in which I am going to pray is better equipped than anywhere else in the university. In addition, I also adored wearing the Thope, which is a garment worn by Saudi men almost on a daily basis. I find it comfortable for me, and I regularly wear it without feeling awkward or odd. I felt at home when I saw some of my colleagues with full hijabs as if they were in their own country. Not only that, but I also saw others wearing their traditional clothes and I was asking them about their clothes, and we learned from each other. Moreover, I will never forget the opportunity we had to watch the match of the Saudi national team in the 2020 World Cup on November 30, against Mexico on one of the screens of the flag's hallway in the INTO Mason building. I truly felt that we were close to each other as individuals, as the flags were close to each other. Additionally, I remember how Professor Esther Kim, a Faculty Instructor and Language Course Coordinator at INTO Mason allocated most of the time in our level 3 Cor class to celebrate with us on the May 2, 2022, morning of Eid al-Fitr . Last Eid, 2023, the institute's marketing team designed unique cards and served Saudi coffee and sweets to congratulate us on Eid al-Fitr. I used to tell my parents back home that I was practicing everything I loved about my culture freely, and I shared with them a live stream while celebrating the joy of Eid with my colleagues and teachers from various backgrounds. Likewise, I was able to celebrate Saudi National Day inside the class and play national songs. Professor Michelle Berube, an Instructor at INTO Mason allowed me to present 10 minutes about my country and its projects, the nature of its terrain, and the culture of living there . I treasured some of my classmates and teachers because of their culture. I learned from them, and this aided me too honing my culture and practicing it with them.
I went in to learn academic English and I came up with massive of linguistic, cultural, and social knowledge. I enjoyed most of the time in my school period and gained a lot of Academic friends and mentors. This friendship continued inside and outside the campus. I am grateful to my country and my wife for having this stunning experiment. Meaad, my wife was my classmate throughout my INTO Mason journey, and she and I even took some classes together. This may have made my journey so special and carries the most beautiful memories. Studying at INTO Mason made me remember a famous saying by Mahatma Gandhi “The path is the goal.” I know that INTO Mason is a trajectory to get to university and learn about academic and cultural concepts, but when I started studying there, I came to recognize that this is a pivotal point of your ability to be successful in your overall life.
Nov 15, 2022 / By Steven A. Harris-Scott, Ph.D.
Wida Saber is a student in INTO George Mason University's Academic English and a refugee from Afghanistan. Her life today is very different from a year ago when she was working as a senior advisor for the U.S.-aligned Afghan government's Ministry of Justice in Kabul on the eve of the U.S. pulling out of Afghanistan.
Now that she is here at Mason to improve her English and pursue another degree, Saber wants to raise awareness of the plight of women and girls back in her homeland where the repressive Taliban has retaken the country. In particular, she wants to support what she refers to as "secret housing schools" that have sprung up around Afghanistan to provide basic education and humanitarian assistance for women and girls.
In fact, Saber herself began her schooling in a secret housing school run by her parents out of her childhood home when the Taliban was last in control of Afghanistan in the late 1990s. In an interview, Saber spoke of the "many" beatings her mom received from the Taliban and the several instances where her dad was arrested because of their secret school.
For Saber and the millions of girls in Afghanistan, the U.S. invasion following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001—which were traced to Afghanistan as the Taliban had allowed al-Qaeda to train and equip—opened up huge opportunities, few bigger than the ability for them to attend schools out in the open. As such, Saber and her friends call themselves the "9/11 generation."
By mid-2021 as the new Biden administration mulled pulling out of Afghanistan after almost 20 years of war, Saber's life was about to change radically again—this time for the worse. Security guards at the Presidential Palace where she worked had to help her evacuate as the Taliban entered Kabul, telling her to cover her face so she wouldn't be recognized.
Saber said she remembers “seeing the Taliban enter Kabul and was shocked by their scary faces." Soon after, Saber and her family made plans to evacuate, but when the day came, they got separated in the mad dash to Kabul airport. Saber and her husband ended up in Qatar for over a month and then at a U.S. Army base in Wisconsin for about six months.
“The things I left behind, my entire soul, my identification, my everything,” she said of the evacuation. “I only had my tears and the clothes [on my body] at that time."
Saber quickly realized that she had "to do something for my people on that military base [in Wisconsin] as we had more than 13,000 Afghan evacuees."
Just like her mom did 20 years earlier, Saber began teaching several children at that army base. It was at the army base where she heard about Mason from a friend who had just enrolled. After several attempts, she was able to enter Mason through INTO Mason's intensive language program.
She now has a title for her journey: "From a secret housing school in Afghanistan to George Mason University." To support those secret schools Afghanistan now that she is here at Mason, she wants to bring together experts to discuss the current situation and the future of female education while raising money to support those schools. She is clear-eyed about the danger involved—"I know it's not secure," but she is committed to helping women in her native Afghanistan.
"[I want] to work and fight for the other girls and other women around the world."
On Thursday, November 17, from noon to 1 p.m., Saber and several panelists will discuss their stories, experiences, and hopes for the future of Afghanistan in an event sponsored by INTO Mason, Global Affairs Program, and the Carter School for Peace and Resolution.
When proposing this event series, Saber spoke of the "millions of Afghan women and girls [who] have received an education over the last two decades," but whose progress "is [now] jeopardized. Thousands more girls and women may be denied a complete education, and forced to marry and live a life governed by harmful traditional practices. Those who oppose the [Taliban] may face violent retaliation."
Saber wants to use her new home in Northern Virginia at Mason because she believes "the international academic community such as the U.S. universities and schools can play a critical role in ensuring Afghan girls have access to quality education."
In a defiant tone, Saber declares that "Afghan women are not waiting for the Taliban government to change its mind...[and] their teachers aren't either."
Thursday’s panel discussion is just the first of a series. Learn more on Instagram at @into_mason.