Radio documentary participants from the Intensive English Program at Eastern Mennonite University stand in front of the former WEMC studios, which have been outfitted with new recording equipment used to produce "Three Continents Music Show.". From left: Alda Rodriguez, Mohammed Alaryani, Angel Estrada Cardona, Jing Yao, Lingjun Li, and Rashed Alkaabi. Not pictured: Paulina Alozie and Luis Baiges Montes de Oca. (Photo by Joaquin Sosa)

Radio documentary features English language learners ‘sharing from hearts and homelands’

“I like to share my culture. I like to share everything, especially music, so they [listeners] can learn something about us,” said Rashed Alkaabi, an Intensive English Program student at Eastern Mennonite University. “Some of them [the songs] talk about love, and some of them talk about friends, family, the country,” he announced on air through WQSV, 106.3FM in Staunton.

Alkaabi was one of eight students producing the “Three Continents Music Show” as part of their coursework in the fall of 2016.

Three Continents features 45 minutes of nationality-specific music curated by a rotating cast of IEP students. In the fall, it ran a special feature – testimonies of the IEP experience.

Music and more

Led by former instructor James Smoot, the show ran for three semesters, including last summer. The radio production allowed the Level IV students to practice interviewing one another and improve pronunciation by listening to their own voices. [Learn more about the show in this summer 2016 article.]

Past shows, some of which are archived online, include everything from Ethiopian jazz to Guatemalan marimbas to traditional Chinese minority groups to the Eagles.

“The depth of musical traditions is pretty astonishing,” says Smoot. “We had four Chinese shows, and not one of them had anything in common with each other.”

IEP program instructors ‘very helpful’

The radio documentary was hosted by Guatemalan student Angel Estrada Cardona, who is now in the final level of IEP. After finishing the program, he wants to study for a master’s degree in public health or food safety, with the intention to work in epidemiology.

The radio show also featured the following students.

Mohammed Alaryani is from the United Arab Emirates. He plans to attend James Madison University for marketing and business management after completing IEP. And after that? “Get a good job!” in his home country. “I feel excited because I want to show people [that] in our country, we live for peace,” he said in the radio documentary.

Jing Yao, from China, is going through IEP to be able to study landscape and architectural design in the United States. Afterward, he intends to return to China. As an only child, “I need to take care of my parents,” he explains.

Alda Rodriguez, from Honduras, plans to pursue a career in dentistry.

Lingjun Li, from China, eventually wants to move to a large city to study psychology. New York City and Washington, D.C. are his current top choices.

Former IEP students Paulina Alozie from Nigeria and Luis Baiges Montes de Oca from Puerto Rico are also featured.

Alkaabi closes the radio feature with praise for IEP’s instructors. “All of them are friendly, and if you have some trouble or something, they’re going to be the first one who’s going to help you,” he says.

“This radio documentary project was a wonderful marriage of an IEP lecturer’s interest and experience, his expertise as an English educator, and the language needs of the students,” says IEP Director Kathleen B. Roth. “They got to share something from their hearts and homelands and improve their English skills at the same time. This was also an opportunity for the students to produce something they can share with others and be proud of. We at the IEP are all very proud of these students.”

Smoot encourages anyone interested in continuing the Three Continents production to contact him at

Want to hear more? The February edition of The Staunton Observer includes a feature on immigration (starting at 18 minutes), with many IEP students included. 

Discussion on “Radio documentary features English language learners ‘sharing from hearts and homelands’

  1. Glad to see the old WEMC studio building get some use again, and what a great way to use it!

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