Conversation Partners create connections with international students
Published: Sunday, September 25, 2011
Updated: Sunday, September 25, 2011 23:09
The Intensive English Program at West Virginia University is kicking off its annual Conversation Partners program which helps international students to learn English and get involved in the community.
More than 85 student pairs have already been assigned this year through the program offered by the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics, said Tim Hutchinson, General Teaching Assistant for the Intensive English Program.
"We have a lot of international students seeking admission to WVU, but their English isn't strong enough. Our job is to improve that," Hutchinson said.
In addition to helping international students learn the language, the program also directs them to University activities they might be interested in, Hutchinson said.
"This allows students to improve language and cross cultural barriers and to remove stereotypes associated with a certain culture," Hutchinson said. "I'm very excited about it. It is beneficial to both international and American students."
Katie Mehle, a teaching instructor for the Intensive English Program, said the program creates experiences and forms relationships that might not happen otherwise.
"It's a great opportunity to make friendships with American friends, which can be difficult, because the international students tend to stick in their own groups," Mehle said.
Mehle said the program is invaluable to the University's diversity efforts, and creates better connections between students outside of classes.
"Sometimes they get invited to events such as parties, tailgates for football games and shopping with their conversation partner. International students don't get this from a normal classroom experience," Mehle said. "We have a lot of eager students who are very enthusiastic."
Mehle said he encourages students to sign up.
"I really encourage English speakers to participate. A lot of people really enjoy the experience. It is an opportunity to share a lot about American culture and language, and it's a great way to help someone else. It allows students to play a role that they otherwise wouldn't have gotten to play," Mehle said.
During the fall and spring semesters, a Conversation Partner Program matches IEP students with native-speaking students for one-on-one conversation.
International students and their partners can attend the Conversation Table to participate in group conversations with other partners. The program also offers regular outings to restaurants, shopping and local attractions.
Mehle said through the program, American students get to learn about other cultures, while at the same time better educating themselves and others on the English language.
"Don't miss out on this opportunity. It's a very flexible program that doesn't take a lot of time and students can meet wherever they are comfortable," Mehle said. "Many students enjoy becoming an instant expert on the subject."
The program accepts American students ages 18 to 25, and international students ages 17 and older.
Students participating in the IEP receive community service hours for their participation in the program.
Students interested in the program can sign up in room 318 of Eisland Hall, or visit www.wvu.edu/~iep.