Going away to college for the first time is often intimidating for students, but it can be even more intimidating when a student is coming from another country into the U.S. and does not speak English as his or her first language.
This year is the first year that the Intensive English program is having conversation partners for international students. The program pairs a volunteer student with an international student studying English as a second language in hopes to make international students’ time in the U.S. more pleasant.
The program has partners meeting outside the classroom by talking to each other about any topic about once a week. The idea is for both students to have fun talking and to learn new things about each other and each other’s cultures.
“You get to ask what it’s like in Saudi Arabia, have you visited other countries, what kind of food do you eat, things that you wouldn’t get to experience with somebody from your own culture,” Kimberly Niezgoda, assistant director of English as a second language services, said.
Niezgoda says the program gives students who are taking ESL a chance to practice English.
“They want a chance to just hang out with an American and someone who’s not studying English with them and practice their skills,” Niezgoda said. “It’s up to each individual what they talk about.”
Niezgoda said a lot of companies are looking to hire someone with global experience and being a conversation partner can increase one’s own global awareness and get places with their careers.
“I’m looking forward to learning about his culture and learning new things about different countries,” freshman accounting major Molly Hinkel said. “(And) just being able to comprehend other cultures and appreciate diversity in America and appreciate other cultures.”
Hinkel said that it is worth it to be a language partner because you never know what you’ll learn about your partner. Sophomore business administration major Michael Carone says he talked on Skype with high school students from Vietnam and wanted the chance to speak face-to-face with an international student.
“To have an English partner, you improve your cultural awareness and (get) new information you didn’t have before,” Intensive English student Bader Alsalamah, who is from Saudi Arabia, said, “I’d like to talk about his culture because I don’t have a lot of information about American culture is and to have a fun time with him.”
ESL students also find that having a language partner will help them to get better at their English language skills and want to talk to students.
“It’s my aim to improve my English language for that reason I want help from (Molly),” Faisal Alghamdi, another Intensive English student from Saudi Arabia, said, “It’s a very good way to learn a new language.”
For more information about the Intensive English Program you can visit the website: http://www.wilkes.edu/pages/2942.asp