Whether you’re stopping by Starbucks for coffee, eating lunch on campus or going to a Wilkes sporting event, you have the opportunity to expand your cultural awareness by including an international student in your daily activities.
If you are interested in learning about a new culture and helping an international student learn about the American culture, the Conversation Partner Program is something to consider. Students, faculty and staff have the chance to meet someone from another country and be their conversational friend.
“I’m involved with the program because I need to practice my speaking skills to improve them. The best way to practice is with a native speaker,” said Mona Alkanhal, an information technology major.
This is the 10th year the Wilkes Intensive English Program (IEP) is holding the Conversation Partner Program. It runs for 13.5 weeks during the spring, summer and fall semesters.
International students have the chance to practice their English and share their cultural experiences with Americans.
“The neat thing is this semester we have 20 educators on campus from Panama,” Dr. Kimberly Niezgoda, director of IEP and program coordinator said.
There are currently 17 Panamanians who are looking for a conversation partner.
“They all want the chance to meet Americans and practice their English and learn about American culture cause a lot of them are here for the very first time in the United States,” Niezgoda said.
Students who are paired together make plans based on what accommodates their schedules best. Partners are required to meet for at least one hour each week. They should meet in public places such as on campus or in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
“This fall I’m really looking for a bunch more people to come and hang out with them for once a week,” Niezgoda said.
In the past, conversation partners have learned how to cook ethnic foods and have established friendships that continued after graduation.
“It really does make a difference getting to know people from other countries,” Dr. Niezgoda said. “It changes your whole world.”
To kick off the semester, the conversation partners met each other for the first time at a pizza party in Max Roth. Students chatted with their partners and started planning their activities for upcoming weeks.
Niezgoda believes it is important in this global environment to be able to show employers what ethnic experiences you have and how it has helped improve your own abilities and your cultural understanding.
“Global awareness and international collaboration during the formative years results in more rounded individuals, encouraging our pupils to see things from different perspectives and helping them to make informed decisions, acquiring transferable skills that will be useful to them and will remain with them for life,” Jose Picardo, head of modern foreign languages at Nottingham High School, told The Guardian.
The Conversation Partner Program is a huge advantage in this area because there is not much exposure to internationalism and globalism, according to Niezgoda.
If you are interested in getting involved with this program, contact Dr. Kimberly Niezgoda at [email protected]