Spark a new conversation with students from across the globe

Spark+a+new+conversation+with+students+from+across+the+globe

Design by Todd Espenshade

Shannon O'Connor, Staff Writer

Are you interested in expanding your knowledge of cultural history and making some lifelong friends from around the world? The Intensive English Program Conversation Partner Program provides students, faculty and staff with an opportunity to learn about different cultures by engaging in conversation with international students.

Students from across the globe come to Wilkes University to gain a valuable education and experience life in the United States. There are a total of 35 students enrolled in the Intensive English Program from Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. During this 13.5-week-long program, students take rigorous classes to learn the English language.

In addition to receiving an education, students also want to experience the American culture. The Conversation Partner Program was created to help them practice their English speaking skills and develop friendships. Each international student is paired with a native English speaker. After they are introduced, they meet once a week to bond and learn about each other’s culture at a time and place that is convenient for their schedules. Students can meet each other for coffee, grab some lunch at the Henry Student Center, or even teach one another to make their favorite cultural dish.

“This program gives [the international students] a chance to share their culture with the American students, and the American students get a chance to learn about another country,” Dr. Kimberly Niezgoda, Director of the Intensive English Program said.

Huda Alhajeri and Yuleisy Alvarez are two of the international students in the Intensive English Program looking for partners for the conversation program.

Huda has never had a conversational partner before, and is interested in the new opportunities it can provide her.

“I want to learn more English and I would like to speak more English. I want to learn more and more,” Huda said.

Yuleisy had a former conversation partner. Her conversational partner recently graduated and now she hopes to be paired with another student.

“I really want to have friends to have conversation with, because sometimes my English is not really good. If I talk with other people who speak the language, I can get better,” Yuleisy said.

Huda and Yuleisy are two of many students that want to become acquainted with the American culture.

“[The American culture] I found is very respectful and Americans like to be on time. Americans are also involved in many sport activities,” Yuleisy said.

Yuleisy loves to play soccer and run. Her previous conversation partner became her running buddy. Huda likes to play basketball, even though she explained she is not the best at it here in the United States.

The Intensive English Department also takes international students on many trips where they can experience American cultural activities firsthand. From going to different cities, to white water rafting, or to different county fairs, the students are surrounded in new cultures. Niezgoda includes conversation partners on these trips. Potlucks are held throughout the semester, giving international students the opportunity to learn more about American holidays, such as Halloween and Thanksgiving.

There is also Global Coffee Hour every Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. This is a chance for students to meet with their conversation partner or to meet other international students they may not know.

Whether participating in the Conversation Partner Program or attending International Coffee Hour, students can expand their cultural awareness and gain valuable intercultural experience for their resumes.

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others,” Anthony Robbins, an American author once said.

For more information, or if students are interested in participating in the Conversation Partner Program, contact Dr. Kimberly Niezgoda at [email protected] to be paired with an international student.