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Intensive English program falls short on conversation partner volunteers

Intensive English program falls short on conversation partner volunteers

Nicholas Sumner

Abbey Davies, sophomore interdisciplinary studies major, talks to friends Feb. 25 in William Allen White Library. One of her favorite things about being in the conversation partners program is the chance it gives her to meet new people and make new friends.

For international students, becoming accustomed to speaking the English language may have gotten just a little harder. The Intensive English program, which works closely with individuals who are learning English, has come up short on volunteers to help as conversation partners.

“A conversation partner just meets with students who are from other countries, whether they’re exchange students or they’re staying at ESU for all four years, just to help them practice their English,” said Abbey Davies, sophomore interdisciplinary studies major.

Students who become conversation partners do it voluntarily, thus receiving no monetary reward.

“I think it’s just that students are often worried about making a big time commitment,” said Cara Codney, clinical instructor of international education and coordinator of the conversation partners program. “I mean, it’s not a lot of time. It’s an hour a week, but you know when you’re worried about getting your homework done, and then you have a job on the side… you don’t want to sign up to be a partner and not have time.”

One difficulty that may be presented to those students who join the program is an obvious one – a language barrier. The students who require this service have a fair grasp of the English language, but their accents can be very thick. English speakers can be hard for international students to understand, as well.

“You have no idea who you’re going to be matched up with,” Davies said. “Sometimes, yes, it is hard to understand each other.”

The IEP also works to connect their students with these conversation partners and works with other organizations. Brandi Delmote, employee of Friends of Overseas College and University students, said that the group works closely with the Intensive English Program, and that it even works with other community members.

“FOCUS recruits people from our community,” Delmote said. “We’ll make an announcement at our church, and we have kind of a pool of people who are already involved with international students in some other form, and so we will… send out the alert to them that there’s an opportunity for them to be a conversation partner, if that’s something they’re interested in.”

Working with an international student allows American students to experience different cultures and get to know people who live in far away places.

“I really enjoy meeting new people… I have friends from South Korea,” Davies said. “It’s really awesome, and I think that ESU has such a huge international student population that it’s great to meet new friends and learn about new perspectives and new cultures.”

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