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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Conversation partners for international students

By Young Min Jung

Many international students attend Columbia College from countries all over the world, including China, Korea and Mexico. What many international students have in common is that they are from countries that don't use English as their first language. So, these students do not have a lot of experience speaking English, and they are not very familiar with American culture. A peer education class was organized this semester to help these students. 

In the peer education class, American students can learn how to communicate with international students, and they form friendships with one another. Some American students may find it can be a great experience to make friends with an international student. Through the peer education class, American students can explain American culture to the international students. Also, they learn the way foreigners think and about their cultures. But the most important thing might be that the American students and their international partners gain the ability to understand each other despite their different languages, cultures and ways of thinking. By becoming conversation partners, they can find similarities instead of differences.

The Peer Education class is open to all students who are self-motivated and enthusiastic. Tram Anh Nguyen, whose major is accounting and management, is one of the conversation partners. She participated in this program to improve her leadership skills, which will assist her with her management major. "If someone wants to be a peer educator, campus coordinator, residential assistant, it will be great a chance to participate in the conversation partner program, but it's not obligation," she said. She expects to increase her leadership skills as well as make friends with international students.

The first meeting of the conversation partners was in the Lee Room on Jan. 18. "My partner Seo-Hee and I met a week ago. There have been no problems yet, and she usually understands what I say pretty well. We are going to go to the mall and have dinner next week. We are going to go bowl, too," said Kristy Rowden, history major. Eui Jong, from South Korea, had trouble understanding and listening to English because of colloquialisms. He tries to understand what his conversation partner says.

International students and their conversation partners are going to do a variety of activities together this semester.      
International students and their conversation partners had their first meeting in the Lee Room on Jan 18. Photo by Britta Wright

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