A hidden gem of communication takes place every week at Wright State. Students from countries around the world come together to learn about different cultures. The University Center for International Education’s Conversation Club is a way for American students to learn from their international friends.
The Conversation Club began as a way for international students to practice their English with native speakers. Each week the students gather to talk about a pre-determined topic, like holidays, food, idioms and slang and current events.
Catherine Hernandez, international student program coordinator, works with several others across campus to encourage participation and engagement in the club. Both international and American students love the program.
“I believe this is one of the most powerful programs that we offer,” Hernandez said. “Students increase their self-confidence, self-awareness and respect for different perspectives, and international students increase in their English conversation skills.”
Gina Oswald, professor of rehabilitation services/counseling, required her students to attend the Conversation Club as a part of an international rehabilitation class. Since her students are American and have not traveled outside the country, Oswald said they were nervous at first.
“The students kept journals, and as they kept the journals, they got really excited about going to Convo Club,” Oswald said. “They wanted to keep going, they were no longer unaware and hesitant to interact with people who are not from America, and they are encouraged to seek out situations in which they could.”
Mary Coyle, an instructor in the Department of English Language and Literatures, also encourages her students to visit the Conversation Club, offering students extra credit if they participate. She teaches a class called American Academic Culture, which is tailored specifically for international students, as well as standard English classes, which have a mix of American students and international students.
“The feedback I get is amazing. They learn so much about other cultures. My international students get to have informal conversations with native speakers,” she said. “The students get more exposure to other communities, and that’s a good thing, especially in today’s global village.”