June 19, 2024

Lydia Nolen, sophomore international studies and political science double major, and Lulu Wu, music major, meet for the first time to learn more about each other. Conversation partners gather to discover their international student at the Staples Courtyard. Nadia Nawabi | Banner

Many students arrive at California Baptist University riddled with the anxiety that accompanies new beginnings. Some students, however, have a different set of worries on their plate, such as culture shock and learning  a new language.

These students are included in the international student population at CBU and are part of the reason that the International Center created the Conversation Partners program.

Originally designed to help international students with English proficiency, it also provides a platform for international students and domestic students to join together and form lasting relationships during their time at CBU.

“We’ve seen really good things come from it as far as friendships and relationships between domestic students and international students (goes), and it’s also just really good for their English development,” said Amy Wright, student and exchange visitor information system (SEVIS) coordinator.

When international students arrive at CBU, they are required to enroll in the Intensive English Program if they are not already English proficient. Because of the assistance it provides, Conversation Partners is a requirement for all students enrolled in IEP.

“(It) pairs up a student who is in our IEP with someone who is an American student who just wants to help them improve their English, whether it’s a class requirement that they’re also trying to meet, or if it’s just someone who genuinely loves international students,” said Marie King, a graduate assistant for the International Center.

King assists with the community aspect of the International Center and plays a key role in coordinating Conversation Partners with director of IEP Shelley Clow. Clow has been involved in the program as an adjunct professor for six years, and King is in her first semester working in the International Center as a graduate assistant.

Thirty-six countries are represented within the International Program, with the majority of students coming from China, Rwanda and South Korea. With nearly 30 of these students enrolled in the Conversation Partners program, King and Clow work to match up partners based on specifications like gender, age and personal interests.

“They just meet once a week and discuss any topic to help them with their English development,” Wright said. “It’s a great way for international students to connect with domestic students and ask questions.”

The Conversation Partners had an opportunity to meet one another on Sept. 19 and will continue to meet once a week to help the international students acclimate to the culture of CBU and the United States.

“For many of them, it’s a friendship that continues on,” Wright said.

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