By VICTOR TUN
KENNESAW, Ga. – The Conversation Partners Program at Kennesaw State allows students to meet and help students from other countries.
The Conversation Partners Program, which matches an American KSU student with an international KSU student, has grown over the last couple of years. This program is open to any Kennesaw State student and to any faculty member.
David Schmidt is director of the English as a Second Language Center and coordinator of the Conversation Partners program. When a student emails him about joining the program, he will add them to the program’s email list and the student will be notified of his partner’s information within a couple of days.
The application is simple and asks for general information of a student.
“We like to know your name, student ID number, e-mail address, hobbies, major, and very importantly specific days and times that you’re available to meet with your partner,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said that The Conversation Partners Program has received significantly more participants over the last couple of years. A possible reason for this is the population in crease at Kennesaw State over the last few years, especially with the merger with Southern Polytechnic State University.
Schmidt expects the number of participants will increase even more.
“When I became involved with the program we had about 80 total participants and that would be back in 2000-2001,” Schmidt said. “Now we have commonly have 200 or more participants. Last semester, I believe, we had an all-time high total of 285 participants.”
One of the benefits of this program for international students is that they get to learn about American culture from someone who is in his or her age group.
“For the international students, especially if they are not familiar with American culture or even American college culture, they get a friend that can talk to them about any of the aspects of those cultures and they don’t have to feel like they have to go to a faculty member and sit in an office,” Schmidt said. “They’re learning about the cultures in a natural way through friendship.”
This program also benefits native speakers because they are able to learn and meet students who speak a different language or come from a different background.
“A student can be generally interested in cultures around the world and want to be exposed to people who have different backgrounds and ideas and experiences that they had so they can broaden their minds on how the world is really like,” Schmidt said.
Jessica Griffey, a Kennesaw State student and past participant of the Conversation Partners Program, said she has remained in contact with her partners even after the semester was over.
“Even though my partner is from South Korea and I don’t know much about Korean culture, I found out that my partner and I had many common interests,” Griffey said. “I discovered that she enjoyed activities such as going to the mall, or going to the Commons or just go to the coffee shop and enjoy a cup of coffee which are activities that I myself enjoy.”
This program is also a resource for anyone who is interested in studying abroad. If a student is interested in going to China, the director will try to match that student with someone from China so they can learn about Chinese culture and Chinese language before they leave.
This program also helps students who have studied abroad before and want to keep in touch with that certain country’s culture and language even after they leave.
Although it’s a relatively unknown organization, participants in Conversation Partners benefit greatly from learning about other cultures and making lifelong friends.