Program promotes conversation, friendship

Daniel Moore

It is hard enough for Kent State students to meet friends and hold meaningful conversations with people they just met. It is even tougher if the language they have to use is foreign.

That is where Conversation Partner, a program designed to encourage cross-cultural friendship, comes in.

Christy Burke, the head of the program, explained that the purpose is to provide a nonacademic, comfortable atmosphere for non-native English speakers to practice English. Partnered with native English speakers with similar interests, she said, students learning English as a second language can gain meaningful practice and form lasting bonds of friendship.

“The domestic students are getting the opportunity to share about their own culture,” Burke said. “But then they’re also getting the opportunity to learn about a whole new culture themselves.”

For those students who cannot study abroad, she says, “This is the opportunity to learn about the world right here on our own campus.”

The program, now over twenty years old, is open to anyone who wants to get involved, including both Kent State students and faculty. Applications can be picked up in the Office of Enrollment Management & Student Affairs on the second floor of the Student Center. Burke anticipates there to be around two hundred total applicants this year, with the number of domestic and international students being roughly equal.

Dan Liao, a 28-year-old tourism and hospitality major from China, said that she met with her American partner over lunch every week for a lengthy chat. But she said she became involved in the program last year not just to improve her English.

“If I have a conversation partner, and she is American, I can learn more about the American life,” she explained.

Liao admitted that, in order to make progress, the program itself is not enough. More is needed, she said, in order to shift from her native Chinese language to English.

Like Burke, however, Liao emphasized the opportunity.

“It is a good start,” she said.

The program’s training session for domestic students is Thursday, Sept. 16 and the first meetings will be held the following week.

Contact Daniel Moore at [email protected].