Volunteer conversation program opens cross-border dialogue

For the past 15 years, Portland State’s Volunteer Conversation Program has acted as a bridge connecting American students with international students from PSU’s Intensive English Language Program.

“The volunteer program not only gives [international] students a good chance to practice speaking English, it also supplies American students with a good opportunity to come in contact with different cultures,” said undergraduate student Peter Brown dos Reis, who currently serves as the IELP Learning Center’s volunteer conversation program coordinator.

At present, the program has approximately 40 volunteers and 50 exchange students participating, according to Brown.

IELP students can choose to sign up for individual conversation partner sessions or enroll in the Individual Conversation Partner Program.

Students’ meeting times and places are not restricted. Heading to a popular coffee shop or working on homework together in the library are both possible options.

On Oct. 13, IELP brought many American and international students to its office for the Volunteer Conversation Program’s first meeting of the school year. Students had the opportunity to meet their partners and begin their individual journeys into foreign territory. Topics of discussion included the the dining habits and food cultures from everyone’s home country.

“I understand what it is like to learn a new language and how scary it can be to work on conversation skills,” said Grace Hilliard, a graduate student pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. “If I can help someone feel a bit more comfortable in their ability to speak, then I can count it as a successful use of time.”

The Volunteer Conversation Program entices students pursuing English-teaching graduate and certificate programs, as these curricula require volunteer hours in the field. Kim Dodds, currently studying to be an English teacher, is one such student. She recently returned from South Korea, where she participated in a language exchange internship.

“I know that it is difficult for exchange students to reach out and try and make friends with Americans when they aren’t yet confident in their own language skills,” Dodds said. “I also experienced this while I studied abroad.”

Enrollment isn’t restricted, and the Volunteer Conversation Program invites any interested local students to sign up at any time; anyone with a positive attitude and passion to understand foreign cultures is welcome.

To sign up, contact: [email protected]

The preceding article is the English translation of its original Chinese version.



自15年前起,波特蘭州立大學的志工交流論壇扮演起交流的橋樑,將美國學生與隸屬於密集英語課程(Intensive English Language Program)的留學生們相互連結在一起。

「志工交流論壇不僅是給予留學生練習說英語的好機會,更是提供美國學生接觸不同文化的好契機,」論壇學生負責人彼得·布朗(Peter Brown dos Reis)說。




「我可以想像用一種新語言來和當地人交談是需要很多勇氣的,」主修專為教授非英語系人士英語(TESOL)的研究生格雷思·荷拉德(Grace Hilliard)說。「如果我可以讓他們成功踏出那一步,我想我所花在這上面的時間也都值得了。」

因課程學分需要,吸引許多和荷德拉一樣主修英語教學的研究生主動報名參加。金伯利·達德司 (Kim Dodds)也是其中之一。剛從韓國留學回來的她,在韓國時也參加了類似的交流活動。



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