INTO program in need of more American conversation partners

Pamela Young, Reporter

Marshall students, staff and faculty have the chance to help guide and mentor international students through INTO’s Campus Conversation Partners program.

Kenneth Jones, student engagement coordinator, said the program was designed to give international students the opportunity to meet domestic students and to adjust more easily to the American lifestyle.

“International students have the opportunity to meet someone from the United States, learn about their culture and practice their English outside of class,” Jones said.

Jones said the program does not have enough domestic students to participate, leaving some international students without a partner.

“We have a lot of American students that want to participate, but I always have more international students than American students,” Jones said. “I only have 15 that don’t have partners, but currently, I, in this semester alone, have 70 partnerships which is a total of 150 people.”

One struggle matches have is finding times for them to meet up.

“The largest challenge is them trying to find times to meet together because both of them are students, so they have to work around each other’s schedules,” Jones said. “Sometimes what I hear is that they aren’t able to meet with each other often because their schedules don’t work out.”

Shahid Ali, a graduate student from Pune, India pursuing an M.B.A in computer science, joined the Campus Conversation Partners program in Aug. 2016 and was partnered with Alex Root.

Ali said their conversations usually surround the topics of learning about each other’s cultures and traditions.

“The Conversation Partners program is a great initiative at Marshall which allows you to share your culture and traditions with others,” Ali said. “Being from other countries with different traditional backgrounds, it’s difficult to adjust to a new environment and people, but my conversation partner made that transition easier.”

Root not only had conversations with Ali, but helped him with his driver’s license test, helped him with assignments, showed him around Huntington and even travelled to Nashville together. 

“Not only did I learn to cook some good American cuisines, he also helped me with my English and proofread my assignments, and he even helped me getting my driver’s license in the United States,” Ali said.

Ali said the only issue was not being able to meet with his conversation partner sometimes due to scheduling difficulties and timing.

“This small difficulty is outmatched by the experiences and memories I have gained from this program,” Ali said

Pamela Young can be contacted at [email protected].