One email that stood out to me the most was an invitation to join the Conversation Partner Program. Being an immigrant and once a newcomer in this country, I have the experience to relate to international students on a personal level.
So, I indicated my interest via email. At first, we had an interest meeting explaining the components of the program and how we could use this experience to gain Experiential Learning credit. The first event was the Meet and Greet Party, where I met my partner, Natsuko. My expectation was to see a lot more participation, and I was, unfortunately, disappointed as there were only four or five American students in the room.
I believe that participation in this program corresponds with the vision of Nazareth College, which is transformational learning. Personally, I don’t know what is more transformational than interacting with people from different backgrounds, and being exposed to different outlooks on life. For those of us who are not familiar with the program, I decided to interview one of the two directors, Christina Driessen.
When did the CPP start?
The first official semester was spring 2014.
How did the participation rate change over years?
The participation rate has been increasing; we take that as a good sign. As the program develops, the more we are able to collaborate with other programs like International Club. There have been more and more people participating in the big events that we have. A lot of the people will reach out to us if they are having any kind of issue with their partner, but it really doesn’t happen often.
Are you personally satisfied with the amount of participation?
Do I wish that a lot more people would take part? Yes, I think it would be awesome if every single ELI student who wants a partner could have a partner, but I feel like we are pretty good at trying to match up the people who really want and need that interaction.
What could be done to improve the program in general?
Experiential Learning credit was not there from the beginning. I had to apply to the curriculum board to have them approve it as an Experiential Learning activity. Last year, we had two students and this year we have six who are doing it for the credit. As that grows, I think it will be a better experience for both people because it’s not just a volunteer thing at that point; you are doing it to really think about your educational experience, and what you can get out of a program like that in meeting one and one with somebody and learning more about their culture. And, it obviously really helps out the English Language Center student because they really don’t have anyone they can connect with easily on campus.
If you are looking to get the most out of Nazareth, I would highly recommend taking advantage of this unique program. You won’t only be interacting with your partner, but every international student who is seeking to be social on campus. More importantly, you will be able to see the world from different viewpoints as you get exposed to different cultures.