Exercise your English

By Kate Tasseff, [email protected]

Are you an international student looking to meet new friends, play games, and have fun while practicing your English at the same time? The Office of International Programs presents the perfect opportunity with its weekly event: English Corner.

Every Friday until Nov. 18, they will meet from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Student Union room 308 for activities that range from sports and card games to group discussions and conversations with a different theme every week.

“The real purpose is to help international students promote their English,” said Ningyuan Ma, a graduate assistant at the Office of International Programs. She said that the classroom culture in American schools, where students tend to leave directly following the end of class, does not always provide a good space for international students to practice English conversation.

Another obstacle, she added, is a lack of diversity in some classes.

“For example, polymer science or polymer engineering has a lot of students from China, so they are going to speak Chinese together the whole time,” Ma said.

She hopes that the English Corner will be a good encouragement for international students to interact with people from all languages.

But it’s not just an event for international students. Ma emphasized that it is also a chance for domestic students to connect with international students and to learn about their cultures, and said that students from all backgrounds are welcome to join the event.

“Every week we have a topic; last week it was culture shock,” she said. The event leaders keep a list of question prompts to get the conversations flowing. Last week, some prompts asked students to talk about some interesting or famous festivals in their country, and to bring up some cultural differences that they have noticed between their country and the U.S., like traffic patterns, foods, fashion trends, dating, and family life.

For the first English Corner last Friday, eight students came to the event, both international and domestic, but Ma said that the heavy rain prevented the attendance of many students who had originally planned to be there. Because the weather is supposed to be warm and sunny this Friday, Ma said they will spend part of the event in the grassy areas outside the Student Union.

“We’ll have some group games and activities, like kickball,” she said. “The domestic students are going to explain the game rules, so the students can all learn from each other. And if the international students have some group games from their country, they can explain those, too.”

Plans for the weeks ahead include a board game and card game night, where students can bring their own games to share and talk about, and a chance to hang out at the campus Student Wellness and Recreation Center to both play and talk about sports in different countries.

English Corner will end mid-November, but the Office of International Programs intends to continue the event next semester, starting a few weeks after the beginning of the spring 2017 term.

If you have questions about the event or are interested in more details, you can get in touch with Ningyuan Ma at [email protected].