Activity Information
Recommended Audience
International Students, Study Abroad, General, Community members, ESL
Length of Time
1 – 1 ½ hrs.
See Description
Number of Facilitators
See Description
Source of Activity
Nancy Centers
To help those employed as Conversation Partners reflect on their knowledge and personal experience with other cultures; to begin discussion of cultural similarities and differences between the U.S. and other nations. This activity also serves as an icebreaker, helping the group get to know each other and find out what they have in common

Conversation Partners - Awareness Activity

The ELI employs 10-12 American students to serve as Conversation partners every semester. Many of these students are freshman and sophomore students at RWU who may have had limited contact with international students. This is one of the first activities during the Conversation Partner Orientation.

Directions: With a partner, have each pair of work-study students complete the following interview sheet. They should read the questions first, then each partner will take turns answering the questions. Notes should be kept so that each pair can report back to the whole group. A blackboard/whiteboard or newsprint on an easel can be used to record group answers. When students answer each question, they should be encouraged to give examples, if possible, not just one or two work responses.

Debriefing: Ask students if they were comfortable/uncomfortable answering the questions. Ask about their reaction to their partner’s interview responses and those of the group. Do they know more than they thought they did about other countries? What information has surfaced that was surprising, interesting, etc.

Time permitting, have a few international students join the group at the end (I invited former ESL students to the session) to talk about their experience with the Conversation Partner Program and what they got out of it.

Awareness Activity “The Intercultural Me”

  1. Do you know any songs or music of other countries?
  2. What types of international music do you like?
  3. Do you know any specific customs from other countries? Describe customs you know.
  4. Have you eaten foods from other countries? What types of different food have you eaten? Do you have favorite dish?
  5. Do you wear clothes (also jewelry) from other countries? Describe the clothing, material, colors, etc.
  6. Do you have friend from other countries? Describe your friends and tell where they are from, how you met, etc.
  7. Do you speak or study a language other than English? How about members of your family? Can you speak and read and write the language? Is it easy or difficult to learn?
  8. Have you traveled to another country recently? Have you ever studied abroad? Would you like to study in another region of the world?
  9. What international holidays or celebrations do you know about? Describe one international holiday to your partner.

Program Development Timeline: one to two weeks:
Guest speakers are contacted up to a month ahead of time, as needed.

Basic Budget: minimal photocopying cost- $10.00
Snacks and drinks- $30.00- $50.00

Advertising/Communication Methods: After recruiting the Conversation Partners via the Financial Aid Office, and completion of the hiring process, all Conversation Partners are contacted by email and then by phone to set up this Orientation meeting during the second week of classes. Guest speakers from Counseling and some of the office of Student Affairs are contacted a month in advance.

Lesson Learned: Participants have a tendency to go off topic if they are not monitored in their groups. Students with recent study abroad experiences have stories to tell!! We need to make sure that equal time is given to group members to complete the activity and to ensure ample time for debriefing.

Last year, we did not ask for outside assistance from other campus “experts”. This coming year we have asked several colleagues to come for the Orientation to help address Conversation Partner concerns about cross-cultural issues that might come up, and how to address a variety of student concerns from health issues, to relationship issues, homesickness, etc. Current events (the War in Iraq) and person issues of international students in the ELI started to spill over without planned intervention. The Conversation Partners were often not sure how to address some of the issues that came up in their meetings with the ELI students.