Who are Conversation Partners?
Conversation Partners are people of all ages who are interested in meeting people from different cultures. Previous volunteers have included university students and staff, local middle school and high school students, and other members of the community. Informal conversation with fluent English speakers is an important aspect of learning the language. Students need to hear “real” English and practice with their peers in personal and informal settings. Many of our previous students and Conversation Partners have formed lasting friendships. Volunteering to be a Conversation Partner is a way to experience another culture without ever leaving the Storrs campus. Who knows, you may end up visiting our students in their countries someday!
What do Conversation Partners do?
Conversation Partners play an important role in UCAELI students’ English education. Partners who join Conversation classes will be directed by a UCAELI instructor on how to participate in each class. Objectives for the Conversation Partner time connect with UCAELI’s Communication Skills course objectives. Generally, partners will be placed with a small group of UCAELI students who will have some questions or conversation strategy to practice relating to something they are learning in their Communication Skills classes. Topics and activities vary from discussions about culture, current events, academic subjects and university life to interactions designed to be fun. The one requirement of volunteer partners is to speak in English. The commitment to being a Conversation Partners is flexible. Partners may join classes regularly or just once or twice, however partners are encouraged to let the Conversation Partners Coordinator know in advance about their level of commitment so that teachers can plan lessons accordingly. Coordinator emails are listed below under each program opportunity.
What do Conversation Partners get from the experience?
Some of the intangible awards are learning about other cultures and helping others participate more fully in the UConn community. In addition, Conversation Partners may be interested in the following more tangible rewards:
- Invitation to a free lunch for all conversation partners and UCAELI students sponsored by UCAELI once a session
- A letter of recognition of community service from UCAELI provided upon request
- A UCAELI t-shirt
What are the opportunities for Conversation Partner volunteers?
Intensive English Program (IEP)
This UCAELI program is for adult learners of English who are mostly between 18–24 years of age. Many of these students are preparing to enter a college or university in the U.S. Others are improving their English skills for professional purposes or simply to be able to communicate better. This program is offered year-round in three sessions. Students in the program study English 22 hours per week from Monday through Friday.
Option A: Partners are needed to join Friday Conversation Classes for one hour from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. A UCAELI instructor facilitates the class, so no preparation or previous experience is needed. The classes meet in either the Whetten Graduate Center (WGC) or the Ryan Building (JRB). To register, please contact the UCAELI Office.
Option B: Join the Conversation Partners program during the summer! UCAELI offers more of a variety of programs during the summer months and the schedule allows for a bit more flexibility.
Option C: A one-on-one program called Cross Cultural Connections is coordinated through the UCONN Community Outreach department. In this program, volunteers will be matched with a UCAELI IEP student for a full semester to meet at times that are mutually arranged. Informal meetings usually take place once a week for an hour at various locations on campus. This is a good opportunity for people interested in language exchange. In other words, during these meetings, students can practice English and the native language of the UCAELI student.
Those interested in this program can contact the coordinators of Cross Cultural Connections at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Online Orientation for Conversation Partners– New volunteers should view this presentation to prepare for participation in classroom activities
UCAELI’s homestay program has been temporarily suspended. Please check back with us soon for an update. Thank you!