At the beginning of each semester, international students who have recently arrived to America begin the exciting yet harrowing challenge of assimilating to a new environment. These students often begin classes with a limited knowledge of the English language and a feeling of euphoria bordering on the edge of extreme culture shock. Most universities offer programs to help international students adjust to the sometimes overwhelming new stimuli, as well as assist with capturing the numerous nuances of American culture and slang. One such program at West Virginia University is the Intensive English Program (IEP).

Typically, the IEP at WVU has approximately 70 new international students that arrive each semester. To assist the IEP and help with welcoming the new international students to campus, students from the Communication Studies Departments intercultural communication class have been serving as conversation partners and unofficial tour guides for more than a decade.

The partnership helps international students adjust to a different culture while allowing the American students to experience first hand the benefits and challenges of intercultural communication. The interdisciplinary affiliation is a win-win situation, said Michael Corrigan, intercultural communication instructor.

My students love this part of the course,Corrigan said.They make a new friend from a far off land, do a good deed and receive extra credit. Only in America!

The partnership between the Communication Studies Departments intercultural communication class and the IEP began this semester with an introductory meeting (held Friday, Aug. 22) where the international students were introduced to their American conversation partners.

“I was very impressed by the interactions going on between the American and IEP students at the welcome reception. Sometimes it can be difficult for them to get conversations started, but the large turnout and some ice-breaking activities created by Ben Haymond, the conversation partner coordinator, led to conversations that will continue through out the semester,said Helen Huntley, director of IEP .