“If you can grow the group 30 percent in just the second year, that is proof we’re on to something,” said Peggy Kilgore, English instructor and faculty head of the Service Station learning village, which houses the program. “I think more and more I’m learning the educational benefits of these pairings.”
More than 200 students have signed up to participate in the program, which fosters intercultural exchanges.
“We had a discussion about Sept. 11, 2001, and an American girl was talking about how everybody in this country knows where they were on Sept. 11,” Kilgore said. “A Saudi student said all Saudis do too. These are teaching moments.”
Graduate students also are getting involved in the program. Kilgore, who coordinates the program with the International Student Affairs Office, has tried to pair them with undergraduates in their major, so they can act as mentors as well as friends.
The group has spawned an English-only conversation group to give the international students an opportunity to practice speaking English. The student-initiated group started meeting last fall and has continued this year.