Participants in language exchange program more than double

first_imgAs the USC admissions staff concludes its international recruitment period and shoots for another high enrollment of international students next year, programs geared toward international students are expanding.The International Language Exchange program, which matches foreign students with native-speaking English students to improve both students’ secondary language skills, has increased its participation by 82 percent since it began in fall 2010.“It was difficult to recruit USC volunteers [last year],” said Katie FitzSimmons, a lecturer at the USC Language Academy and the creator of the International Language Exchange Program. “It was easy to recruit international students, but harder to find the USC students to match them with.”FitzSimmons attributed the program’s growth to the use of the USC Housing listserve to advertise.The program aims to help American students become multilingual, while offering international students a “window into a different culture,” according to Kate O’Connor, the director of the USC Language Academy, which runs the program.“The objective is that international students interface closely with USC students to practice English and their home language,” O’Connor said. “Ideally both students will learn from the experience.”After native speakers and language learners are matched, students are free to choose their learning environment.“They can go to the gym together and speak the language, they can see a movie together and talk about it in the language, they can do homework together or meet for coffee or eat lunch and speak the language,” FitzSimmons said. “It’s kind of a structured or guided hangout, you might say. There’s a point or a purpose to the hanging out, but you can use the language as context.”Jackie Kim, a participant in the program and a senior majoring in East Asian languages and cultures, said she felt comfortable speaking Arabic with her native speaker partner.“It’s nice to have someone who you can just talk to, you know, on a one-on-one basis,” Kim said. “You can ask them anything you want. It’s not like there’s a line between teacher and student.”Kim said speaking with her partner has really helped strengthen her skills.“Learning the colloquial version of Arabic … is just very valuable, especially because I’m gonna be abroad next semester and I won’t be able to learn certain phrases and slang words in my classes,” Kim said.Amy Herrmann, a senior majoring in international relations, said the program makes learning Arabic seem less like work.“The program is usually supposed to be one hour speaking English and one hour speaking the language that you’re looking to practice,” Herrmann said. “But me and my partner, Nasser, we end up spending about four or five hours together every week, just sitting and chatting about a whole bunch of different things.”With each incoming class, USC has increased its percentage of international students, said Megan Wang, an associate director of USC admissions.“Fifteen percent of the current freshman class is international students,” Wang said. “This is one of the biggest values we’ve had in years. We hope to maintain this percentage.With more and more students coming from overseas, O’Connor said bridging the gap between foreign and domestic students will help both groups of students in the future.“Domestic students will sink or swim in today’s global market based on their multicultural understanding and capabilities,” she said. “By developing these capabilities, they will have a distinct advantage in the marketplace.”FitzSimmons said the program forges unique connections.“This program really fosters the idea of working together toward the common goal of learning,” FitzSimmons said. “It’s also about knowing that you have more in common than you think you do — that you’re more alike than you are different.”last_img

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