Native and nonnative speakers came together for food, games and discussions at the Cross Cultural Connection event hosted by the Women’s Center Tuesday evening.
The Cross Cultural Connection is an add-on to the Language Partners program that the Women’s Center coordinates, said Amina Simmons, graduate assistant at the Women’s Center.
“Language Partners has never really done anything before where they bring all of the people in the program together, “Simmons said.
The event began with people introducing themselves as they ate refreshments. Then, all of the participants played an icebreaker game called telephone. After the game, they broke into small groups according to a colored shape that was placed on their nametags.
The small groups talked about some challenges they faced and some coping mechanisms they used for those challenges.
“We understand whether you are a native English speaker or nonnative English speaker, moving to Columbia, moving to college, moving to grad school — it’s a whole new environment,” Simmons said “We ask people to talk about the things that have been hard for them, (such as) finding a job (and) meeting new friends. Things that both native English speakers and nonnative English speakers can speak to and then we ask them how they cope with them. “
After discussing, each small group presented one challenge and two coping mechanisms to everyone. Some challenges presented were meeting new people and adjusting to a new lifestyle. Coping mechanisms for these difficulties included playing sports and contacting with family and friends.
“I learned that we all sort of have the same fear, whether it’s moving to college or moving to a different country,” junior Steph Musser said. “You can sort of relate to the other person, maybe on a different level, but you can still find that common ground, just being in a new place and being a little uneasy … about a new situation.”
Musser said she is learning Chinese and thought it would be cool having a language partner from China to talk about cultural differences and the differences in the language.
Graduate student Rosaline Lin said she joined Language Partners because she can make friends and her partner may help her with her English ability.
Graduate student Tan Wang also said he would like to make some friends at the event and practice English.
“I talk to people and know some new friends and maybe get some knowledge of different cultures,” he said.
Graduate student Kayla Maassen said she heard about the Language Partners both her undergraduate and graduate years and wanted to do it.
“It’d be a good way to meet new people,” she said.
Simmons said that Cross Cultural Connection allows people who don’t have time for volunteering to be able to serve and that the event is a good way to help the nonnative English speakers.
“This is a very casual, laid back environment for them to work on some of the things they were really nervous about in their classes, such as speaking in front of a lot of people who speak English,” Simmons said. “We found that small groups work really well because if we give them a task in small groups, they get to know each other more intimately.”
Simmons hopes that the event will keep going even after she finishes her masters degree in May 2014.
“This is a really good way for them to have a community and know that they have other people who’re in the program with them and who’re enjoying it,” she said.