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January 10, 2017 2:41 PM

Program connects international students to Conestoga community

Conestoga’s Student Life team reports an increase in volunteerism has supported growth of the college's English Conversation Partner (ECP) program. Popularity of the program has been increasing annually since its inception in 2012 and it just wrapped up its most successful term yet; during Fall 2016 it connected more than 80 students to conversation partners at the college.

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Students Dean Musukutwa and Taebin Um participated in Conestoga’s English Conversation Partner program during the Fall term. The program pairs a fluent English-speaking student with a student who would like to practise English.

The ECP program matches a fluent English-speaking student with an international student, or any Conestoga student who wants to practise English. The partnership allows English language learners to improve conversational English, connect to others in the college community and become more familiar with Conestoga and life in Canada. The volunteers involved benefit from increased cultural awareness, improved communication skills and the opportunity to meet a fellow Conestoga community member from another part of the world. About 2,100 international students from more than 70 countries are enrolled at the college.

During the 2012-13 academic year the program had 18 partnerships; by 2015-16 it expanded to accommodate more than 180 partnerships. The numbers for 2016-17 are expected to be even higher.

“The success of the ECP program is a testament to the strength of our student leaders who are willing to volunteer their time to ensure the Conestoga community is inclusive and welcoming to everyone,” said Chelsea Winn, Student Life programmer. “It’s also an opportunity for mutual learning -- both sides of the partnership get the chance to learn about a different culture, develop their communication skills, and make a positive contribution to the college community. “

The program is supported by a broad volunteer base that includes students from all schools at Conestoga. College employees have also started to volunteer their time; partners are expected to meet for an hour each week on campus and students involved are eligible for Co-Curricular Record recognition.

During the Fall term Dean Musukutwa, a student in the Mechanical Engineering Technology - Automated Manufacturing program, was matched with Taebin Um, an international Welding and Robotics student.

“My time with Taebin has been one of my favourite and most cherished college experiences,” said Musukutwa. “I have formed a unique relationship with someone that I would not have had the chance to meet if I had not volunteered to be an English Conversation Partner. I learned so much from Taebin and I expect that we are to remain friends even after we finish the ECP program.”

Um, from South Korea, also thought the experience was enjoyable and said it gave him a chance to make a new friend at Conestoga who he could share interests with.

Conestoga’s Student Life Department connects students with meaningful opportunities to enhance their classroom experience, apply their learning, explore their potential, develop personally and professionally, and shape a holistic student experience.

Visit the Student Life website for more information.       

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