Global perspectives celebrated in Conversational English Circles

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Students from around the world meet to discuss perspectives

Students can feel comfortable learning English while in a friendly environment

North Dakota State University receives a lot of students who come from abroad. To address the issues that students from other countries go through during their studies abroad, every Thursday at 8:00 p.m. in the Badlands Room of Memorial Union, there is a group that meets called Conversational English Circles (CEC).

“For me, I think it’s that I can really enjoy myself, I can relax totally here.”

Judy Zhu, NDSU student

CEC is an event sponsored by the NDSU English Club where they have informal discussions about anything. On occasion, there is a theme to the meeting like food, holidays, what school was like, etc. However, meetings often lack structure as the conversations move from one thing to the next.

For example, in the conversation that was held on Feb. 6, topics ranged from Valentine’s Day to discussing what Fargo does with all the snow during winter.

The meetings help international students practice speaking English as well as learn about America. Also, U.S. students learn about other countries and what it’s like to grow up and go to school in them. Between both U.S. and international students, differences are celebrated at CEC as it is important to learn to understand each other.

International students, Jinyeong from Korea and Judy Zhu from China, talked about what their favorite thing about studying abroad was. Jinyeong said, “Things like this,” referring to CEC. “I can meet many other people from other countries.”

“For me, I think it’s that I can really enjoy myself, I can relax totally here. In China there is a lot of pressure, even if I’m off work I still can’t feel totally relaxed. But here the people are so nice that I can really relax,” Zhu said. 

An interview with Eunice Johnston, the organizer of the events, gave insight into CEC and on being an international student.

Johnston said the most difficult part for international students new to living in the U.S. are how different classes are taught.  

“In many countries, the instructor lectures and the students take notes–and then take exams. But many of our classes require student participation and sometimes group work, which are different for them,” Johnston said.

Another challenge for international students is the use of American slang in conversation.

“Outside of class, they say that they sometimes have trouble understanding American students because they use slang and unfamiliar idioms, because they speak too quickly, and because they often use a relaxed pronunciation and shorten some words,” Johnston said.

Johnston enjoys learning about new countries and their customs. According to Johnston the best way to do so is learning from people.

“Many times my perspective on something has changed as a result of having talked to someone new,” Johnston said.

“I know that it is hard for students to participate in activities these days. Not only do they have intense class loads, but most also have jobs. But I hope that if we can get some good speakers and some decent weather, more people will come,” Johnson said when talking about the future of CEC meetings.

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