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Integrating and Appreciating Differences

With a growing international presence on campus, student researchers decided to investigate engagement between American students and their counterparts.

Abington international conversation partners make world of difference

The Penn State Abington students - a dozen native English speakers and 12 new international undergraduates - were clearly apprehensive about being paired up for the mandatory assignment. A palpable sense of "otherness," an unseen divide, permeated the classroom at the first group meeting of the International Conversation Partners Project, according to Roxanna Senyshyn. But six weeks made a world of difference. At their final group meeting, the boundaries had dissolved. The sounds of easy conversation permeated the classroom as the students traded stories about celebrating first Halloweens, experiencing Superstorm Sandy and discovering the pleasures of frozen yogurt. "The students initially saw lots of differences among themselves, but now they see the similarities," said Senyshyn, senior lecturer in ESL (English as a Second Language)/English, and Communication Arts and Sciences, said.