New Conversation Program brings cultures together

Samantha Weber, Managing editor

Mercyhurst has implemented a new Conversation Assistance Program for students. The department reached out to several international students who speak a primary language other than English. The International Stu-dent Office and the Department of World Languages partnered together to create this opportunity for students to take advantage of. “We began offering this pro-gram as a way to expose our student’s authentic speech from native speakers of the target lan-guage. We also wanted them to have the opportunity to learn about culture firsthand from in-ternational students,” Sherez Mohamed, Ph.D., assistant professor of Spanish, said. The World Language Department sees the program as an opportunity for domestic and international students alike. “We wanted international stu-dents to have the opportunity to share their language and culture with students, as the purpose of having international students on campus is not just for them to learn about US culture; but rath-er, it’s highly beneficial that we learn about where they come from as well,” Mohamed said. This program offers a variety of different activities that students can take advantage of including tutoring, conversation tables, and communicative classroom activities. Some courses might require students to attend a few of the conversion tables to better help students work on small speak in their language of study. Mohamed sees great value in having an international student work with an American student. “They can offer authentic cul-tural and conversation experienc-es to their counterparts from the US,” Mohamed said. “They can help develop the development of listening and speaking skills.” Valentine Budin, a sophomore cyber security major, is from Paris, France, and her primary language is French. She was recruited by Douglas Boudreau, Ph.D. associate professor of French, to help other students who are learning French get to practice it in a more casual setting. “I took the spot quickly because I was looking for this kind of job on campus,” Budin said. “Indeed, I wanted to share my culture and knowledge about my country.” “I’m looking forward to is being able to help others expand their knowledge on more than one different dialogue of Spanish,” Another member of the program, Yisela Reyes, said. “There is much more to get out of these programs than just helping other students improve their language skills. I also hope to educate foreign lan-guage learning students on dif-ferent cultures and being able to cross-cultural connect.” The program is also a way for students to make new friends. “I wanted to meet new stu-dents,” Budin said. And there is no better way to do that than to meet people who speak a language not commonly spoken in the United States and bond over the language aspect that everyone has in common. Mohamed hopes her students can get a lot out of this program.“I hope all students make cross-cultural connections, ex-pand their horizons, build friend-ships and of course I hope the US students develop their foreign lan-guage skills.” The Conversation Assistance program is great for world language students to get involved in. To find out more information about the program or to get involved contact, Dr. Sherez Mohamed, at