Conversation Partners Program: Partner Profile
The Conversation Partners Program (CPP) is a volunteer program that matches international graduate students who want to practice their conversational English skills with a member of the BC community. The purpose of this program is to help connect people across the university for conversation, cultural exchange, and friendship.
Ellen Zamecnik-Bowley and Taeuk Moon can claim the title for the longest-standing conversation partners—not only have they been meeting since the Conversation Partner Program (CPP) started in 2009, they have also consistently met for once a week for nearly two and a half years.
As a staff member at BC, Ellen assists the grad student population in her position and had been curious about the chance to interact with a grad student in an informal setting. After hearing about CPP through a campus email, she was paired with Taeuk from South Korea, a law student who was interested in improving his language skills and expanding his social interactions in preparation for job-seeking.
Immediately they connected with their passion for sports, in particular Red Sox and BC sports. As a New York state native, Ellen recalls how knowledgeable he was about American baseball, and so they enjoyed discussing the differences between American and Korean baseball games; they and their spouses even attended a Red Sox game together.
In addition, both appreciate travel and share stories of trips they have taken with their spouses, some of them to the same destinations. They have also discussed the differences between various foods, including Korean and American versus Slovak, Ellen’s ethnic background. Not to mention, both of their families adopted kittens within weeks of each other.
While reflecting on her time with her conversation partner, Ellen stated, “I learned that I could make a friend of a student not only much younger than me, but of a different culture. I learned that we are not so different at all.”
At their first meeting they discussed social interactions and how they should address each other, since she was the elder of the two. Ellen asked him to call her by her first name and to not worry about bowing his head as a greeting.
Taeuk mentioned what a good listener Ellen is and how interested she is in learning about other cultures. Ellen remarked how impressed she is with his ambition and his devotion to his church.
Both agreed that the best aspect of CPP is the fact that they could discover common interests and develop a friendship with someone from another culture.
Ellen plans to attend Taeuk’s graduation ceremony, and Taeuk looks forward to starting his job soon. Taeuk credits the Conversation Partner Program for helping him develop the skills necessary to secure a job in the U.S.
Even though Taeuk is graduating this May, they still plan to keep in touch and meet occasionally to catch up, especially about the Red Sox.
If you are interested in joining the Conversation Partner Program, please check our website. We will start accepting applications online in Fall 2012.