The slang, idioms and nonverbal gestures prevalent on college campuses can make learning English extremely difficult for international students.
A discussion group sponsored by the Multicultural Student Services Center and the International Services Office aims to ease students into life in America and at GW.
The Conversation, Communication and Culture Group is in its third year on campus, said ISO Director Joseph Leanord. The group familiarizes international students with American cultural norms and helps fine-tune English speaking skills. Meeting every Wednesday from 3 to 4 p.m. at the MSSC townhouse, C3 draws between 15 and 25 students on a regular basis, Leanord said.
“I think (C3) allows for cross-cultural exchange in a safe environment where students are not afraid to open up,” said Joanna Stanislawa Karwacka Krantz, the International Student and Scholar Program Coordinator and advisor.
The budget for C3 increased by $1,000 this year, which Krantz said will allow ISO and MSSC to “subsidize things, sponsor more events” and allow students “to visit a lot more in the city.”
Krantz said she could not comment on the organization’s budget prior to the $1,000 increase, adding that spending for the program has varied each year since its inception.
Although most of the attendees are international students, the group also draws a core group of American students who, Krantz said, attend to create dialogue and perspective on what D.C. has to offer.
The weekly C3 discussions are mediated by Krantz and emphasize the benefits of meeting interesting people and making new friends outside the meetings.
“I try to tailor (discussion) to the people who are there,” Krantz said, adding that “I always want my group to be as diverse as possible.”
One issue often discussed at the beginning of the year is food because it is so different in D.C. compared to the students’ home countries.
MSSC Director Michael Tapscott said improving language skills and developing a sense of what language is appropriate in what settings are primary goals and benefits of attending the C3 meetings.
“You can learn another language, but it’s the nuances and philosophies of the language that let you apply it,” Tapscott said.
Specific topics to be discussed this semester include eating and tipping in the U.S., friendships and dating, culture shock and adjustment. In addition, students will celebrate various holidays and make cultural presentations throughout the year.
Aside from the weekly discussions, C3 hosts events that take interested students off campus and into the city and surrounding states.
Last year’s outings included a trip to Annapolis, Md., a bike ride to the Mount Vernon campus, a trip to a Chinese New Year celebration and a potluck dinner where group members bought or prepared their favorite dishes from home and shared them with the group.