Home Campus Rexburg's drop-in connection to the world

Rexburg’s drop-in connection to the world

Many of BYU-Idaho’s worldwide online students are trying to learn English. One campus program brings these students face-to-face with the students in Rexburg for the chance to share a conversation in the English Conversation Lab.

The English Conversation Lab is one of several volunteer labs that allow students to help others improve and practice their language skills. In this lab, the only prerequisite to be a volunteer is the ability to speak English fluently. It’s also the only lab on campus that connects with students worldwide who want a chance to speak English with someone.

“I love it,” said Rosie Palencia, a senior studying psychology. “You get to meet lots of different people with different lifestyles, and you just get to have a good chat.”

Palencia volunteered in the past and is now the coordinator for the English Conversation Lab.

In the lab, volunteers connect with foreign students on one of the various computers and have a conversation with them for 20 minutes or so. The conversation topics can cover just about anything.

“You can talk about the most random things,” Palencia said. “I had a conversation about bees and different insects one time with somebody that wanted to learn how to talk about that in a conversational way.”

She also described talking with people who just want to role-play various scenarios, such as talking in a restaurant.

Beyond technical issues, such as an internet lag, Palencia said having discussions with the people she talks to is pretty smooth.

“Surprisingly, it’s a lot easier to find a conversation flow than I thought it was going to be,” she said. “Once you can find a good theme to talk about, it’s pretty easy to just go back and forth.”

While they haven’t gotten the chance to have any conversations yet, the new volunteers this semester are preparing for this unique opportunity.

“I think it will be nice to meet new people from different situations,” said Anna Hitchcock, a sophomore majoring in general studies. “I feel like living in the U.S. I kind of live in a bubble, so it’s nice to meet other people. It might even give me the chance to improve my English and maybe my confidence too.”

According to the volunteer page on the BYU-I website, volunteers commit to serving two hours each week. Palencia invites students to drop by to see if they like it before deciding.

Those interested in volunteering can visit room 360 in the David O. McKay Library. The lab is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-7 p.m.

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