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ELP program bonds American, international students

Attending school in a foreign country is challenging, but students are finding ways to make it easier.

The English Language Partner program at the University of Mississippi helps international students improve their English speaking and writing skills while in college.

“The most important aspect of the program is the opportunity that American students have to help these international exchange students improve,” Kelly Slater said.

Slater, 21, started the partnership program officially toward the beginning of the fall semester.

Each international student is paired with an American to meet with and talk to often enough to significantly impact the way they communicate.

Slater said the international students all are at different levels of language mastery, and they all have a genuine desire to learn the language and the chance to be a part of that process is invaluable to both sides.

“I had personally taken time to work with many of the students on these skills, but the need and desire for this among the international students continued to grow,” Slater said. “Because of this, I assembled a group of Americans majoring in English, education, writing and other related fields together to each be paired with an international student to help them systematically improve their English skills. This is a sort of informal ‘program’ and is open to all exchange students that request to have an English Language Partner.”

Ole Miss has a total of 911 international students. This figure includes: exchange, intensive English and degree-seeking students who are classified as international.

Slater said when he recruits American students to be English Language Partners he looks for people who see value in helping and have the desire to help others improve.

Most English Language Partners are majoring in English, education, writing or other related fields, but all majors are welcome.

Slater said the friendships built during this process play a huge and significant role in why it is rising in popularity.

“Relationships between these partners are being built and in some ways that is as significant as the English skills they will practice and learn,” Slater said.

American students participating in the program go beyond expectations by inviting partners home for a meal, taking them on trips to their hometown or inviting them to events they take part in.

“I feel like I gain so much myself from being around these students and learning more about where they came from and how they view the world around them,” Slater said.