The student news site of Pierce College in Lakewood, Washington.

Breaking the Language Barrier

Students come together to help each other learn about other languages, cultures, and each other

February 4, 2016

The International Education’s Conversation Partner Program is a quarter-long, one-hour-a-week commitment that culturally benefits both international and domestic students.

Of the 6,000 students that study at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom, 400 are international students from 32 different countries.  Every quarter, the Department of International Education facilitates the program to help integrate international students into life at Pierce.

Breanna Baker, the Activities Coordinator for the Department, said there are usually around 60 to 70 international students who express interest in being paired with a domestic student each quarter.  

During the fall, there are often up to 80 international students.  Unfortunately, it’s there are often not enough domestic students who are able to get involved in the program.

“The reason that [the program] began was because we have so many international students and it would be a way for them to get involved with other students on campus.  For our domestic students, they would be able to interact with our international students,” said Baker.

“It’s a way for students to get an experience without having to hop on an airplane,” Baker said.  

“Everyday, I’m learning something new.  Everyday, there’s a possibility for me to learn something that completely shocks me or changes my world view,” Baker said.  

Every week, the paired conversation partners meet for one hour at a location of their choice and talk.  There is a packet that is provided to everyone involved in the program that lists recommended conversation topics for each meeting that the partners have.

Tammy Berthiaume was spotted chatting with Sehee Kim and Makayla Johnston and said, “We were conversation partners last quarter and we’re going to continue it this quarter.”

Ryoji Moda, an international student from Japan, has participated in the program for two quarters and said that he plans on being involved again.  

He said that he would recommend having a conversation partner to other international students because “it gives you many opportunities to meet with Pierce College students to practice a lot of English.”

“The conversation partners are interested in international students, so I enjoy conversations about each culture including foods and favorite things,” Moda said.   “[International students] are able to form a connection and are able to feel more comfortable at Pierce College as a student,”

Baker said. “It gives them the opportunity to make different relationships and get the most out of their experience here.” The program has been in effect for around 20 years and restarts at the beginning of every quarter.

If you have a conversation partner and would like to submit your experience with the program, please contact Hyun-Soo Seo at

If you are interested in being involved with this program in the spring quarter, visit the Department of International Education or contact Breanna Baker at


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