English-language learners created global connections with local community

Diana Angelica Medina Puerto (top left), Instructor Kayleigh Graham (top right), and Canadian swimming icon Vicki Keith (bottom center).
Diana Angelica Medina Puerto (top left), Instructor Kayleigh Graham (top right), and Canadian swimming icon Vicki Keith (bottom center).

Story submitted by Ining Chao, Associate Dean, Global Learning & Partnerships

A group of international students enrolled in the Integrated English Online Program (IOEP) participated in an interview assignment to engage with local businesses and community members while sharing their professional and cultural knowledge. This assignment was designed and organized by Kayleigh Graham, their instructor. The other section of this class also participated in the assignment, guided by instructor, Rasha Fahim.

Each student was paired with a local business owner, based on their interests and chosen fields of future employment. Students interviewed a wide variety of people, including Vicki Keith, multiple world-record holder and paralympic swimming coach; Jacob Murray, co-owner and marketing director of Topsy Farms Ltd; Jennifer Baker, pharmacist and pharmacy owner; Cassandra Rendell, owner and operator of The Lodge Coffeehouse, and many other inspiring individuals.

“This was a challenging assignment, as many students were still working on gaining the confidence to interact with native English speakers,” according to Kayleigh. Students were required to reach out to the business owner via email to request an online interview. The students researched their assigned business and field of work in detail, creating an annotated bibliography using APA citation, that allowed them to compose interview questions informed by their research. Once their research was complete, they scheduled the interviews, and lead and conducted the interviews in English.

“The students enjoyed this assignment, as it encouraged them to converse with local community members about a topic they were interested in, increasing their confidence speaking English,” Kayleigh said. “The students excelled, and it will remain as the final project of the IEOP advanced English course next term, to continue to foster collaborative relationships between local leaders in the community and the staff and students at St. Lawrence College.”

The community members were impressed with the students and commented on how they benefited from this exchange, allowing them to learn about the cultures and experiences of the international students, and to appreciate the diverse/different perspectives these students bring to their business.

One of the students, Seungjong Ki, was featured on the Newsletter RealTalk published by LW Realty. “We really enjoyed being interviewed by SJ, and we learned a lot about real estate in South Korea as well! He came very prepared and kept it interesting, and we hope to meet him in person someday to further the discussion. The IEOP program must be helping many new and future Canadians trying to have a new start, and we are so happy to be a small part of it.” said Lynn Wyminga and Lorna Willis.

Here’s what some other participating students and interviewees had to say about the experience:

“I really enjoyed the interview. She had prepared well, was thoughtful and engaged in the conversation and in the learning. I hope some of the messages we discussed will help her as she moves forward with her education and career.” Vicki Keith, Member of the Order of Canada, 16 World Record Holder, Paralympic Swimming Coach

“Interviewing Vicki Keith was amazing because I admire her a lot. I am also a competitive swimmer, so talking to her was like talking to my hero. She truly inspires me to follow my dreams, and I feel so lucky to have interviewed her.” Diana Angelica Medina Puerto, IEOP Advanced Student

“The interview questions got me thinking about Topsy’s place in the community and gave me a moment to reflect on what we have been doing well and what we could do better. Speaking with an English language learner forced me to think clearly about my answers and remove the unimportant details.” Jacob Murray, Marketing Director, Co-Owner, Topsy Farms Ltd.

“Xiao did an excellent job. I was impressed with her language skills and the level of preparedness and enthusiasm she demonstrated during the interview. I’ve been interviewed by professional journalists many times in my career and this interview was on par with some of the more in-depth perspectives I’ve been involved with.” Darlene Martin-Stuart, Artist and Owner of Bijouxbead

“The interview gave me a great opportunity to communicate using professional English. I felt like a real reporter!” Xiaohui Zhu, IEOP Advanced Student

“Speaking confidently to a native English speaker is difficult but leading an interview for a native English speaker is another story. At the beginning I was very shy, but I felt more comfortable as the interview progressed because Dr. Meikle was very nice and easygoing. The process of interviewing a professional chiropractor gave me important information that will help me as I pursue my goals in related studies.” Razieh Barkhordari, IEOP Advanced Student

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