Ryoko finds a connection beyond language through the Conversation Partner Program

Student Life, Student Stories

Conversation Partner Program is an opportunity that MLC offers for students to connect with native English speaking volunteers in Ann Arbor. Ryoko, a MLC student from Japan, met Whitney through this program about 9 months ago.

Ryoko, a nurse who specializes in emergency and disaster nursing, came to Ann Arbor for her husband’s studies at University of Michigan last year. When she started learning English at MLC as an intermediate student, she found it challenging to keep up with conversations in English. “So I talked with Kyle, Student Service Associate at MLC, and he taught me about the Conversation Partner,” she said. “Kyle paired me with Whitney, who is very nice and tries to understand my imperfect English. Conversations with her make me feel more comfortable speaking in English.”

Whitney is a college student at University of Michigan, majoring in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. She says she likes the mentorship and loves to meet new people. “My mother is from Japan. As I have not met many Japanese people outside of my family, I appreciate this opportunity to learn different perspectives of Japanese. I enjoy talking with Ryoko, sometimes using some Japanese words!”

However, having Japanese roots is not the only reason why Ryoko and Whitney have formed such a good relationship. Since they are both researchers, they enjoy sharing their research progress despite the difference in their specialized field. Ryoko currently works as a research assistant at the School of Nursing, University of Michigan. “Because this university has such rich resources, I want to make the most of it. Now I am working on two projects related to disaster nursing at the university. I am very excited about the projects.”

Ryoko (second from left) and Whitney (third from left) at Ann Arbor Marathon event

As conversation partners, they have been meeting once a week to have coffee at a cafe. “We like to try new cafes downtown and enjoy a cup of coffee there,” Ryoko said. As they continued to meet, they also found they had another thing in common. Ryoko and Whitney are both runners, and they joined the Ann Arbor 10K marathon relay together last year. “Ryoko participated in the event with her husband, and I did with my boyfriend. I like the way our friendship expands like this, going beyond the connection just between the two of us,” Whitney said.

Whitney mentions that she did not feel that she was working as a volunteer. “I just enjoy the friendship outside of college. It is nice to have a friend when I am away from my home and family.” “Whitney is really a good friend and she helps me build my confidence tremendously,” Ryoko continues. “I think many people who learn a second language need a place where they feel safe and comfortable to practice the language. For me, fortunately, that place is already provided.”

For more information about the Conversation Partner Program, please visit the webpage here: https://www.englishclasses.com/about-us/conversation-partner-volunteers/