Volunteer as a Conversation Partner for IESL

Conversation Partners is an opportunity that pairs students in the Intensive English as a Second Language (IESL) program with more proficient English speaking members of the Michigan Tech community. The program is open to students, faculty and staff. Participants commit to one-hour a week of one-on-one informal conversation by signing a contract with the IESL program for one semester. The contract commits them to meet their partner in public places on campus for a minimum of one hour a week.

IESL is offering this opportunity again for the fall semester; consider giving an international student an hour of your time. It makes an enormous difference.

How the program works: 

  1. Interested students, faculty, and staff members may download and complete a form
  2. IESL matches students with participants. The program makes every effort to match people of the same gender though sometimes this may be difficult. IESL will always check with volunteers before matching them with someone of the opposite gender.
  3. IESL introduces the conversation partners to each other at an initial meeting. Both parties sign a contract stating that they will meet on campus once a week for the duration of the semester.
  4. Though partners meet independently, Listening and Speaking teachers will often check in with students.
  5. If there are any concerns, we ask that volunteers contact the IESL program as soon as possible.

Why participate in this opportunity? As a member of the Michigan Tech community, there are many reasons why you should consider and commit to being conversation partner. Here are some of them:

  1. Make a new friend and create a potentially rewarding friendship
  2. Help an international student understand American culture and society
  3. Experience the contemporary global landscape from the unique perspective of one of our international students
  4. Develop deeper cultural awareness and understanding by through a sustained conversation with someone from a different country
  5. Participate in promoting rewarding cross-language relations and cross-cultural dialogue on campus

The role of a Conversation Partner: As a partner your main responsibility is to offer your IESL student conversation practice. At times you may have to explain English language points but we are not asking you to be an English as a Second Language teacher. The goal is for your conversation partner to have plenty of speaking and listening practice.

The IESL program can provide ideas for your weekly meetings at the program’s preliminary meeting. Those who have participated have found the experience rewarding. We urge others to give it a try. Contact IESL with questions at iesl@mtu.edu.


(This article originally appeared in Tech Today.)

Student satisfaction with Information Technology at MTU

Yilin Wang is from Beijing, China and will be studying Electrical Engineering now that he’s completed his English language classes in IESL. He has been in the United States since August 2014.


In recent years, it becomes a common phenomenon that students study on campus by using high-tech devices. The trend of university students using laptop and smart devices for academic use is increasing. So, the university should pay attention to the campus IT service to assist students’ academic study. Based on further research, we assumed that most of the MTU’s students living on campus have more demands for better qualified information technology service, while the off campus students have comparatively higher satisfaction with MTU’s IT service.

Usually students tend to ignore online questionnaires and delete them. So, we handed out the questionnaires and recycled them quickly. Our research subject, IT service, consisted of 5 small main parts: wireless, cable internet, computers and IT help desk at MTU, and we classified all the students into 3 groups: students living in Wads, East Mcnair, and off-campus. After collecting data, we use Excel to graph and make tables to help us compare and contrast easily, and then discover the conclusion hidden in the statistic. Based on the data, which statistic and check by us, there is no huge difference for the levels of satisfaction with MTU’s IT service between students living on campus and off campus. Student living off campus less likely to ask for help from IT help desk.

The result of our survey disproves our hypothesis. On campus students and off campus students have similar satisfaction about the Wi-Fi speed and signal coverage. In addition, although there are differences in terms of satisfaction about the IT help desk between students who live in Wads and students who live in McNair, the satisfaction between on-campus and off-campus is similar. There is less influence on satisfaction due to different purpose for using Wi-Fi.

Some interesting conclusions. The first finding is that compared to other universities, the satisfaction about IT in MTU, which is near 60%, is not very high. Indiana University has a high satisfaction with IT which reaches 90%. However, compared to a MTU survey completed in 2011 which shows that satisfaction is 50%, the satisfaction is higher now. One possible is that the IT department has improved their serves during 4 years. The second finding is that although students like to complain about the Wi-Fi to their friends, they seldom feed this negative information back to the IT department. One possible reason is that the Wi-Fi is not so bad that can’t be borne. Another possible reason is that students are too lazy to tell the IT department or are self-conscious about their English or IT skills. The third finding is that students seldom use cable internet.


How I Overcame Culture Shock in the USA

Karrar Takleef Alofari is a Mechanical Engineering graduate student from Al Najaf, Iraq. He took Reading and Writing classes as an Intermediate student. He has been in the United States since August 2014.

culture shock


Nowadays, getting knowledge is not limited by time or place, many students emigrate where they can attend excellent universities. In this new environment, students encounter many problems and their most common one is culture shock. It is a psychological issue that students have, when they are surprised with a new and different culture. The acculturation process is varied from one student to another, but in general it contains four stages.

The first stage is the most exciting one, in which students are enthusiastic to explore the new place. They are eager to know the changes in their environment. For example, when I came to UP, I was wondering how the architecture of Houghton or Hancock was unique. Also, I was wondering about culture, such as types of social life, habits, language or behaviors that people had. Therefore, the diversity and difference in culture and environment make students very exhilarated to inspect them.

After some weeks, people’s experiences turn unpleasant. During the second stage, students are shocked with the new culture that is different and unfamiliar. In this period students feel anxious, stressed out, and depressed. Furthermore, they feel that it is difficult to adjust with the new culture, and they are not confident to make decisions.

In the next stage, students become more realistic and heal from the shock for three reasons. The first is that they try to adjust and change their ideas. For instance, I am attempting to accept the situation that I am in and focus on my aims. Additionally, I am more optimistic and conscious to adapt with the new culture.

Finally, students are adjusted to the new culture. In this stage, they feel more satisfied and able to accept this new environment. Moreover, they have gained experiences through earlier stages that make them more confident and able to solve their problems.

All in all, culture shock is the most common problem when students travel abroad, where they go through several stages; it begins with the honeymoon stage and continues with the negative stage, adjusting stage, and finally the more stable stage. However, each stage takes time, but we can reduce the time of the stages if we become more familiar with the new environment before travelling. This will better prepare us to adjust.

My experience with culture shock

Hashim Naji Azooz Al Mahmud is a Mechanical Engineering graduate student from Al Najaf, Iraq. He took Reading and Writing classes as an Intermediate student. He has been in the United States since August 2014.


Many people have the tendency to experience traveling to other foreign countries for several reasons such as for studying, working, or tourism. Some of them successfully adapt to this situation, but others face some difficulties. Culture shock would be the most important problem that they may encounter. According to my experience as an Iraqi student studying at MTU since August, 2014, the process of culture shock involves three significant stages: honeymoon, rejection and regression, and adaptation.

Honeymoon is the first stage before culture shock during which I experienced several positive feelings. I felt enthusiastic and surprised about what I explored or encountered in Houghton. First, I enjoyed the physical aspects. For example, I enjoyed the new environment, nature, buildings, and facilities. In addition, I was intrigued by the new social aspects such as people’s attitudes, manners, social customs, and even food. Unfortunately, this period did not last for long time.

After approximately six weeks, the second stage, rejection and regression period, started to gradually emerge combined with several negative symptoms. First, I began to feel that I am unacquainted with new situations. I felt unaccustomed with everything that contrasts with my culture, traditions, and habits. Next, I entered a disorienting state. This state usually involves some negative symptoms such as an undue anxiety, lack of sleep, and bad temper. The length and severity of this stage differs from one to another depending on people’s ability to adapt. However, some people fail to overcome such experience and they go back home, while others gradually overcome the crisis and move to the next stage.

The final stage is the adjustment or adaptation period. I will summarize some necessary advices that newcomers should follow in order to overcome culture shock. To begin with, students need to reorganize their lives and investigate the reasons which negatively affect them. For instance, they need to enhance their communication with other students through attending social occasions and events. Such behavior helps them to make new friends and develop their language. It helps them to defeat the isolation state and raise their spirit and vitality. In addition, they need to practice some outdoor activities periodically during their free time. If newcomers follow the preceding two steps, they can adapt living abroad.

To sum up, culture shock is one of the most important challenges that newcomers, especially international students, might encounter. It includes three periods; honeymoon, refusal and retraction, and recovery. Each period has its own features while the second period is the most important one since it represents the crossway between adaptation and failure. Therefore, in order to overcome this situation and maintain normal life, newcomers should be aware of such important issues. They can get benefits from previous experiences in order to live successfully.

My Life in the US and Culture Shock

Yuzhou Tang is from Hunan, China and will be studying Electrical Engineering now that he’s completed his English language classes in IESL. He has been in the United States since August 2014.


As an international student, culture shock has been a big problem for me. To overcome culture shock, it is necessary to understand how culture shock develops. There are four strategies of culture shock (Winkelman, 1994).

The first phase is the honeymoon phase. When I came here, I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep. I believed that I would have a pleasant experience in that semester. Every aspect of the environment could arouse my curiosity. That is the reason why I always liked to take photos of different food and different architectures.

As time went by, I was told that issues are not always what they imagine. It was the time that the second stage, the culture shock phase, began. I started to feel anxious, and what fascinated me at the start lost its attraction. The differences made me uncomfortable. In the dining hall, I couldn’t find suitable food. I really missed my traditional cuisine. In addition, the bad weather made me crazy. Moreover, I found that some behaviors of local people were illogical.

I was aware that many people cannot stand the shock, so they go back to their homeland; while other people begin with the adjustment phase. I tried to get used to the local environment. Although still complaining and feeling worried, I tried to tell myself everything would be fine.

Now, I understand that the American culture and my own culture are just different. I don’t feel nervous anymore. In addition, I’m use to the lifestyle of native. For example, I start learning what I should say in a special condition and what I should do to express their emotion.

However, a true process of overcoming the culture shock is not as easy as we imagine. There are some strategies which were worked for me. First, I tried to keep a positive attitude. Although feeling nervous, I kept telling myself it is just different, and the condition will improve. Then, I knew learning language and culture are essential, which have positive influence on each other. The best way to learn language and culture is joining a group, which is why I have taken part in clubs and studying communities.

A special place for me

Xing Chen is a High Beginning level IESL student. He is a Management Information Systems major from Beijing, China. He has been in the United States since August 2014.

Test picture #1

The very beautiful scenery of the TongZiHe, the moat of The Forbidden City (built in 1406 to 1420), is not only witness to the history of China but it was also part of my growing up. It watched me grow up. In the front of the Forbidden City is the grand Shenwumen which is the North Gate of The Forbidden City. It was exclusively for members of the royal family to enter and leave the palace. The last emperor of China left the palace through this gate. I would pass through here every day when I studied in middle school. The calm river around the Forbidden City was used to protect it because it could slow down the army attacking the palace. Near the moat, there is a high brick pile wall which is the second line of defense of the Forbidden City. There is a very beautiful turret on the corner of the wall which people used to look out at the situation of the enemy in ancient times. It is an incredible design, so in some ways, it is a landmark building of The Forbidden City and also for Beijing. There is a sequestered path between the high wall and the river. On both sides of the path, there are a lot of graceful willows, a flat lawn, some stone tables and benches. In the center of the city, it is difficult to find a quiet place for a walk. Whenever I was here for a walk, I could always forget my troubles and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere and antique surroundings, so this is a special place for me.



An estate park in China

Xinyu Wang(Evan) is a High Beginning level IESL student. His major is Physics. His hometown is Shanghai, China and he has been at Michigan Tech since August, 2014.


My home in China is an apartment in a housing estate. I had a lot of good memories because of a gorgeous park in it where I played. Firstly, there was a long gravel road between an artificial lake and a huge lawn. At the lakeside, I could see a lot of foot-long goldfish in the lake. Sometimes, I took some food to feed them, and a lot of fish scrambled for food. There was a bench next to the lakeside, and I always took some books and sit on it to read for whole afternoons. There was an artificial waterfall behind the lake, and an artificial mountain under it having a cave and a real maze in the cave. When I was child, I always played in it with my friends. Farther down the gravel road was a basketball court where I played basketball with my friends or classmates every weekend. Beside the basketball court there was a tennis court. When I played tennis with my father, I always lost the game. On the great lawn, many households brought their dogs to play, and I like to play with them, so I am always on the lawn. Thus, my estate park is fascinating, come and relax with me in my special place.

Jiuzhaigou: My special place

Kezhen Xu is from China and will be studying Electrical Engineering after he completes his English language classes in IESL. He has been in the United States since August 2014.


Jiuzhaigou is an ancient place in China, and it has some splendid views that make me remember the place. I went there with my parents, and we saw many shockingly natural views in here. Jiuzhaigou is famous for plateau lakes, polychrome waterfalls, colorful forests, snowy mountains and Tibetan features. For me, the interesting things are plateau lakes and waterfalls. The Xiniu Lake, one of the plateau lakes, is 1.2 miles long and 60 feet deep, and it is the largest lake in Jiuzhaigou. The water in the lake is so limpid. When the sun shines on it, it can reflect colorful light and the shadows of the trees. At the southern side of the lake is a forest in which there is a rock bridge spanning over the lake. There is a narrow stream near the bridge, and the water from the stream is sweet and refreshing to taste. During the rainy season, the waterfalls in Jiuzhaigou become larger. Visitors often view an amazing rainbow that appears in the water “curtain” while the sun shines upon it. I went there several years ago, but I still remember the breath taking views. There is no pollution, and the people live an original life. I like the environment there that can make people feel relaxed because of fresh air, water and exquisite view.

My favorite park

Yaqi Yang is a High Beginning level IESL student. She is a Civil Engineering major from Hunan province, China. She has been in the United States since August 2014.


When I was a little girl, my mother often took me to a place called Yi xin Park. This is the only park in our small village, and I spent a lot of fish-watching time there in my childhood. This park has a stone arch connected with a stone walkway which surrounds a pond. In the summer, grapevines creep over the stone trellis and the large pond has massive rock pile in its middle. There were many skipping stones from the walkway to the massive rock pile. I was confident that fairies lived in there. In my memory, we went to this park every day after dinner. I always took some leftover rice to feed the fish. Sometimes, I even did not want to eat too much because I worried about if I would have enough to feed those fish. When I threw rice into the pond, these fish surfaced through the water to compete with each other for rice. I really liked to watch the hundreds of fish which appeared suddenly like magic. The calm water became noisy quickly when they wriggled their bodies and splashed the water. How vivid the pond looked when the fish came to eat and what a magnificent scene!


My special place

Hashim Naji Azooz Al Mahmud is a Mechanical Engineering graduate student from Al Najaf, Iraq. He is taking English language classes as a High Beginner. He has been in the United States since August 2014.

The Great Kufa Mosque

What makes a place have a special effect on people? What attracts and connects people to it? The intuitive answer for this question is there are a variety of reasons that make people strongly connected to some places and these reasons may distinctly differ from one person to another. However, here are some reasons that make Al Najaf city very important for many Muslims, and my ever special place in this world. To begin with, Al Najaf is one of the most important cities in Iraq. It is located about 100 miles to the south of Baghdad, the capital of Iraq. In addition, Al Najaf has a great historical and civilized legacy because it was an important kingdom in the region about 1500 years ago. This kingdom was called Al Manathera according to the king named Al Nu’man Ibn Al Monther. After that, about 1400 years ago, it became the Capital of the Islamic State during the succession of Imam Ali Bin Abi Talib, the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. Al Kufa was the name of that capital, and two of the most important religious monuments which still exist there today are Al Kufa Great Mosque and Imam Ali Shrine. They were built according to the Islamic architectural engineering, so visitors can enjoy seeing the beautiful structures which have precious details like golden domes and minarets which enchant the viewers. I visited those places many times; they have spiritual influence and terrific power made me feel hopefulness to prevail life problems and concerns. In conclusion, Muslims consider Al Najaf a sacred place and it hosts many of pilgrims yearly. It plays a precise role in supporting the Islamic community and keeps its continuity. This role is achieved through many religious schools and seminaries which are attended by many students from different Islamic countries.