1. How does COVID-19 affect my participation in CPP during the Spring 2020 semester? In light of the COVID-19 situation in New York, Baruch College has decided to cancel all club activities on campus and to continue the Spring semester with only online distance learning. To accommodate this situation, CPP will be allowing partners to continue to meet virtually using applications such as FaceTime, Skype, Messenger, etc.

In addition, we will be launching a new initiative: online community engagement via a Discord server. Current partners may join the server via https://discord.gg/pqH3Uqt. You may also find this link in our newsletter.
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2. What should I do to participate? Please fill out the online application form and submit it by the deadline. Within one week of the deadline, you will be contacted by a program administrator with the name, e-mail address, and phone number of your partner. Please contact your partner right away to set up the first meeting.
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3. Where should I meet my partner? We recommend that you choose a very specific meeting point to meet your partner for the first time. For example, a good meeting point would be the Bernard Baruch bench inside the 25th Street entrance of the Vertical Campus building. After you have met, you can go to any comfortable place on or off-campus.
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4. What if I can’t pronounce my partner’s name? Teach your partner how to say and spell your name and ask your partner to help you say and spell his/hers. Write it down and practice saying the name several times. Don’t be embarrassed to ask your partner to repeat as many times as it takes.
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5. What if my partner can’t understand me? Be patient and persistent. Use clarification strategies, such as the following if misunderstandings occur.

Give clarification:
• Say it a different way.
• Give an example.
• Draw a picture.
• Write it down.
• Speak clearly and not too fast.

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6. Are we expected to focus on English mistakes and pronunciation? Try to focus on corrections only if they interfere with understanding and clarity. Too many corrections hinder conversational flow. While the English language can be the topic of conversations sometimes, it shouldn’t be the only topic. Tip: You could set aside part of each conversation (e.g., 15 minutes) to focus on questions related to the English language.
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7. How should I behave to be culturally sensitive? The way you present yourself may shape your partner’s attitudes. Be respectful at all times.

    • Show your interest in your partner by sitting forward and giving your full attention to the conversation.
    • Participate and share the time. Ask questions as well as giving your point of view. If you tend to be a quiet person, push yourself to give your ideas and opinions. If you tend to be a talker, take responsibility to invite your partner into the conversation. Ask “What do you think?” “How about you?” “What’s . . . like in your culture?”
    • Ask if it’s okay. If you’re not sure if a question is culturally appropriate, begin it by saying, “I hope it’s okay if I ask you …” A sincere desire to know is usually appreciated, regardless of the topic.

  • Don’t carry on private conversations with other friends, answer your cell phone, lean back in your chair with your legs stretched out, look at your watch, or gaze off in the distance while you are meeting with your partner. Your partner will notice these behaviors and think you are bored and don’t really care.

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8. What are some conversation topics we can talk about?
The best way to succeed as a Conversation Partner is to be interested in learning from your partner. Have a few general topic ideas in mind for each session. You may need a back-up topic if one fizzles out. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Talk about your home, the members of your family, your upbringing, etc.
  • Compare and contrast birthday traditions, coming of age celebrations, marriage and wedding customs, funeral rites, holidays etc.
  • Inquire about special food, clothing, rituals, beliefs, superstitions and so on associated with each occasion.
  • Discuss and/or demonstrate cultural behaviors for greeting, visiting, tipping, dating, etc.
  • Ask whether your partner is experiencing culture shock and how he/she is adapting to life at Baruch College.
  • Tell each other which places (countries, cities, tourism spots) you have toured and visited.
  • Compare and contrast common holiday observations (New Year, Valentine’s Day, etc.)
  • Discuss other special days, such as national days, holidays and religious celebrations.
  • Discuss what food is served during a traditional/typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • Discuss items in the news related to your countries and regions of origin.
  • Discuss language and translation challenges, alphabets and writing (script or characters), pronunciation, vocabulary-building, etc.
  • Talk about how various emotions are expressed and which of them are culturally and socially acceptable/permitted.
  • Compare nonverbal communication (movements of the hands and body, symbolism of clothing accessories, etc.).
  • Talk about primary and secondary schooling, the ages when children begin their education, the length of the school day and ear, teaching methods and important lessons, and preparations for university.
  • Discuss university life, the lecture system, typical course assignments, workload in your degree program or your favorite course.
  • Discuss what people enjoy doing as a pastime when not working or studying.
  • Instead of meeting just to talk, consider going to an event together (a movie, a play, a concert, a sports event) and talk about it afterward.
  • Consider meeting at a restaurant that serves food from your cultures. Talk about rituals, etiquette/manners, eating utensils, etc. associated with the food.

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9. To whom do I go if there is a problem? If you simply cannot attend a prescheduled meeting, contact your conversation partner directly. If there is other issues, please contact one of the CPP team members.
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10. Where can I download the timesheet?

The timesheet is part of the postcard. Postcards are distributed during orientation at the beginning of the semester. If you didn’t attend face-to-face orientation or you are a returning conversation partner, you can obtain a postcard by emailing baruchcpp@gmail.com.

For more information, see Postcard and Timesheet.

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11. Can I get volunteer hours for participating in the program? No, This program is not volunteer-based and cannot be used for hours.

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Adapted from:

University of Iowa. (n.d.). Campus conversation partners. Retrieved from http://clas.uiowa.edu/files/esl/Tips%20for%20meeting%20with%20ESL%20students.pdf
Memorial University. (2012). Conversation partner handbook. Retrieved from https://www.mun.ca/esl/conversation