Connecting the Campus, One Country at a Time

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Over the past decades, Saint Joseph's has significantly increased its diversity efforts, thanks in part to a determined University administration. But one SJU student, junior English and Asian Studies double major Karrin Randle, has taken matters into her own hands by founding an English language conversation group that aims to unite international and local SJU students and, ultimately, foster the understanding of different cultures.

With the support of Ann Green, Ph.D., associate professor of English, and several other faculty members, Randle formed the group after visiting China this summer. "I was inspired in part by a group of Chinese students – who are now in SJU's grad program – that wanted to continue building friendships once they came to the U.S."

The ELS Language Center and the Center for International Programs have helped spread the word about Randle's efforts and directed students to the weekly meetings.

Each meeting involves discussions on various topics pertaining to popular culture or everyday life, and often integrates fun activities, such as playing kickball or sharing music from each person's country of origin. From week to week, the organization has attracted varying numbers of international and traditional day students, but Randle hopes that the "regulars" will carry the torch through next semester and into future academic years.

Although it is called an English language conversation group, Randle insists the goal is not about teaching English. "I make a point of never correcting someone's grammar," she said of the international participants. "I am not as concerned about them learning English as I am with getting people connected," she added.

"My main goal for the group has been to encourage genuine friendships among international and U.S. students; I've heard both groups talk about feeling unable to make connections with the other, so I'm really trying to create a space for that to happen," Randle said.

What started as a way to unite people of different backgrounds became a place for students to shape lasting friendships and learn about diverse cultures. "Everyone there genuinely, passionately wants to learn about each other," Randle said.

According to Ali Al Yami, an ELS student from Saudi Arabia who wishes to eventually study finance in the Haub School, "It has been a good experience. I've made friends with international and SJU students, and it's a great place to practice English."

To learn more or to find out when and where the group meets, Randle can be contacted at

--Sarah Hennessey '07 (M.A.)

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