The UCWbL offers writers opportunities to engage and improve their communication skills. Whether it is through the traditional Face-to-Face appointment or Screencast Feedback, which provides writers with audiovisual feedback on their project, there is no shortage of ways to improve writing and communication processes. Throughout my three years at the UCWbL, I have found one specific form of appointment particularly rewarding. Conversation Partner appointments provide a space for English language learners to improve their spoken English skills. The writer, sometimes with the help and encouragement of the tutor, determines the goals of the appointment and the topics discussed. It is an incredible opportunity to practice spoken English, and sometimes, becomes more.
In January of 2017, I had an appointment with Rafa, a Brazilian student studying at DePaul’s English Language Academy. Rafa has given me permission to write about her appointments at The Writing Center and was enthused that I had so many reflections on our experiences. From January to May, Rafa and I met twice a week for Conversation Partner appointments. Her goals were to improve her pronunciation, learn new words, and better understand U.S. culture. After spending five months meeting weekly, Rafa’s and my friendship grew beyond writing and English language learning. Both Rafa and I learned about cross-cultural communication, long-distance friendship, and the value of pursuing goals with the help of a friend.
Rafa has been back in Brazil for almost a year now, and we still keep in touch regularly. Conversation Partner appointments—and repeating appointments in general—offer the unique opportunity to form bonds beyond the subject matter at hand. Meeting with someone regularly provides an environment that facilitates the fulfillment of long-term goals and learning, both within the realm of communication and in other areas of our lives. By Rafa’s last appointment, we had a lot to reflect on. I recalled some of our previous appointments, our very first included, and provided Rafa with concrete examples of the ways in which her English communication skills had improved. We both agreed that fulfilling her goal to become more proficient in English was incredibly valuable and that the experience of forming a cross-cultural friendship surprised us and had a positive and lasting impact on our lives.
The UCWbL is a space for writers to develop their skills and generate and share knowledge with peers. It is easy to think of The UCWbL only within the context of academia or a university education. However, The UCWbL provides opportunities to learn and grow that extend far beyond DePaul’s campus. Rafa’s experience, along with conversation partners in general, is just one example of the ways in which The UCWbL can permeate other parts of our lives and facilitate learning in unexpected ways.