Peer tutors provide support, language help
Thao Nguyen, a junior studying neuroscience, was born in Vietnam and moved to Indiana when she was 4. She said she understands the struggle of learning a new language. Now she’s an English tutor at the Asian Culture Center.
The English tutoring program includes 14 tutors that are typically available from noon to 7 p.m. from Monday to Friday. Dillon Smith, a graduate assistant at the ACC said the program is beneficial for students.
“It’s nice to have this kind of program that’s like a bridge for international students,” Smith said.
Smith is in charge of coordinating the tutoring schedules.
Tutoring takes place in the ACC, and students can just walk in to talk with a tutor. Smith said tutors help students understand their projects, converse in English and learn about American culture.
Angela Marchessault, a junior studying information systems, has been a tutor at the center since September 2016. She said she had previous tutoring jobs before, and the cultural aspect drew her to this position in particular.
Marchessault is currently learning Chinese and said she enjoyed visiting China on several occasions in the past.
“It’s great when I go there that people are willing to help me, so I want to show that same willingness to help,” she said.
Some of the tutors said they enjoy learning about other cultures while helping international students learn about American traditions.
For example, when Inchara Raj, a junior studying history, is tutoring, she said she always makes a point to ask her tutees about their cultures to connect with them.
“It helps me help them improve their English,” she said.
Raj said learning about different cultures is the most beneficial aspect of tutoring for her. She said she believes a lot of the information could not even be learned in a class.
Smith said the process to become a tutor is simple. The center looks for native English speakers, and volunteers go through a short orientation process.
From there, tutors develop their own style and adapt to the needs of their clients.
Many of the tutors are already interested or are studying languages when they come to volunteer, Smith said.
The number of students a tutor sees a week varies. There tend to be more tutees at the end of the year when exams and projects are prevalent, Smith said.
“With those that come often, they can develop a relationship,” Smith said. “And when you develop this sort of friendship with them, then you see the most improvement.”
While Marchessault said the support the ACC provides is helpful to many students, she hopes to see IU do more to reach out to international students.
She said many international students often have trouble making friends with American students and believes extending invitations to international students for events would be beneficial because they don’t always have the courage to reach out themselves.
“It would be a great way to give American students a similar interest and open more doors for both sides — for American students to meet with international students and international students to meet with domestic students,” Marchessault said.
To some, like Nguyen, peer tutoring provides more than just language services.
“I’m not only their tutor, someone they only come to when they need help, but I’m someone that they can talk to when they’re feeling lonely,” Nguyen said.
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