Foreign students connect through the Language Exchange Program


Image courtesy of City College’s International Student Support Program.

Jenna McMahon, Staff Writer

From in-person to online, the Language Exchange Program (LEP) has continued to operate virtually despite the return to campus.

The Language Exchange Program started in 2005 by the International Education Center and has been active ever since. The program lets students assist each other in learning a new language.

“Currently what I’m doing is creating weekly newsletters for the students because sometimes it gets really awkward,” said sophomore Jinhee Hwang.

Hwang has been running the LEP for a year now. She is the main intern that coordinates and operates the program. Hwang does everything—from managing social media, curating the newsletter, to manually matching up all the students once they have gotten all the participants and volunteers.

The newsletter helps students figure out fun activities or conversation ideas. Hwang said the newsletter is not mandatory, but recommended as a guide since it is available for all students and easy to follow.

Due to COVID-19 the program switched to all online interactions, causing quite a few students to stop participating in the LEP. Hwang said that last year they had over 100 students sign up, but as soon as they found out it was not in-person they lost interest.

“I would definitely say that the pandemic really affected the program’s participants because a lot of what LEP provides is a sense of community,” said Hwang. “When you get to meet your partners in person it’s just way more convenient that way, communication wise as well.”

Within the program, students meet up in pairs and practice speaking the languages they chose to learn before coming to City College. For example, Hwang said if someone is learning Spanish their partner will help them try to have a conversation then vice versa because it is an exchange.

Learning a new language isn’t the only thing the program is beneficial for. The LEP also helps participants meet new friends and make connections around campus, not only with students but faculty as well.

“I think for sure it has helped me to create so many great connections throughout the campus because sometimes when you’re just in school and just doing online it’s hard to make friends,” Hwang said.

The LEP also gives international students an opportunity to teach others about their culture. 

“The main purpose is to let international students feel more welcome to the community and also I would like to give them the opportunity to be proud of their culture and be able to tell other people about their culture,” said student volunteer Emi Aoki.

“My favorite part of LEP is our opening meeting, it’s just so exciting to get to see all these different diverse people come into one space and then we get to know each other,” said Hwang. “They all have different ideas, they have such creative energies which I really appreciate. it just creates a little bit more of a connection versus them just seeing their names on a screen.”

To join the LEP program students can contact Hwang or City College’s international office.