Friday, January 18, 2019

Intercultural Social Committee

Intercultural Social Hours Administrative Leadership Committee members, left to right, are Julie Breuer, Amanda Merck, Allison Norris, Maureen Martin, and Ellen Overholtzer.

Pharmacy students at the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy have started a low-stakes conversation group to talk about culture and improve their communication and English language skills.

The group—called Intercultural Social Hours—invites confident English speakers and English language learners alike to meet regularly for an hour to discuss cultural topics in a fun, small-group setting. Students whose first language is not English are able to brush up on the language in a casual environment, while gaining skills that prepare them to better talk to patients.

The regular social hour allows English language learners to practice the language consistently and gain confidence with it that they carry back into their classrooms and the community. Native and near-native English speakers, meanwhile, have the chance to become more culturally aware, which can translate into better interactions with patients from different societal backgrounds.

All participants build intercultural skills while sharing late afternoon refreshments. They have the chance to grow their network and networking abilities, while learning about other cultures.

The college’s initiative spun off from a similar program at the UI’s Rhetoric Department’s Conversation Center. The center encourages students of all nations to engage with each other in productive conversations in which they strengthen their communication skills and broaden their understanding of different cultural perspectives. As both international and domestic students practice their communication skills at the center, they connect with their larger communities and encourage a richer exchange of culture on campus.