In an attempt to create more successful matches between participating students, the Office of Global Services has redesigned the Language Exchange Program to allow participants to play an active role in selecting their language partners.

LEP connects students with different language backgrounds to allow them to hone their skills in their desired language. Before this year’s changes, the OGS matched participants without considering their input. Now participants will provide more detailed information through an online profile and will have the chance to pick a language partner based on common interests or an ideal age range.

“I think our vision was always to give participants a little more control over the matching process just because before people would just put in an application through a Google form and then we would do the matching manually just reviewing applications,” International Student Adviser Emily Donnelly said. “We found that while that worked, ideally, people would be able to match up together based on common interests or availability or location.”

Donnelly said that she hopes that transitioning to a more interactive approach will create a greater sense of community among LEP participants. After applying to the program, students are able to post information about themselves on an online network that other participants can view.

“I’ve already noticed kind of looking at the posts that people have put, it kind of requires people to engage more in the forum and in the language exchange community,” Donnelly said.

The change was in part made to avoid compatibility problems that some participants faced, often due to lack of common interest or age difference.

“I think that allowing people to find other partners who are more compatible will increase the success of matches and, I would hope, increase the longevity of the relationship that they are establishing and in turn increase their language learning as well,” Donnelly said.

The increasing number of international students on campus over the past few years also created logistical problems within the program because of increased demand for the program.

“We’ve got to the point where we didn’t have the capacity to handle a lot of the requests so I think it probably started with 20 or 30 students and at that time the manual matching worked great, way back when. But just as the international population at Georgetown has grown and the interest in language exchange has grown, it has become more in demand,” Donnelly said.

Callie Flanagan (COL ’17), who participated in LEP last year, was paired randomly through the previous system and said that she and her partner got along well.

“I feel like there are pros and cons to both. I think with the random match, it can either turn out really well or turn out pretty badly,” Flanagan said. “Mine turned out really well. I really liked the girl and when her family came up from Venezuela we all went out to dinner … so we ended up being pretty good friends.”

Flanagan said that she thinks that the new system runs the risk of spurring disappointment among participants.

“I think that there’s more of a chance for disappointment because you’re like ‘I chose this person and it just didn’t turn out the way I wanted’ whereas if you don’t know then you are like ‘it happened, that’s okay,’” Flanagan said.

The new system offers a potential solution for those who have had little in common with their partners.

“I had a great 30-minute conversation with this one girl from Venezuela and it was great, a lot of introductory stuff, a lot of Spanish I material … but after that it was sort of like ‘what do we talk about now?’ Either we are clicking and we just became best friends or we kind of forced ourselves to be here and we don’t have much to talk about,” Patrick Denenea (COL ’17), who participated in the program last year, said.

The new system can also reduce the anxiety that could come with the program. Renee Slawksy (GRD ’16) has not participated in LEP before but said that the new format for selection partners has increased her interest in the program.

“You have more control over it, which might lead to less anxiety and less nervousness about who you are going to be talking with for an hour,” Slawsky said.

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