INTO OSU students learn English by volunteering

INTO studentsAs “Jojo” Kittiya Laophanich sat cross-legged on the floor of the Boys & Girls Club gymnasium, she leaned forward toward a group of little girls, put her hands up to her ears and said, “Jojo says, ‘Touch your ears!’”

With a fit of giggles, the girls hurried to touch parts of their faces other than their ears. Jojo and her teaching partner, “Chris” Che Lee, were teaching the girls games from their home countries, Thailand and Taiwan, respectively. This time it was an opposite version of Simon Says.

Both Chris and Jojo are INTO Oregon State University students who are in Corvallis to learn English before they pursue degrees in an American university.

INTO OSU was established in 2008 as a public/private partnership. The program aims to attract international students, help them learn English and provide tools and support for academic success.

A new INTO class, English through Volunteering, was created by Kristi DuBois, an INTO instructor who has partnered with several Corvallis nonprofits.

“The goal of the class is to develop the students’ English skills while also increasing their awareness of social and environmental issues,” DuBois says.

Maken “Veronica” Shabila is from China and has been with INTO for two years. She is also planning on pursuing an MBA, perhaps at Oregon State.

“When I do volunteering, I can learn how native speakers really speak and learn a lot of slang,” she says. Although working at the Linn-Benton Food Share gave her the most practice with her language skills, she says the Boys & Girls Club was the most fun. She’s been gaining a lot of cultural insights as well.

“I didn’t know how the food share program worked,” she says. In China, there are volunteer opportunities, but they’re not as readily accessible to college students. So she was happy to have the chance to participate in Corvallis and see how the program serves the community.

Meanwhile, Corvallis youngsters are benefiting as well, learning new games, new songs and making new friends.

“It takes 20 hours on a plane to get to our country,” Jojo tells a wide-eyed audience. Distances may be great, but games and laughter are making it seem like a very small world in the Boys & Girls Club gym.

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