West Valley College ESL Department

International Partners Program

Being among people from another culture can be frustrating, confusing, and lonely. Whether you speak English fluently or English is your second language, the International Partners Program can help you to...

  • increase your confidence in dealing with unfamiliar situations

  • learn ways to talk to anyone about anything

  • develop your ability to take risks

  • strengthen your sense of humor

  • speak with people from California and around the world - Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East and island nations.

  • prepare for a job with a multinational company

What is the International Partners Program (IPP)?

partners The International Partners Program is an on-campus international student exchange program available to all West Valley College students. The program was developed by teachers in 1993 to help American and international students to get to know one another better. It is similar to a pen pal service; however, students actually meet their "pen pal" face-to-face. Students are matched according to their weekly schedules and interests. Partners meet each other at times that are convenient for both of them, about one hour each month (minimum = four hours per semester). Many West Valley instructors give extra credit for participating in the program.



How do I get an international partner?

Contact the coordinator, am.wasserbauer@wvm.edu, directly by phone (408) 741-2486, or in LA 4D at West Valley College. Fill out an application form. Once you are matched with a partner, the coordinator will contact you with information about your international partner (name, age, interests, phone number, best time to call and a brief letter of introduction).

What should I do when I meet my international partner?


That depends on you and your international partner. Most students spend the first hour sitting in the Viking Den or cafeteria and just talking. They talk about everyday things like family, school, work, hobbies, and other interests. They share pictures of their family and friends and learn new words or expressions in their partner's language. When they meet a second time, many students like to:

  • go off campus, relax, and talk at a cafe 
  • compare food in the U.S. with food from other countries
  • visit an ethnic grocery store or restaurant
  • visit a bookstore together
  • take a walk in a park
  • go shopping or sightseeing together
  • play soccer, hacky-sack, ping pong, frisbee or other sport together
  • try something new, like indoor rock climbing!


Comments from IPP Participants 

International Student Perspectives:

"I don't feel nervous anymore when I speak English."

"I feel more comfortable talking with Americans now."

"I can speak English a lot [better] than before."

"I met my partner at the school cafeteria and coffee shops at convenient times after school. The program gave me a good chance to talk with a native speaker and understand American culture."

"My partner was so open-minded! I didn't have to hesitate to start a sentence."

"I learned some American slang and [more about the] young people's culture."

"I got along very well with my American partner because both of us are married and we have a lot of things in common. We talked about our culture, family and our foods. I think this is a great program to [become] familiar with people from other cultures and to find good friends."

American Student Perspectives:

"I feel more comfortable starting conversations with people from other cultures [now]."

"I am able to understand people with accents better."

"I was surprised at how much my partner's English improved this semester."

"We 'traded languages'! I learned a lot of Spanish from her and she learned a lot of English from me."

"I'll always remember how friendly she was and how easily we got along."

"I appreciate other cultures more now because I saw how difficult it was for [my partner] to adapt to American culture. I am also more inclined to listen to news reports about my partner's native country because I know more [about it]."

"Sometimes people feel that immigrants don't want to have anything to do with our society. One positive thing I learned from our interactions was that my partner was very interested in learning about American culture."

For information contact Ann Marie Wasserbauer at (408) 741-2486, Office LA 4D at West Valley College, or e-mail at am.wasserbauer@westvalley.edu


last published: 4/1/18