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International Student Ministry

Written by Danny Castiglione

International Student Ministry-English Conversation Partners

An interview with Danny Castiglione about one of the programs they provide to love and serve international students. Danny is an associate pastor at Waypoint and a campus minister to international students at Duke with InterVarsity ISM.

What is the English Conversation Partner Program?

This program is an opportunity for us to serve students and scholars at Duke who feel they need help with conversational English skills ranging from talking with others in their classes to general small talk.

How has the program been helpful for the students who participate?

Many of them have a large English vocabulary but feel isolated or intimidated when talking with others. Meeting regularly with a local conversation partner can help build their confidence speaking in both academic and social settings.

How has the experience been with the volunteers?

Over the past 5 years 40 volunteers and ISM campus staff have served as conversation partners to 150 students. 15 of the volunteers have been from Waypoint. The experience has been overwhelmingly positive for the volunteers, with most of them having deep and meaningful conversations with the student. And some of the volunteers have built relationships that lasted well beyond the semester.

How does this program help us plants seeds of the gospel?

The goal of this program is to show the love of Christ by serving international students in meeting a real need. This opens the door for meaningful conversations. For most of the students their conversation partner is one of only a few Christians they have ever had a significant conversation with. As they share their experiences and you share yours, mutual encouragement happens, and often times, spiritual conversations start. Over 30 students have asked to come to a church service or other church event with their conversation partner. This past Easter 5 students came to Waypoint with their conversation partners. Overwhelmingly the response from the students in the program has been that they are very grateful for their conversation partner and have felt loved and cared for through the meetings.

How can I sign up or get more information?

The program runs from mid-January until the end of April and will include lessons that allow you to engage in everyday conversations as well as more meaningful conversations about holidays like MLK's birthday and Easter.

The commitment is that you meet with your partner at least once every two weeks for one hour. Meeting face-to-face will be the primary way to meet, but some students may want to meet over Zoom for convenience. There will be a mandatory 1 hour training over Zoom. You can register to volunteer here.

Are there any other opportunities to serve with International Students this semester?

We have opportunities to host international students in your home for monthly dinners, volunteer at social events, drive students on local shopping trips, and drive students to worship services on Sundays and to other Waypoint events. If you want to learn more, or have questions, please contact Pastor Danny

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