The VISAS Program bridges English language learners in the UVA Community with trained UVA
student volunteers for English language practice and cultural exchange.
It can be hard to meet people in a new country!
If you’ve ever been abroad, you may know what it’s like trying to adjust to a new language and culture. Many international members of our community report that they have trouble meeting American students, practicing their English, and asking questions about U.S. culture. Some of these international students have the additional challenge of teaching in a U.S. classroom where language and cross-cultural communication skills are critical. The Center for American English Language and Culture (CAELC) developed the VISAS program to connect English language learners with students who would like to share the language and culture of the host country while learning about the culture of our visitors.
UVA students seek global opportunities… and find them in their own backyard.
At UVA, we are fortunate to have a diverse and international student body, faculty, and workforce. Our community is made up of people from all corners of the globe and is inclusive of people who are here to study, work, live and build new lives. Many of these individuals are still working on their English or would enjoy getting to know people from the host country. At the same time, many American students seek opportunities to travel in order to get to know another culture. VISAS provides a bridge for people to build personal connections to other cultures, right here on Grounds. The volunteers in our program recognize the benefit of bringing together individuals of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds for their own personal growth and learning. UVA understands that building these international friendships and cultural understanding is a significant part of our educational mission. The VISAS program in general, helps in fostering long-lasting and positive interpersonal relationships.
VISAS volunteers gain global experience right here at UVA through several different positions.
Click the position names to learn more!
Language Consultants partner with 1-2 English learners for conversation & cultural exchange, 1 hour per week.
Classroom Consultants volunteer within a class for prospective international TAs for 5 or 10 sessions.
ESL Assistants volunteer within UVA ESL classes for graduate students, 1 hour per week.
Workplace ESL Assistants pair up with an English learner within a class for UVA Facilities employees, 1.5 hours per week.
Workplace Language Consultants pair up with an English learner UVA Facilities evening shift employee, 1.5 hours per week.
Teaching Consultants observe and support a new international TA, approximately 10-12 hours total, throughout the semester.
Conversation Facilitators volunteer within VISAS Café with English learners and other VISAS participants, 1.5 hours per week.
Media Consultants use multimedia skills (photography, graphic design, writing, social media) to spread the word about VISAS, 1-2 hours a week.
Requirements for all positions:
You must attend a 90-minute training session, agree to fulfill the duties for your position, and touch base weekly with VISAS staff and other volunteers. At the training, you’ll be given guidelines and hints, ideas and resources. Once you apply and are accepted into the VISAS program, we will notify you of any upcoming training dates. Makeup training dates are also available for those who absolutely cannot make the designated time.
Volunteers report that they learn a great deal about other cultures, have a great time, and build enduring international friendships. Many participants go on to work or volunteer in related fields such as ESL/EFL, international development, and education.