Each year IEI has the privilege of having students from the University School of Nashville (USN) join us for a few hours on their community service day. They come and participate in our classes alongside our international students, getting involved in conversation activities organized by IEI’s teachers. These activities target the goals the IEI’s students are working towards and gives the students of IEI an opportunity to practice their English skills with native English speakers. This also gives USN students an opportunity to help IEI’s students develop their language skills and enjoy a cultural experience that can broaden USN students’ experience and world perspective.

But how did this yearly tradition begin? In 2005 when IEI was still on 16th Avenue, a former USN student walking down the road saw IEI’s sign then came into the school and asked if she could volunteer. She was quickly accepted and began coming to IEI about two days a week to help in classes and in the office. She also arranged for a class of IEI students to go to USN to eat lunch together and practice speaking English with the USN students that she gathered. After some time, a visit to IEI became an annual part of USN’s community service program and allowed for many USN students to have the opportunity to come to our institute and participate.

On this annual community service day, groups of USN students go into Nashville’s communities doing a wide variey of projects. The motivation for this event is to not only give something back to the community of Nashville, but to also gain a better perspective of what it means to live in the communities that make up this city. The USN students who specifically choose to come to IEI on that day do so primarily because they are students of languages such as Spanish, French, Chinese, and Latin and have a desire to experience the diversity of cultures and lifestyles that comprise our communities. They also want the opportunity to make internationals feel welcome while they are here.

When asked what they gain from the experience, USN students said that they found connections between themselves and our international students and were surprised to find out how many people wanted to learn English. One student commented that the opportunity was given to learn that “…people from around the world grow up very differently than I do. But at the same time, there were striking similarities between our lives that we discovered in conversation.”