On Thursday afternoons, the Kenai Peninsula College Learning Center becomes a small United Nations.
The center hosts a weekly conversation group that brings together English as a second language students from across the world to speak in English, honing their skills.
This Thursday, the group had native speakers of nearly a dozen different languages including Spanish, Tagalog, Cebuano, Romanian, Russian and Ukrainian, but they were brought together through English.
“We get to enjoy conversations within our own kind of community,” said Natasha Weissenberg, originally from Moldova. “We have different languages, but we can understand each other because of English.”
The students can enroll in different English courses through the college, catering their lessons to what they need. According to English instructor Sara Hadfield there are an average of 25 students enrolled at each time.
“We serve students from all different backgrounds and proficiencies,” Hadfield said of the program, which is funded through grants and offered to students free of charge. “Whether they are looking to attain citizenship, just want to become conversational or someone who needs English for academics, we try to help everyone no matter where they are on the language spectrum.”
The conversation group is less formal than the classroom lessons that take place throughout the week. In the classroom, the students may read an adaptation of ‘Moby Dick,’ but during the weekly conversation they talk have more fun. The conversation usually starts with what’s going on, reading through community announcements.
“I like the announcements,” said Fernando Ramos, originally from Mexico. “It puts it into my mind, all the activities that are happening in the community.
This week, they competed in a campus wide scavenger hunt, teaching them new words and bringing them to new places on the Kenai River Campus.
“This is a small, small kind of place,” Weissenberg said. “It’s not very big, not many people but big hearts. Everybody helps us, this is an unbelievable place.