Doris Ayala, Newcastle University-Sydney Campus
Community Engagement for International Students

The theme for this DP Fest is Leadership, Engagement and Diversity in an Academic context which the ELICOS centre at UON Sydney has been addressing with the Student Engagement program. To overcome the challenges of communication in English in an international campus, 23 different kinds of activities took place last year, which allowed language learners to use English through authentic language negotiation and interaction with the wider community. This presentation will focus on the challenges we faced, how these were solved, the learning experience and the future direction of Engagement Program. Of the 23 activities, four will be studied in detail because they expose students to a diverse group of people varying in age, religion and ethnic background, allowing them to build confidence, develop communicative and social skills, as well as connect with and contribute to the local community which gives international students a sense of belonging.

- ‘Wrap with Love’, a charity organization where students help those in need by knitting blankets.

- ‘Tea at 3’, engages Fort Street High School students undertaking Year 11 and intermediate ELICOS students in conversations about diversity.

- ‘Communicate at Beehive Industries’, where students are engaged in games, art, craft, and conversation with older people at their work place.

- 'The Welcome Dinner Project' which opens the doors of Australian homes to new arrivals.

The most successful program has been ‘Tea at 3’, where both high school students and ELICOS students enjoy cultural conversations. It is clear that this activity provides them with a valuable sociolinguistic experience. It is now embedded in the curriculum and has enriched the intermediate learning outcomes.

Doris Ayala has been an ELICOS teacher for 14 years and has taught in Thailand, Indonesia and Costa Rica. She also has a Master's in Applied Linguistics and currently works at Newcastle University-Sydney Campus where she developed the Student Engagement Program.