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 The English-in-Action (EIA) conversation program matches international students, scholars and spouses with volunteer conversation leaders to help our international visitors with conversational English language skills, simultaneously helping them to acquire a better understanding of American culture and to acclimate more quickly to their new environment. EIA volunteers are community members, faculty, staff, and students.

Conversation partners usually meet for 1.5 to 2 hours per week at a location that is convenient for both (remotely, in person on campus or in person off campus). The EIA program is a rewarding learning experience for the international guest and volunteer, as they both gain considerable cultural insight and a deeper understanding and appreciation for diversity.


Do you want to meet with a volunteer to improve your English Fluency?

The EIA program is currently accepting applications. Please submit this e-form to apply to work with an EIA Conversation Leader (CL). 

Participants and volunteers are welcome to meet remotely and in person. (on or off campus) If you meet on campus, please follow the safety protocols outlined on the Return to Learn website. Questions? Please email

Who is eligible?

  • Enrolled, degree-seeking, UC San Diego international undergraduate and graduate students
  • Non-degree seeking Exchange Abroad Program(EAP)-Reciprocity students
  • UC San Diego affiliated post-doctorates and research scholars, including GLI students
  • Spouses of UC San Diego affiliated international students, post-doctorates, and research scholars

Note: Visiting scholars/researchers (including GLI students), spouses of students and scholars, post docs and visiting grad students are required to pay a $100 non-refundable EIA program administration fee at the time of your initial EIA application (and annually after that if participation is renewed). In addition to the $100 registration fee through Aventri at, there will be an $11 cost differential fee + a 3% credit card processing fee added when paying through the Aventri website online. Fees are subject to change without prior notification.

Please visit the EIA Registration Policy document to view the EIA program registration fee policy.

Who is NOT eligible?

  • UC San Diego Extension Students from English Language Institute and Certificate programs
  • Non-UC San Diego affiliated researchers (The Scripps Research Institute, Salk, Burnham, V.A. Hospital)
  • Children of UC San Diego-affiliated international students, post-doctorates, and research scholars
  • Permanent Residents
  • Citizens of the US who have a US passport

Are you looking for additional English language Resources?  Click here for a list of additional community and campus resources.

Do you want to volunteer to help international visitors improve their English fluency?

Help an international student, scholar, or spouse improve conversational English skills and become more familiar with the American culture. Training is provided to all conversation leaders, as well as materials and resources to assist you in your sessions. 

Help an international student, scholar, or spouse improve conversational English skills and become more familiar with the American culture. An orientation is provided to all volunteers, as well as materials and resources to assist you in your sessions.

Please submit this e-form (Note: you will need to sign the standard UC San Diego waiver first) to complete an application and sign up for a virtual orientation. Over 200 leaders participate in the program yearly volunteering over 1,500 hours per month. Our volunteer leaders help over 300 international students and scholars each year improve their English skills and acclimate them to UC San Diego. Please visit our Volunteer Experiences page to hear what past and current volunteers have shared about their time in the EIA program.

For UC San Diego students, your EIA experience is eligible for validation on your Co-Curricular Record (CCR). Learn more about the EIA Conversation Leader CCR opportunity here.

Meetings can be held virtually or in person. (on or off campus) If meeting on campus, please follow the safety protocols outlined on the Return to Learn website.

**Please note that you will need to sign the standard Program Waiver of Liability, Assumption of Risk, and Indemnity Agreement before filling out the application, it is required by all volunteers and participants that participate in any UC San Diego program.**

If you have any questions, please contact the Program Coordinator at .

Your commitment:

  • One orientation session (scheduled approximately twice a month for 1 hour)
  • Meet with your student for 1 1/2 - 2 hours each week.

Who is eligible?

  • Local community members
  • UC San Diego staff, faculty, and students
  • Anyone who has interest and empathy in helping our international community acclimate better to their new environment by helping them with their English language skills

Benefits of being an EIA conversation leader

  • You create long-lasting friendships
  • You learn about other cultures and backgrounds
  • You develop a skill-set as global citizens to help you prepare for your travels and/or studies abroad

A successful EIA conversation leader has...

Time: CLs and students meet once a week for approximately two hours. At least a one-year commitment to the tutoring program is requested, but any help is deeply appreciated.

Patience: CLs have to understand that learning a language is not easy. There will be times of forward progress, as well a series of spurts, stalls, even regressions.

Empathy: CLs should know that EIA applicants are educated people, who may be experiencing difficulties in communicating their ideas and thoughts in our culture and academic environment.

Passion: CLs have a desire to help those in need while fostering cross-cultural exchange.


Aisha and Ziyang

AISHA, a 4th year Earth Science & Literature/Writing undergraduate, is meeting with her 6th EIA student, ZIYANG, a Ph.D. student from China 

AISHA: Volunteering with the EIA program these past two years has been an incredibly enriching experience. As a conversation leader, I facilitated discussions about American culture, university life and practiced English conversational skills with my participants. In return, my participants gave me the invaluable gift of learning about their cultures and authentic life experiences. I was amazed at how the power of conversation can connect us, expand our worldviews, and really get at the heart of what it means to be human: creating bonds through communication.   


Anna and Young Joo

ANNA, a cattle ranch owner in Oklahoma, entrepreneur and consultant is meeting with YOUNG JOO, a spouse from South Korea. 

New to EIA, this last year with a pandemic to overcome forced us to think outside the "box."

Instead of just meeting on Zoom we meet outside. The Japanese Garden at Balboa Park an outside area we both felt safe. It is a much needed break from daily life. Sharing each other's culture, always a high point. Beyond learning English we shared positive views about our daily struggles - the difference in her classes since the lock down, how our worlds were changing. We shared how to navigate daily needs. How logistics were becoming more and more complicated. Laughter soothed the soul and we made each other smile. This experience was and continues to be priceless. 

Earl and Seung Tae

EARL has been a volunteer with EIA since 1982 and just retired  his position as a Branch Manager at Rexel Inc. He met with SEUNG TAE KIM from 2019-2020. 

 EARL: Dr Seung Tae Kim is a gastroenterologist from Seoul. As it turned out he spoke excellent English and liked to discuss his life in Korea and how much his wife and young son enjoyed being in San Diego. This was the first time in their marriage they were free to take a long two week vacation, and they traveled to many of the state and national parks in California. When the movie ‘Parasite’ came out in and won the Best Picture at the 2020 Academy Awards, Dr Kim was so excited and commented it was a true depiction of Korean lifestyles. I’ve had the chance to tutor many Koreans over the years in EIA and I find it fascinating how such a small country became so progressive and prosperous over the years since the war. My one regret is not being able to master the basics of their very difficult language. I’ve had many invites to visit Korea and hope to arrange a trip soon. 

EIA-Earl-Wood.jpgThis photo was taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lily and Yume

LILY, a UC San Diego alum has been an EIA volunteer since 2014 when she was an undergraduate student and has met with six students over the last six years. Her most recent student, YUME, was a spouse from Japan and they both bonded over their love of desserts!

Here is a poem that Lily wrote about her time together with Yume: 

As Yume as a dream 
Lily like happy times  
Food and desserts galore  
Travel and adventure a plethora  
Learning and learning  
Connecting and connecting  
Memories forever lasting  
In the Jewel of La Jolla.

Mary and Dr. Yuki

MARYa patient services supervisor in the UC San Diego Health Radiation Oncology Department and recipient of the 2015-16 Exemplary Staff of the Year award, is meeting with DR. YUKI a visiting scholar and pulmonary medicine and oncology specialist. 

MARY: Dr. Yuki. and I were first introduced and met in March 2019. After several months of productive one hour meetings at noon once a week, Yuki, her husband and little baby returned to Japan. We have continued weekly meetings via Skype since that time usually in my evening hours and her Saturday morning hours in Japan.

This has been a very rewarding experience. One notes the effort and concentration needed by someone who is learning English. There is also great humility and a readiness to learn on Yuki’s part.  She is doing a marvelous job of continuing to gain fluency in English. We have exchanged book recommendations and photos of family outings. We have discussed poetry both modern and some classics. We practice pronunciation of difficult words or phrases. We have practiced and reviewed technical articles. Yuki alerted me to research regarding cancer patients’ parking costs for a Lean project I was doing.

The little baby is now two and full of language in Japanese and some English. We have marveled at the gift of language and how readily a child understands nuances of sound and meaning. We have met all during this rough Covid pandemic and enjoyed the connection and chance to compare lockdowns and needed rest and relaxation. Yuki has found that the weekly meetings have given her more confidence to participate in virtual professional meetings that are international in scope and where English is the language used. Zoom and virtual meetings can be very intimidating for non-native speakers of any language, but the weekly practice is helpful.   

I did not expect to make such an enduring connection via English in Action, but am very grateful for this program. 

Nancy and Florence

NANCY, a 3rd year Environmental Systems undergraduate student is meeting with FLORENCE, an exchange student in Psychology from Hong Kong. 

EIA-Nancy-1.jpgNANCY: While we all found ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, obtaining the skills as  a conversational leader was not easy to tackle. Shifting over to asynchronous learning took an unexpected toll on us all. For instance, my mentee left back to her native Hong Kong. We managed to schedule weekly meetings despite the fifteen-hour time difference. She mentioned that our meetings are her only way she can practice her English. With that being said, I knew effort would be the backbone to strengthen our long-distance experience. Utilizing technology to my advantage, I managed to conduct interactive lessons that would refresh her memory about the American culture. I am truly honored to volunteer through English In Action and continue to learn through insightful day-to-day experience. 


Patty and Yurie

PATTY is a retired teacher and recent addition to the EIA volunteer roster and has been paired with YURIE from Japan.

PATTY: I am thoroughly enjoying my time with Yurie! We zoom twice a week and occasionally meet somewhere in the city. 


Sam and Bowen

SAM, a retired high-tech executive, just joined EIA and is currently meeting with BOWEN, a 2nd year Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate student from China. 

SAM: This is my first couple of months as an EIA volunteer and the experience has been fun, educational, and eye opening. Helping my UC San Diego scholar with English has had little to do with grammar and pronunciation and only slightly with vocabulary. The help my student desires is cultural. Knowing a language fairly well doesn't’t mean one knows the ins and outs of society. 

I have been asked to explain some “obvious” facets of American life, topics that we natives don’t even think about as they are so familiar: What is a diner?” “How do I make a hotel reservation when traveling with my dog?” “I don’t understand the words the veterinarian uses when talking about my dog. What should I do?” “What is the second line in the address form for an on-line purchase?” 

EIA-Bowen-Sam.pngThe delight of being an EIA volunteer is learning more than I teach. Viewing our society via the perspective of an international student is an exercise in discovery that requires no passport, no boarding pass, only time spent in engaging conversation. If ever there was a “win-win” opportunity volunteering with EIA is it. 

Sheri and Chi Chin (Ted)

SHERI, a retired Special Education Specialist has been meeting with TED, a spouse of a Ph.D. student from Taiwan since 2016. 

SHERI: Back in March 2015, Shelly Taskin posted about the need for volunteers in the EIA program. I applied, was accepted and started tutoring students.  Chi Chin Chi, aka Ted, became one of my students in the fall of 2016. Ted was eligible as a spouse and is now working in his field of Chemical Engineering (he also holds a Ph.D.) in a lab on campus. Despite his tight schedule of working in the lab, being a husband and the father of Benjamin, a three and a half year old, we manage to work together. This year has been through FaceTime, with him logging on in the lab during his break and me from my dining area. We’ve worked on English conversational skills, grammar, pronunciation and one of my favorite areas - cultural literacy. We’ve discussed vacation ideas, sites to visit in San Diego, cafes, restaurants, even Netflix movies and series. It has been a joy working with Ted and I look forward to his anecdotes.  


Yen and Livia

YEN, a 4th year Bioengineering/Biosystem major, is meeting with LIVIA, a 1st year Economics major from France 

YEN: I started volunteering with EIA this year when everything had gone remote. Since this was my first time hearing about the program, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was matched with my partner Livia and since then we've had some amazing chats! Working with time zones was an interesting challenge, but I definitely have a bit more intuition as to what time it is in China compared to California now! Meetings with her are always fun and we both learn a lot about each other's cultures and daily lives. I'm so glad I got to meet her through the EIA program. I hope we'll be able to meet in person one day (when it's safe) and continue these conversations beyond a computer screen! 

This has been my experience with EIA, and I hope to have many more in the future! 


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