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The English-in-Action (EIA) conversation program matches international students, scholars and spouses with volunteers 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 Volunteer.

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 their conversational English skills and become more familiar with the American culture. Training 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 see our Volunteer Experiences 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 1.5 - 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 volunteer

  • 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 volunteer has...

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

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

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

EIA Meet Our Volunteers

Ellen and Hiro, Varsha, & DK

Ellen is a retired Court Mediator and volunteer with EIA since 2008, currently meeting with a group of 3 students from India, Korea and Japan.

Ellen: “The EIA experience is more than convening weekly for lively chat and grammar. Sometimes, we converse while visiting landmarks on campus, hiking nearby Torrey Pines Reserve, touring Birch Aquarium; and shopping at a local farmers’ market. Here, on a recent Spring day, my group visited Fallen Star, which is part of the UCSD Stuart Collection. These shared experiences help fulfill our mission as cultural ambassadors, not mere grammar and pronunciation coaches. In so doing, EIA Group Leaders may gain a greater understanding of our participants’ shared interests and values — while creating new friendships.”

DK from Korea: "A friend of mine recommended this program to me, and I thought this is helpful for me to fit in the U.S. life. My experience in the EIA program couldn't be better, and I would like to recommend it to my family who is coming to the US."


Ellen with her current group, Hiro, an MBA student from Japan, Varsha, a scholar spouse from India
and DK, a GPS MPP grad student from Korea.


Ellen with her first student (from 14 years ago) a scholar spouse from Kazakhstan and her two children at La Jolla Symphony & Chorus concert at Mandeville Auditorium.

Glenda and Rebecca

Glenda is a retired 7th grade science teacher and EIA volunteer since 2021 who met with Rebecca, a visiting scholar at Rady School of Management.

Glenda: "Experience San Diego through the eyes of your visiting student. I’m a retired middle school teacher.  Soon after retiring, I realized how much I missed teaching.  A friend told me about EIA, and I’m  now sadly saying goodbye to Rebecca, my second EIA student.  Rebecca is a visiting scholar studying finance.  We have worked on Rebecca's conversation skills and improved her English writing skills as well as her PowerPoint presentation skills both in person and remotely.  We'd loved embarking on adventures together, hiking through Annie's Canyon, kayaking on Lake Miramar, seeking out the "hidden gems" of San Diego, and of course having coffee and treats and sharing stories of our families and countries with each other."


Glenda and Rebecca, a scholar spouse from Korea, at the “Secret Swing" in La Jolla.

Kent and Junghyun

Kent is a retired HR Manager and volunteer with EIA since 2017.

Kent: "I have been working with international students since 2004: first at SDSU and more recently at UCSD. I’ve enjoyed working with about 80 students over these years. It is a great opportunity to learn about each student’s life, family, country and to get their observations about our life and culture here in the USA. I feel I’ve learned a lot more from them than they have learned from me. It is also a wonderful chance to learn about yourself as you react to their comments and observations about life in their countries and in the USA.

Over the years, one of the best benefits of knowing these students is to take opportunities to see them as I travel. In the past two months while in Frankfurt, Madrid and Lisbon, I was able to visit 5 students while in Frankfurt and Madrid. It is always great to catch up with their lives."


Kent and his partner Mark had Junghyun, a building engineer from Korea, and his family over for dinner.

Eshani, Shiqi and Yixing

Eshani is a UCSD postdoc and EIA volunteer since 2021.

Eshani: “EIA has been a wonderful experience so far. Sharing each other's culture and exploring the food culture here in San Diego are some of the fun activities.Shiqi enjoys hanging out with my cat Pixie, while we keep our conversations going. Overall, EIA has helped create long-lasting friendships."

Shiqi: "I joined the EIA Program because I wanted to speak English with natives and make some new friends, and I have had an excellent experience! My discussion partner and I meet every week and become friends. It’s really helpful for me to get familiar with the city and university at the first and practice my spoken language. I think it’s good to try to take part in the EIA program. I believe that it can alleviate the loneliness of studying abroad and you can make some native friends."


Eshani with her two grad students, Shiqi and Yixing, from China.

Earl and Dr. Park

Earl Wood is retired, and an EIA volunteer since 1989.

Earl: “What I’ve enjoyed most about the EIA program, aside from seeing improvement in his student’s language skills and social adoption, is learning about their lives and the living conditions in their countries, along with the lasting relationships I’ve made with many, including a couple of overseas trips to visit former students and their families. As they say, that’s priceless!”

Earl, his wife Sharon, and Dr. Park, a visiting scholar from Korea, and his family.

Marie, Youngsun and Sooyoung

Marie Sheneman is a UCSD Undergraduate Research Hub (URH) Staff member.

Marie: "This experience is extremely rewarding and can be life changing! Many of my matches have turned into friendships!" 

Marie even visited Youngsun and Sooyoung in Korea!

Marie and Youngsun in Otgol Village
Marie and Sooyoung in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace

Vinni and his remote group meetings

Vinni Walla is a TEFL certified community member that lives in NorCal and works for the San Jose Convention & Business Bureau. Vinni holds remote group meetings with 3-5 students that attend regularly.

Vinni: “It has been a unique experience interacting with students from different countries & backgrounds. Students are inquisitive about American culture, customs, holidays etc. This creates a great platform for open discussions along with learning & practicing communication skills. Participants also focus on vocabulary & pronunciation.”



Judy and Min Hee

Judy is an Osher Member, a retired psychotherapist, and a published author. Her newest book is "Marika’s Best Laid Plan". Judy meets with Min Hee from Korea, who also loves to write.

Judy: "It has been very gratifying for me, and I hope for her too. And it’s been fun to get to know this lovely young woman. And it was a great match as we’re both writers. I feel that this is a volunteer position that gives you back as much as you put into it."


Alisa and Natalia

Alisa is a retired Accountant and meets with Natalia, a PhD student from Colombia.

Alisa: "It is a most rewarding experience to help a student from abroad -- exchange cultures and introduce them to the American customs."


Howard and Tommaso

Howard is an Osher member and retired MD who meets with Tommaso, an Opthamology Visiting Scholar from Italy.

Howard: “EIA is a fabulous way to give back to the community and UCSD while enriching your own life.”

Tommaso: "I signed up for the EIA program because I wanted to improve my English skills and knowledge about American history, and I really enjoyed my experience talking to Howard. I want to say that this EIA program is amazing! The conversation leader told me lots of things about San Diego, very interesting!"