Joan Chirivella: “Thanks to my involvement in the Skype Project, I was able to go to the United States”
Joan is a second-year student in the Bilingual Double Bachelor’s Degree in Primary and Pre-Primary Education. During his first year at UIC Barcelona he signed up to take part in the Skype Project, an activity aimed at improving students’ oral fluency in English through language exchanges with American students. Within months of starting the project, Joan travelled to the US to meet his conversation partner.
Why did you sign up for the project?
During the first year of the degree, we were given the chance to take part in an activity that was more meaningful than a simple oral presentation: to get involved in the Skype Project and exchange opinions with students from other universities.
Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College, in Pennsylvania.
What did the activity involve?
Every week we would talk via Skype. We’d normally do it on the weekends, on Sunday, and spend the first 20 minutes talking in English and the last 20 in Spanish.
And what did you talk about during the Skype sessions?
At first, the teacher gave us a list of topics to talk about with the other student. We started off speaking about our families, the things going on in our lives, how we spent our free time... And also about culture and history, like the Spanish Civil War. Then we had to give proof of what we’d learned.
What kind of proof?
A summary of the conversation, or things that had really caught our attention.
Did you notice a change with these sessions?
Yes, I wound up speaking English more fluently.
You took the activity a step further and decided to travel to the US to meet your partner. Where did you get this idea?
In theory, the Skype sessions were only supposed to last for one semester, even though the subject is annual. But since I already wanted to spend time abroad, we kept talking and became even closer. Thanks to my involvement in the project, I was able to go to the United States.
And you discovered a completely different university life...
I was surprised by life on campus; the opportunity the students have to share all aspects of daily life, not just class time. Everyone lived on campus, and they were like one big family.
Do you still keep in touch with the girl you did a language exchange with?
Even though it's not compulsory this year, I’m still involved in the project. I want to spend an hour a week on it throughout the school year, and, if everything goes well, we’ll continue to do the exchange.
Why do you think first-year students should get involved in the Skype Project?
First of all, because it allows you to discover new cultures, new ways of doing things. And because we can do really amazing things in this day and age, like making contact with other people, and the end results are truly beneficial.