Moving Online, Not Apart: Culture and Communication Consultants Engage with International TFs

May 27, 2020
Lexi, Emily, and Kate sitting around a table making silly faces at the camera.

As we’ve transitioned to remote teaching, our undergraduate fellows have been important partners in supporting our programming. The Professional Communication Program for International Teachers and Scholars has a team of ten undergraduate Culture and Communication Consultants (CCCs), whose work this semester helped us maintain our connection to campus and to each other. The CCCs support international teachers and scholars by working as course assistants in Bok seminars, facilitating discussion groups for international TFs (ITFs), and acting as English language partners.

Both in and out of the classroom, CCCs get to know international students and learn more about their experiences within their graduate programs. As one CCC said at the end of the semester, “I really enjoyed developing relationships with the ITFs and learning from them. It was an amazing opportunity to discuss current issues with the ITFs and to share our student experiences at Harvard.” Over the last few semesters, we have interviewed undergraduates about their work as CCCs and created a video that showcases some of the best parts of their work with international TFs.


While the CCCs have always spearheaded activities that include Game Nights and House Tours, they were excited to try new ways to connect with international TFs remotely. Since March, CCCs have hosted Community Check-ins, dedicated time each week for international TFs to drop in to talk or play games together. These chats helped both the graduate and undergraduate students keep in touch with each other and with the larger Harvard community. The CCCs also moved the ITF discussion group online, tackling new challenges as both the undergraduates and graduate students tried new approaches to keep the conversations moving and share feedback. As one graduate student participant shared, “I think transition [to Zoom] was smoother than I thought it would be. I could see how CCCs want to make this work for all of us, and I even learned some of the amazing Zoom features like gallery view and breakout rooms from CCCs.” Once remote, participants logged on from across the globe, with the farthest member joining from China. International graduate students have really appreciated the chance to engage with undergraduates in this way. As one shared, “All of [the CCCs] are very responsible, helpful, passionate and patient. I've learned a lot from them.” And another said, “Thank all of you for making this discussion group helpful, informative, engaging, and energetic. It was definitely my best English learning experience.  I will miss you all! Thank you again!”

This spring, the CCCs were also essential team members in our seminar, Enhancing Fluency: Speaking and Listening for International TFs. They were invaluable to the transition to remote teaching, managing breakout rooms, frankly sharing the challenges they had with learning online, and modeling online presentations and videos via Canvas. Fifteen international students were paired with CCCs as language partners this semester, and they shared podcasts, must-see TV shows and movies, and created a space to talk about the challenges resulting from the closing of campus. The International TFs who have worked with CCCs in seminars or as language partners also had great things to say about the CCCs:

  • “My language partner is easy to work with and has been extremely helpful and supportive. I received timely feedback on various aspects of fluency and learnt American culture, too.” 

  • “She has been the most helpful! Our meetings taught me to be more expressive, and how to effectively facilitate a conversation."

We’re so grateful to have such passionate, engaged undergraduates working with us to foster community between graduate and undergraduate students.  To learn more about the CCCs and how they support international TFs, check out our other new video, in which the CCCs discuss their work in their own words!