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Volunteers with International Students and Scholars, and Staff Program (VISAS)

Volunteering with VISAS has been soul-broadening. ~G.F., student VISAS volunteer, spring 2010

If you are an international student looking for language practice please REGISTER FOR A LANGUAGE CONSULTANT HERE. 

Please read the following information below before filling out the ON-LINE APPLICATION. Volunteer applications can be submitted until January 26th at 11:59PM. For more detailed information on each of our respective programs, please visit our new Wordpress Site. Students will be selected and contacted shortly after the deadline.

The VISAS Program. Why is it needed?

If you've ever been abroad, you may know what it’s like trying to adjust to a new language and culture. Many international members of our community report that they have trouble meeting American students, practicing their English, and asking questions about U.S. culture. Some of these international students have the additional challenge of teaching in a U.S. classroom where language and cross-cultural communication skills are critical. The Teaching Resource Center and Center for American English Language and Culture developed the VISAS program to help prospective international TAs improve their language, intercultural communication and teaching skills. In addition, we also assist other international scholars and members of the UVa community with their language needs.

An incredible opportunity, right in our own backyard…
We are lucky at UVa to have such a diverse representation of students, scholars, and staff from around the world. Many American students seek opportunities to travel in order to get to know another culture, but right here on Grounds is a hidden opportunity to build a personal connection to another culture. VISAS volunteers recognize the benefit of bringing together individuals of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds for their own personal growth and learning.

For a video description of the VISAS program, check out this video created by our VISAS interns:

For more detailed information and resources, please visit our new VISAS Wordpress Site.

Five Different Ways to Volunteer:

Student LANGUAGE Consultants (LCs)

1 hour weekly meeting with conversation partners. The volunteer program has expanded to include international graduate students, staff, and scholars who may not be current or prospective TAs, but who want to improve their oral English skills and learn more about American culture. LCs meet with 1-2 international partners for an hour a week for 10 weeks of the semester. Rather than a tutoring session, this is a time for relaxed English conversation on topics of mutual interest. You must be a native speaker of English in order to apply for this position. Otherwise, an interest in getting to know international students and share one’s own culture is the only requirement. LCs can work in any of the following areas:
  • With international graduate or undergraduate students or researchers (LC)
  • With international UVa staff and employees
  • With spouses and family members of UVa students

It has been a great pleasure to dine with [my Language Consultant] and keep talking with [him] every week. Sometimes I also think [he] opened a brand new window to me…. I can't thank [him] more, for the joy and help [he] brings to me, at my very beginning year in USA. ~A.L, international graduate student

I've learned many things from her, not only useful English, but also precious life experiences. Now that I'm expecting, she even helped me to pick the name for my baby! That was tons of fun, too. ~J.X., international family member

At first, I met with my language partners each week to discuss our weekly suggested topics. Now, I look forward to sitting down with two old friends and catching up, chatting about everything from Chinese politics to Spanish cuisine. It has been so great to get to know two wonderfully kind, genuine people with an endless curiosity about the world who have inspired me to go out and experience even more! ~ M.F., Language Consultant

I have had an amazing time conversing with T. this past year. When I signed up to volunteer for this program I expected to help my partner learn English and about American culture, but T. taught me so much in return! Meeting with him every week was a pleasure that I enjoyed immensely. ~A.Z., Language Consultant

Q. has taught me a lot about hard work. He is only in his mid-20s, and is close to achieving his PhD. We have very different brains, his math-oriented and mine focused on the liberal arts. This has never stopped us from having some of the most insightful conversations in my year here at UVA. He is truly a great friend. ~A.B., Language Consultant

The first time I met Y. I was completely lost as to what we would talk about. I'm only a 19-year old undergraduate student, while she was a student, a wife, a mother, and even a teacher! But within our first couple meetings I quickly discovered that we would never run out of things to say… She was curious about America and eager to share with me her experiences in China. Y. often thanks me for my time, but in reality I should be the one thanking her for opening my eyes to a world beyond UVa. ~J.F., Language Consultant

I'd like to thank my language partners for the wonderful conversations, laughter, and stories we were able to share this past year. Thank you for sharing so much about your lives and your culture. I would often come out of our conversations in a brighter and happier mood. You gave me a needed breath of fresh air in my week. ~S.M., Language Consultant

Student CLASSROOM Consultants (CCs)

Work with a small group of international TAs in training. Four times throughout the semester, Classroom Consultants visit a course for international TAs in training. The volunteers provide a realistic audience for prospective TAs who perform short teaching demonstrations on material from their field of study. Classroom Consultants observe, interact, and give feedback about the lesson. Volunteers and international students also have time to converse and meet over refreshments each class period so that they can get to know each other better. This is a good position for those interested in teaching and cross-cultural perspectives. This is a great position for students whose first language is one other than English.

Commitment for CCs
: For the spring 2015 semester, those applying for a Classroom Consultant position MUST BE AVAILABLE on Monday OR Wednesday evenings  from 6:00 to 8:30 pm.

  • The following MONDAY evenings from 6:00-8:30 PM:
    3/2, 3/30, 4/13 (7-8:30 only for "Mock Office Hours"), and 4/20


  • The following WEDNESDAY evenings from 6:00-8:30 PM:
    3/4, 4/1, 4/15 (7-8:30 only for "Mock Office Hours"), and 4/22
Thanks to the class consultants! I learned a lot from the communications with them. This is a window to the undergraduate life of UVa and American culture. I also appreciate the comments and suggestions during the demos and their participation of the office hour simulation. ~C.Z., Prospective International TA

The volunteers were always there and being supportive, giving great advice and encouraging the class. I received great feed backs from them which I believe I could use in my future experience of interacting with students. It has become a very unique part of the EL911 course that brought interaction into the content which made the lecture not only more fun but more effective. ~X.W. Prospective International TA

I've worked with a close group of 5 international participants and I have been really impressed with the dedication and spirit I have seen…it has been a real pleasure interacting with such enthusiastic participants throughout. I'm really proud to be part of this group, and have realized how hard it is for international students with language barriers, but none the less, each and every student participated in such a way that this language barrier was blurred into the background of things. I really enjoyed the TA office hour session, the grace and creativity of the TA's in responding to funny situations was noticed by all. To sum up, this has been a great experience in learning that there are always two side to a coin, and I look forward to being a part of this program next year too. ~S.C., Classroom Consultant

This experience is meant to help further the learning of international TAs, but I have learned so much from the experience. I now have a good understanding of the factors that make a good teaching presentation and I've learned a lot about a wide variety of topics. Also, I've met some very interesting people and learned about differences among cultures, in particular in academia. Thank you to all the ITAs who recognize me in passing and exchange a familiar smile - I hope to see you more and have the opportunity to further our conversations. ~C.M., Classroom Consultant

Student TEACHING Consultants (TCs)

Observe and work with a new international TA. A few times throughout the semester, Teaching Consultants visit the section of a new international TA who may need some extra support. Volunteers sit in on the class as a student and observe what seems to be going well and what areas the TA could improve upon in the classroom. Teaching Consultants then meet with the international TA to discuss their observations.You must be a native speaker of English in order to apply for this position.

They are very nice and helped me a lot on how to teach and communicate with the students more effectively. ~Y.S., International TA

It was wonderful to meet Y.S. and spend time with him in his classes this semester. Having not had any experiences in a Physics lab, I unexpectedly felt I learned something important just by sitting in during his classes! Y always impressed me with his intelligence, confidence, and friendliness. I respect the work that he does tremendously and wish him all the best as he continues on at the University. ~I.H., Teaching Consultant

ESL Assistant (ESLAs)

Spend an hour a week assisting graduate students from other countries as they work on their oral English in CAELC ESL classes. Engage in class discussions, contribute your knowledge of English usage and slang, and provide helpful feedback as students perform oral presentations. You must be a native speaker of English in order to apply for this position.

They have been amazingly generous in devoting an evening a week to our class, wonderfully flexible in being able to jump into and even lead new activities on a moments' notice, and clear and compassionate in with their feedback to our students, and finally--great fun. Our class would have been a pale imitation of itself without their presence, as they provided students with a high degree of one-on-one attention that they would never have received otherwise. ~S.G., Instructor

It was such a pleasure to see my students every week and see how hard they had worked and how much that progress had made. Their dedication and enthusiasm was really an inspiration for me. ~T.M., Academic ESLA

I have loved working with the ITAs during my last two semesters at UVa. From them, I have learned about physics, chemistry, gambling, biomedical ethics, and DVDs. They have taught me it's okay to make mistakes and to ask questions. They have shown me that it IS possible to gain command of a non-native language, which has greatly reassured me about studying a language completely new to me this summer. I was in class with several of the ITAs in both the fall and spring semesters. Looking back, I can see just how much they have improved. They seem much more comfortable with their English skills. I know they and all the other ITAs will be (and have become) wonderful Teaching Assistants in their fields. ~L.F., Academic ESLA

Workplace ESL Assistant (Workplace ESLAs)

Many UVa service employees are refugees and immigrants who have recently resettled in Charlottesville to make a better life for themselves. VISAS Volunteers have an opportunity to welcome these newcomers and to help them improve their English and literacy skills. Training and supervision is provided for volunteers who meet weekly with learners, individualizing instruction within a larger group workshop setting. Sessions are held during workers’ break time at the Hospital and Observatory Hill Dining Hall. You must be a native speaker of English in order to apply for this position.

All of the work I did through VISAS was with UVa employees… The people I worked with were incredibly amazing and so eager to learn English that it made diagramming sentences and going over the alphabet and vocabulary words the highlight of my week. These employees are some of the best, most hardworking people at this university. ~K.M., Workplace ESLA

I really enjoyed working with the students at O-Hill because they always walked in with a smile and a willingness to learn. Even on my bad days, they always managed to cheer me up with their excitement for learning and diverse cultural stories. These are some of the best students I have ever had the pleasure of working with and I am so proud to see that they have improved so much. Thank you so much! ~T.T., Workplace ESLA

To all the participants: O-Hill ESL really is my favorite hour of the whole week. I loved watching each of you progress, and I hope you will still be here next year and we can work together again! I really enjoyed hearing your stories and where you come from, and I am so proud of each of you for how you're doing in America. You are all such wonderful people and even though English is so hard, I am so proud of you! Keep after it! ~V.H., Workplace ESLA

Requirements for all positions

You must attend a 90-minute training session, agree to fulfill the duties for your position, and touch base weekly with VISAS staff and other volunteers. At the training, you'll be given guidelines and hints, ideas and resources. The training session will be held on Monday, February 2nd from 7:30-9 PM at Monroe Hall 130. Makeup trainings are available for those who absolutely cannot make that time.


Volunteers report that they learn a great deal about other cultures, have a great time, and build enduring international friendships. Many participants go on to work or volunteer in related fields such as ESL/EFL, international development, and education.