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Emails are ineffective, international assistance follows suit

By Graham von Carlowitz, Columnist

After reading in The Miami Student about the absence of a tutoring center for international students, I did what any wannabe-vigilante would do and took to finding a solution on my own. The results surprised me. Reader discretion is advised.

When it comes to simply learning English, my first thought was that, indeed, the Google Translate tool needs to be replaced. To sit behind the girl in my German class and watch her translate from German to English, English to Chinese and back to German again pains me enough to denounce Google Translate absolutely.

No person in their right mind should have to put up with such a constant cycle of shifting frames of thought - or language, for that matter. English acquisition should consist of less machine and more human being.

I began some intense research - in my case, that meant utilizing the maligned Google machine itself. After collecting some names and places, I was eventually referred to the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), where I learned of a program called Global Buddies.

Something in the name struck me as familiar. Naturally, I returned to Google - Gmail, to be specific.

A quick filter of the program manager's name, Jing Lou, gave me three email results, all of which related, to some extent, to her program, which advocates intercultural exchange between domestic student ambassadors and international students. According to the archives, the first email arrived August 28, 2015 via the international studies listserv.

The scary part is that these emails were not the source of my familiarity. Rather, Global Buddies was something I had first heard of in the fall from my German professor.

A light bulb went off in my head at that point - an opaque fluorescent bulb, I think - and it became clear all at once: I am immune to these emails.

Perhaps I am simply an outlier, the sole student out of 15,000 others who gets so fed up with listserv emails he begins ignoring them altogether. Instinct tells me otherwise, though.

If I am the only student who drools at the sight of five new forwarded emails, then why is there not more participation in these programs? Why has it taken so long for someone to stumble upon and question the gaping hole where an English tutoring center should be?

Because the emails are ignored, to put it bluntly. Instead, this information should be shared by proponent professors like my German one, as well as people from the programs by virtue of the oft-forgotten tool that is the human voice.

Mind-numbing emails aside, staffing hinders the "in-person advertising." According to their website, ISSS employs four people. Four. These four people are to tend to 1,670 international students, which amounts to too damn many per employee, according to 2014 statistics.

To compensate, programs like Global Buddies arise in hopes that the supportive domestic student population can offer a helping hand. While a nice thought, the program can only accomplish so much - however much the participating students on both ends are willing to contribute, that is.

The bottom line is students should not be held accountable to provide the services a university with the size and reputation as ours ought to provide. Of course, I encourage participation in these programs on the part of all students - the difference you make will surely be valued. Advertising assistance programs outside of emails is a start, and expanding areas like ISSS will only improve this difference.