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Learning in Action at the University of Virginia

Wait, What’s VISAS?

Eden Phillips

Volunteers with International Students, Staff, and Scholars (VISAS) is a program that was started by UVA’s Center for American English Language and Culture (CAELC) over 20 years ago. VISAS works to serve international members of the UVA community (and their family members) by providing a variety of settings for English language practice. Volunteers and participants alike have the chance to learn about new cultures and make meaningful connections! 


Volunteers recruiting for VISAS programMy search for friendship and connection on Grounds led me to VISAS, and my participation with the organization has far exceeded the expectations of community-building that I had coming in. My weekly conversations in Workplace with my language partner were deeply gratifying; not only was I able to meet someone I would have never had the chance to meet otherwise, but I was also learning about his culture and life experiences.

In addition to communications with my partner, I found friendship in other volunteers and participants. VISAS Café, hosted weekly, brings members of the UVa community together to enjoy food and conversation!

How can I get involved?

UVA students can get involved in numerous ways, depending on their interests and desired time commitment. Our programs have a great range of commitment levels, from five times in a semester to an hour per week! We accept applications for participation in both the fall (deadline Sept. 5) and the spring (deadline TBD), and new volunteers attend a 1.5 hour training to learn about their program and their responsibilities!

These programs consist of:VISAS volunteer pointing at a map

  • Classroom Consulting: Volunteers participate in ESL courses designed to aid international TAs transition to full-time teaching at UVA. Volunteers can come into the classroom five times per semester or 10 times per semester.
  • Language Consulting: Volunteers and their language partner meet once a week for an hour. Language partners can be international students/researchers, UVA staff/employees, or family members of UVA students.
  • Workplace: Volunteers meet with UVA service employees once a week, in a group setting.
  • ESL Assistant: Volunteers assist with an oral ESL class for graduate students for an hour, once a week.
  • Teaching Consultant: Volunteers visit the class sections of an international TA as a student to observe and give feedback. Volunteers visit the classroom 3-4 times a semester.
  • Conversation Facilitator: Volunteers attend VISAS Café weekly to assist with the Café’s preparation, advertising, setup, etc. They interact with other VISAS members for 1.5 hours per week.
  • Media, Outreach and Recruitment: Volunteers work on photography, multimedia projects and social media outreach for 1-2 hours per week.

VISAS logoSign up to receive more information about VISAS programming, including the spring application cycle!

You can keep up with VISAS current events through Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook (@visasatuva)! Questions should be directed to VISAS@virginia.edu.

Eden Phillips
About the Author: 

Eden Phillips is a third-year student at UVA studying psychology and sociology. She is an intern for the VISAS Workplace ESLA Program.