International Conversation Afternoons (ICA) have been held on a weekly basis at the University of York for many years.

Usually, the venue is a warm and cosy café on campus where you can chat with people from all over the world in a relaxed and informal manner. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, however, this is no longer possible, so we have moved online. Our ethos remains the same: an opportunity for people from many different backgrounds and cultures to chat, share ideas and opinions, and make new friends.

Today, some of those who attend our ICA online are University of York students, both British and International, former and future students on short courses with the Centre for Global Programmes, and residents of York, including host families and University of York staff.

Although ICA is for everyone, we recommend that you have at least a pre-beginner level to get the most from it.

What should I expect? 

An ICA session lasts around 75 minutes, and usually takes the following format:

At the start of the session, other participants will be logging into the Zoom meeting. While they arrive and enter the session, the host (the tutor responsible for the meeting) will invite you to do some kind of warm up activity such as a quick poll or quiz.

After the warm up, the host will put you into a breakout room. You will see a pop-up window, and must click ‘JOIN’ to enter the breakout room. These usually consist of between four and six people, and allow for a more personal and intimate conversation.

You are encouraged to introduce yourself first and then discuss the topic of the day. However, you are free to talk about absolutely anything. The weekly topic is just a starting point.

Some questions related to the weekly topic will be shared via the chat function to help you.

If you wish to share personal information, such as an email address, we suggest you do so via the chat box while you are in the breakout rooms.

After about 30 minutes the host will close the breakout rooms and everybody will return to the main room. You will now be sent to a new breakout room with new people to meet and talk with.

In the second discussion, you are again encouraged to introduce yourself but you are free to continue talking about the topic of the day, or anything you wish.

At the end of the second session, the host will close the breakout rooms and all participants will be in the main room again. The host will sum up and close the session.

How can I make the most of my ICA experience?

  • Use your camera: Conversation is a lot easier when we can see facial expressions and gestures
  • Write your name in English: The atmosphere will be much friendlier if we can use each other's names
  • Use a laptop or PC rather than a mobile device: Laptops and PCs are usually better when navigating Zoom
  • Raise your hand if you want to speak: In the breakout rooms, you can raise your hand to get the attention of other participants if you want to speak
  • Ask for help if you have any problems: Use the chat box to contact the meeting host
  • Prepare for the session: We will send some discussion questions related to the week's topic in advance to all those registered - take a look and think about your answers, especially if you are not very confident about your English skills
  • Speak: Don’t be afraid to ask for repetition or clarification if you do not understand something - there are many different levels of English ability in ICA
  • Have fun!