Students sitting outside at a picnic table

Pal Program - Frequently Asked Questions

  • I’m a U.S. student and only speak English. Do I need to speak another language to participate in the Pal Program?
  • No, you don’t. In fact, in some ways it’s better if you don’t speak the same language as your international partner, since many students join the Pal Program to improve their English language skills. That said, it’s always helpful if you speak slowly and clearly at first until you both get a better sense of your partner's language abilities.
  • I'm not a U.S. citizen, but I have lived in the U.S. for a long time. Which student type should I select?
  • If you feel comfortable with U.S. culture, you should choose "U.S.". If you want to learn more about U.S. culture, choose "International". These classifications don't refer to citizenship, but rather the place that you most identify with or want to learn about. Be sure to set your preferences to show whether you want to be partnered with a U.S. or International student too.
  • I signed up to become a Pal two weeks ago, but I haven't received a partner yet. What should I do?
  • Most likely, there are no partners available that fit your preferences. If you would like to change your preferences so you can be partnered more quickly, we would be happy to help you with this. Email your request to
  • I am nervous about meeting my Pal for the first time. Where should we meet? What will we talk about?
  • You and your partner may feel a little anxious prior to meeting, but remember that both of you signed up to become a Pal because you were willing and open-minded enough to take a chance meeting a new person. We recommend keeping your first encounter casual - maybe meet for coffee at the CoHo or having lunch together outside on the Quad. Because you most likely come from different language and cultural backgrounds, you should have plenty to talk about. Consider discussing your classes, what you plan to do over the weekend, how long you have been at Davis. As you become more comfortable with each other, delve into topics regarding family dynamics, the experience of learning a language, and cultural adjustment. Find more topics on our "Tips for Success" page. 
  • My Pal doesn't speak English as a first language. Should I correct their grammar or vocabulary?
  • It’s best if you keep corrections to a minimum with your Pal. As you get to know each other better, and if your Pal specifically asks to be corrected, you can do this occasionally, especially if they make a consistent error. You can also use these opportunities to teach your Pal new words that they may not have encountered before. Language differences are always an interesting conversation topic. 
  • My Pal and I have had difficulty finding a mutually convenient time to meet. What should I do?
  • Of course there will be times when one or the other—or both—of you are just too busy to meet. That’s fine, as long as you do your best to make up the time later (perhaps adding an extra 10 minutes to each of your next few meetings, or meeting a couple of times during a slow week). However, the regularity of the meetings is more important than keeping track of each minute. As long as you both make an earnest effort to get together on a regular basis, that should be fine. If the problem is persistent, please email so we can re-partner you. 
  • Can my Pal and I email instead of meeting in person?
  • No. Emailing each other is fine to set up a time to meet or just to say hello, but the main object of Pal is for both of you to have personal interaction through face-to-face conversation.
  • Are there any topics of conversation that I shouldn’t bring up?
  • Use your discretion. In general, you should avoid the same kinds of personal or controversial topics you would with any new acquaintance, including religion, money, and personal relationships. Later, depending on how well you get to know each other, these topics may become appropriate.
  • I make a lot of mistakes in English and get embarrassed. Will my Pal mind?
  • The Pal Program is not an English class—it’s an opportunity to have informal conversation without being judged or graded. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Your partner will be much more interested in what you say than how you say it.

If you have a question that is not on this list that you think should be added, please contact the Pal Staff at