Pen Pal Club: Make a New International Best Friend
by Kimberly Grabiec
Pen pals are a great way to get to know more about the world in a personal way. A pen pal is a correspondent from another city or country who people connect with via email or other messaging formats. There are thousands of pen pal programs online that anyone can sign up for that provide the experience of reaching out to someone in another country in an organized format. Many students have the opportunity to connect with a pen pal in elementary school, but the benefits one can gain from being in contact with a pen pal are just as applicable for older students.
This is why Northside’s new Pen Pal Club, led by Sophia Chang Stauffer, Adv. 810, is such a great addition to the Northside community. The leaders of the club also include Vice President Milenka Bermanova, Adv. 807, and Treasurer/Secretary Morgan Pearlman, Adv. 810. The inspiration for the club came from the realization that everyone can learn something new and become more informed from the experience of having a pen pal. This type of connection can be especially valuable for students who are not able to travel often, due to the fact that it can provide more knowledge and a better understanding of the world.
After joining the club, Northside students will be connected with a pen pal through a website that the club partners with. Students with preexisting pen pals are encouraged to contact them through the club as well, as the club is very flexible and open ended. Connecting with people from other countries is not only a great way to learn about other cultures, but also allows students to reflect on their own experiences. Northside student Olivia Borawski, Adv. 903, had a friend from Chicago who moved to Germany for six months. In that time, Borawski sent him many letters in order to stay in contact, and this form of communication became very similar to a pen pal connection. Borawski says, “Taking time to write out my experiences in a letter format gave me a greater appreciation for my life and a chance to reflect on everything I was doing.”
Members of the club will eventually be able to Skype or video message their correspondents through the club once a conversation and relationship is established between club members and their pen pals. This is a fun way to connect with and get to know people from other countries on a personal front. Having the chance to videochat with correspondents is what differentiates Northside’s club from other more surface-level pen pal programs.
Pen Pal Club is also a great opportunity for students at Northside to practice speaking a certain language in a more realistic setting. Members of the club can choose to be in contact with someone who speaks English or the particular language they are studying. To expand on this option, leaders of the club are hoping to host an exchange for people in the club to participate in with their pen pals. Because there are pen pal programs that are able to match teachers from Northside with teachers from across the world, an exchange during school would be possible. This way, friendships with pen pals through the club could come to life in an exchange that would be even more personal and memorable than other exchange programs.
For the food lovers of Northside, Bermanova says, “We also plan on fundraising to be able to send and receive packages of candy and souvenirs with our pen pals so that we can try foreign candy.” Apart from the potential exchange, sharing packages like this with pen pals can bring students even closer to the cultures of other countries.
In general, the Pen Pal Club committee plans for the club to be very open with its members, where knowledge gained from their pen pals will be discussed in meetings. As this club is new to the Northside community, members will also have a very active role in deciding the activities and future of the club, which makes this year an ideal year to join.