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Agnes thought of dropping out - The Language Café changed her mind

Academic Language Cafe at USN, campus Drammen. photo.
Vocabulary training: Volunteers at the Language Café teaches Anges N. Danielsen (left) and the other nursing students to understand and to use the nursing vocabulary. Photo: Beate Lie Sverre.

Nursing student with Norwegian as their second language praises the new tutoring program at USN. – At the café, they see us and they hear us.


“I always look forward to Wednesdays, because that’s the day of the Language Café,” nursing student Rose Umulisa says. 

She is a N2-student, which means she has Norwegian as her second language. Umulisa feels students who has Norwegian as their first language sometimes show little interest in her and other N2-students.

“Often, in the classrooms, I feel we are being perceived as a bit stupid,” Danielsen says.

That is why she and fellow student Agnes Danielsen participates at Academic Language Café (ALC), a tutor program offerd for N2-nursing students at campus Drammen.

“It’s different at ALC. You don’t have to be afraid of anyone laughing if you happen to pronounce something the wrong way. Life has gotten easier after I started attending ALC.”

The Department of Nursing and Health Sciences runs the third biggest bachelor’s programme for nursing in Norway. It also offers a wide range of master’s programmes and continuing and further educations.

Academic Language Cafe at USN, campus Drammen. photo.

Creates a bond between students

Agnes admits that she at one point considered dropping out from the university, but that was before she discovered the Café. 

“The Café creates a safe environment for us, and since I started going I have become more confident academically and as a person. Now I dare to speak up in lectures and take an active part in group discussions with fellow students.”

Julie Abaja, whom also is a N2-student, says ALC creates a strong bond between the participating students.

“We also get a good relationship with the ALC-teachers and the third year students who are lecturing us. They help us understand the requirements of the programme, they teach us how to hold presentations, and they let us share our perception and understanding of the subjects with the other nursing students. In addition, we learn better Norwegian and they help us search for literature on the different topics. All in all, I feel I get a better chance to show my knowledge and my skills at ALC.”

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Higher amount of dropouts 

Beate Lie Sverre, ALC’s project manager, says the goal is to develop a tutor program at USN which can help strengthen the N2-students’ knowledge in nursing and Norwegian language.

“There are more dropouts among the N2 student than others. They use more time to complete their degrees and have bigger challenges socially and personally,” she says.

“The inflictions of these challenges comes to show when we censor work requirements and examinations in the nursing program. We also experience that the students face communication related problems in their clinical studies, and this can in fact lead to an endangering of patients life. That is the reason for establishing ALC, as we have wanted to do something about these challenges for a long time.” 

Academic Language Cafe at USN campus Drammen. photo

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Safe and social

University lector and project coworker Hjørdis Frisnes says students are encouraged to use nursing terminology and speak up in front of each other at ALC.

“The key factor is to create an environment that feels safer than the environment they meet in the classrooms and auditoriums. That is why we focus on having a café atmosphere, where we serve coffee, tea and do social activities like playing the word games Alias with words from the nursing field,” Frisnes says.  

“We believe that professional competence are easier adopted trough a safe, acknowledging and social environment,” Sverre adds.

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In need of student assistants 

Based on feedbacks in qualitative interviews performed by the project group on several of the participants, there are no doubt that students are happy with ALC.

“The students think it is a wonderful offer. Several have told us that the participations have helped them getter better grades and that they are now thriving at USN,” Sverre says.

Among the coworkers on the project are five student assistants who are third year students with nursing experience. Sverre emphasizes their role in the project.

“They become role models. For that reason, we would like to see more N2-students apply for these jobs.”

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Academic Language Cafe at USN, campus Drammen. photo.

A universal model 

ALC is an action science project, which means the programme’s content are being adjusted and changed continuously based on feedbacks from the N2-studens, the student assistants and the project group. 

“With this project we hope to be able to develop an educational guidance model which can be used in all the university’s professional programs. There will be a bigger need for such a model in the future, because the number of N2-students are increasing,” Sverre says.

Another goal for the project group is to have the findings from the project published in national and international scientific journals.

“The ALC project lasts until December 2019. Besides quantitative interviews with N2-students, we also conduct multi-stage interviews with every project participants. I hope that we will see that this way of tutoring is useful and effective.” 

The ALC starts up again this semester on Wednesday, August 22. Sverre and the others hopes to see many familiar and new faces attending the café.

Academic Language Café 

Academic Language Café (ALC) is an action science project, taking place at campus Drammen. The project group’s goal is to develop a tutor program for N2-nursing students. 

The project is a collaboration between the Department of Nursing and Health Science (DNHS) and the Drammen Library.

The project group consist of: 

  • Beate Lie Sverre, project leader and DNHS
  • Hjørdis Frisnes, DNHS
  • Live Helene Jensen, DNHS
  • Anne Skjæret Stenhammer, Drammen campus library
  • Marit Gjone Sandsleth, Drammen campus library
  • Jorid Sandsleth, retired teacher and project volunteer 
  • Five student assistants

The project started in December 2017 and will last until December 2019.