Six students from around the world meet. What do they have in common? They are all exchange students studying at a U.S. university for a semester. Throughout the semester, they learn more English, learn about U.S. culture, and learn more about their fields of study. This series of Everyday Conversations is about these six students and their experiences during a semester at a university in the U.S. These conversations are for intermediate-level English-language learners or higher.

Three students volunteer at a fall festival. In this conversation, the students (Peter, Akinyi and Lee) talk about the activities at the festival.

Peter: I thought we were all meeting up here this morning. Where are Lucía, Ajay and Jana?

Akinyi: Ajay and Jana are helping Lucía with a huge midterm project for one of her classes. You’re stuck with us.

Lee: But we’re ready to help!

Peter: Well, thanks for volunteering to help out at the fall festival. It’ll be a lot of fun, and all the money goes to the children’s hospital in town.

Akinyi: Could you explain one thing to me first? What exactly is a fall festival? I volunteered without knowing what I was getting myself into.

Lee: Me too!

Peter: Now I really appreciate that you volunteered! A fall festival is like an outdoor fair with a fall theme. There’s food and music, as well as games for children. This one is an off-campus event near a farm, so there’s even going to be a corn maze.

Lee: A corn maze? Like a maze made of corn?

Peter: Exactly. You have to walk through tall cornstalks trying to find your way out of the maze. Just when you think you’re finding your way, suddenly you come to a dead end, and you have to turn around and try a different path.

Akinyi: And what happens if you can’t find your way out?

Peter: There are people who will help you. You won’t be stuck in the maze forever.

Now let’s review the vocabulary.

To be stuck with someone or something means that one is forced to take care of or deal with someone or something. In this context, it is said as a joke.

To volunteer means to offer to do something without being paid to do it or without being asked to do it.

A fall festival is a type of outdoor celebration or fair in the fall. Fall festivals have a fall theme, often with seasonal food and drink, music, games and crafts.

The phrase without knowing what (one) was getting (one)self into means that the person did not know the details of a situation in advance.

An off-campus event is an event that does not take place on the campus of a school.

A maze is a complicated system of paths or passages that people try to find their way through for fun. A corn maze is a large maze created in a cornfield. Cornstalks are cut down to create the paths.

A dead end is a road or path that is closed at one end and does not join another road or path. As a result, one must turn around to exit a dead-end path.

A cornstalk is the thick, tall stem of a corn plant.

Ready to learn more English? Our materials can help!

The American English website offers a variety of free resources for learners and teachers of English. The American English Facebook page posts learning materials for English-language learners daily.

Everyday Conversations are developed by the State Department’s Heidi Howland, a senior program officer in the Office of English Language Programs, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.