Christine Pawlowicz and Dimitri Turner at Plattsburgh State’s Global Education Office.
PLATTSBURGH — It takes minimal commitment, yet it provides an international student with a sense of home away from home.
Suddenly, settling into America doesn’t seem so foreign.
It provides locals with a glimpse into another culture.
“This has been going on for six years,” said Michelle St. Onge, coordinator of Partners in Cross-Cultural Learning at Plattsburgh State.
And it needs more volunteer community partners.
This fall, more than 350 international students from 72 different countries are enrolled at Plattsburgh State.
The university enrolls roughly 100 new international students each fall, and 30 new ones each spring.
To help students feel comfortable in their new home and learn about American culture off campus, Partners in Cross-Cultural Learning matches interested community members with first-year international students for cross-cultural social events and friendships.
“Students do not live with their community partners,” said Christine Pawlowicz, graduate assistant for Partners in Cross-Cultural Learning. “They are still on campus.”
The program is sponsored by the Global Education Office at Plattsburgh State and provides students an authentic experience of life in the United States.
It also gives local residents a glimpse into different cultures through interactions with students.
The social exchange allows international students to establish a friendly and supportive link to the community.
“We offer each new student an opportunity to connect in a home away from home,” St. Onge said.
Each semester, students are matched with community residents and meet about once a month according to their own schedules for formal activities such as family dinners. Partners in Cross-Cultural Learning also coordinates various social activities throughout the semester such as apple picking, maple sugaring, ice skating and sledding parties.
There are currently more than 50 volunteer and international student partnerships through the program.
There was a huge response from students for the fall semester.
“We are looking for new community members,” St. Onge said. “We always need more.”
That relationship can mean so much, she said.
For example, there have been instances where a student was hospitalized during the first week of school, and that student’s community partner was there.
“This helps students feel comfortable,” St. Onge said. “It is also the type of program that not only attracts, but retains students.”
Plattsburgh State has been recognized for its international efforts. International students responding to a survey by the International Student Barometer ranked the college No. 1 out of the 18 participating universities in the United States and No. 2 out of 208 in the world for overall satisfaction.
“This school is really conducive to studying,” said Dimitri Turner, a Plattsburgh State student from St. Kitts and Nevis. “I would recommend it to any other student.
Coming here has opened his eyes to so many differences in the world and provided him with a new outlook on life.
“It is a great way to see the world.”
Community members who participate often gain a new perspective, too.
St. Onge said Community members volunteer in the program for a variety of reasons, such as their own international experiences, exposing children to culture, practicing a language and experiencing culture firsthand and without leaving the area.
The program is currently recruiting volunteer community partners and hopes to hear from those interested as soon as possible.
“This gives students a softer landing,” Pawlowicz said.
More information for those interested in becoming a volunteer community partner is available by calling St. Onge at 518-564-3270 or visiting the program online at plattsburgh.edu/admissions/international/picl.php