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Volunteer Partners Needed for International Students

02:18pm EST, 21 Feb 2013

Photo of Fahim Nazim and Dr. Steve Light at PICL gathering

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (Feb. 21, 2013) — SUNY Plattsburgh’s Partners in Cross-cultural Learning is looking for local volunteers.

Each year, more than 50 new international students come to study at SUNY Plattsburgh. PICL allows community members to bring the world into their home as they partner with those students.

Michelle St. Onge, program coordinator, said there is an application process for the program designed to match similar personalities.

“We want to make sure they have things in common,” she said.

PICL does not require the large time commitment of exchange programs that have international students live with families for a semester or school year, according to St. Onge. Instead, the commitment is one hour a month for the school year.

“The great part of the program is that it is according to your own schedule. You and your family are having a birthday party for your child. The international student can come or not. It’s all about your own schedule,” St. Onge said.

However, the PICL program does provide non-mandatory events where all the families get together to have some fun. In the past, they have held dinners, apple picking and more.

“A lot of what we do is around food,” she said. In fact, the program has received a grant from College Auxiliary Services to host cultural lunches. St. Onge will ask a student to help host the lunch by presenting information about their culture and assisting the chefs in planning a menu specific to their country.

St. Onge said this is a great way to learn about different regions of the world.

“The American media tells us one thing about the rest of the world, but it is a completely different experience to hear it from an international student from that country. The perspective can be completely different or validating.”

In addition to teaching others about their culture, through PICL the students are able to have a first-hand experience with an American family. Community members can help quell stereotypes about Americans learned through movies or other forms of media, St. Onge said.

Sue Ko, a community member who is participating PICL for the first time this year, said she has had a great experience.

“I love the students. I like being able to eat with the students where they go to school,” she said.

Ko is the partner for a few students. One is Linyi Wang, a native of China.

Wang said Ko has helped her learn more about American culture and practice her English.

“I remember that I had my first birthday in America, and my PICL family surprised me with a celebration. It made me feel very warm,” Wang said.

Community members do not need to be affiliated with the campus to participate. The program is open to all.

“Being open-minded. Having a little bit of time to reach out of students. That’s all you need,” she said.

To learn more about PICL, contact St. Onge at 518-564-3287 or stongemr@plattsburgh.edu.

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Contact Information

If you would like more information on any of the following news releases, please contact:

Michelle Ouellette, Associate Director, Public Relations and Publications
SUNY Plattsburgh
Phone: (518) 564-2090
E-mail: news@plattsburgh.edu