Orientation week has arrived and Pitt State welcomed more than 120 new international students from Asia, Europe, and South America. Since PSU has a long history of hosting and attracting international students, these students received a proper Gorilla welcome, with assistance from 36 volunteers.
Brenda Hawkins, Pitt Pal Coordinator and administrative specialist in International Programs and Services, said the orientation week officially started August 14.
“We have over a hundred students that have already arrived,” Hawkins said. “What we planned for them is presentations that will help them understand things they need to know about the culture and the campus and how to succeed as exchange students. … A lot of our orientation leaders will be sharing about their experience as student and helping them learn the ins and outs of Canvas, Gus, you know where to find your syllabus, and a lot of practical things.”
Hawkins said the international office has 12 official international advocates and 24 Orientation leaders, all of whom helped along the way to prepare for the welcome.
“This group of volunteers is so selfless, they are welling to just jump in even when they are tired at the end of the day and said, ‘yes, I’d love to go give a long campus tour and show off this beautiful campus to students’,” she said. “It comes from their excitement and their gratitude for a place like Pittsburg State University. … I’ve seen them go the extra mile”
Hawkins said her passion for working with international students stemmed from her own experience.
“I worked for non-profit for several years and got to take American students overseas and the hospitality that I received from every country I visited was so gracious,” she said. “I was excited to be able to come here and give back a little bit from what I have experienced when I was overseas.”
Meilene Robinette, junior in in Spanish said, is one of the many students who partook in volunteering for the welcome and orientation.
“Last year I was a volunteer, but this year I am working as the driver coordinator,” Robinette said. “… All of us drivers are trying to make it a little easier and enjoyable for the new international students. Overall, all the drivers are working well and are on top of things.”
Robinette’s mother was an international student at PSU, which drew her interest to work the orientation, as it inspires her to contribute to the PSU community.
As part of the orientation and welcome, the new students and all PSU friends were invited to a dinner from 5 to 7 p.m. at John Lutheran Church Activity Center. The dinner was hosted as away to bring the international students and Pittsburg community together.
“I received a lot of help when I first got here, there were so many people that are willing to help me and that kind of inspired me to do the same for all other people who come here,” said Paula Ovelar, senior in psychology from Paraguay and an orientation leader volunteer. “We are checking like between 100 to 150 students, so they have a lot things need to get done. It’s a whole process and we have many activities each day. The fact that I have been helped a lot when I got here makes me want to contribute to the PSU community in the same way.”
Additional students arrived and checked-in the following day of the orientation week, August 15. At the end of the day the students had a welcoming dinner at the Alumni center at 5 p.m. Following at 6 p.m. the new students had a small gathering with PSU President Steve Scott.
“Really it’s just a moment to welcome them on a very personal level,” Scott said. “For me this is one of the signature events that we’ve started; international students all come to the patio, talk to them a little bit about where they’re from. … It’s exciting to see how they feel about (the) place, what they’ve all learned about Pitt State, and it’s just exciting to engage them and welcome them.”
President Scott said it is significant to the PSU community to help all students become successful and make them feel at home.
“It takes a lot of courage to leave your home country, some of them travel 30 hours or more to get here, they are dealing with language barriers and cultural barriers … I think there is a real sense in this community we want to reach out to them and help them overcome those barriers, at the same time learn about their cultures.”