International students are normally far from home, but on Friday, they received a welcome to their temporary home.
The International Programs and Services Office held the “Pitt Pal Kick Off” on Friday, Aug. 23 in the Crimson and Gold Ballroom of the Overman Student Center. The Pitt Pal program is in place to help international students make new friends and integrate into the campus.
“It (the Pitt Pal program) continues to have great momentum because it fulfills a desire at the beginning of the semester to get to know an American for the international students..,” said Brenda Hawkins, immigration and advising coordinator and coordinator for the Pitt Pals program. “… They come to our country to study and they want to have American friends and I think this is a great event for them to kind of get together and play some games and activities”.
The Pitt Pal Kick Off exists as an opportunity for international students to meet American students and continue to hang out with each other and have some relaxation after one week of classes.
“Pitt Pals is about having a chance to meet some of the American students that they have anxiously been waiting to meet since they have been here,” Hawkins said. “… One thing that international students probably need to know is that in the united states people are pretty friendly which I think they find out pretty quickly… if you want to make friends you just go up and be a friend to someone it easy just to reach out to the Americans”
Hawkins also added that Pitt Pals is a “great experience” for American students as well because they may not understand the experience of leaving their home to go to another country.
“The cultural challenges the international students have might be difficult for someone to understand but we truly have a lot more things in common than you think for people from different culture,” Hawkins said. “Students are going to want to eat and looking for certain kind of food you like… you do some things in your free time… recreation together… I think if they reach out and take the time to just go up and meet students that it’s easy to make friends here.”
The event began with some quizzes and games about different cultures and countries around the world.
“I think this event was great…,” said David Haag, junior in social work. “… I always enjoy getting to talk to people and seeing what people think of America... I think it’s crucial for everyone, especially Americans, to understand what life is like in other countries around the world… I personally always try to request Pitt Pals from new countries or regions so that I can learn about a variety of cultures.”
Haag said he loves being a Pitt Pal because he enjoys “showing people aspects of America’s culture.”
“I love it, whether that be watching a football game or just helping them understand some of the oddities about American English… International students come into the friendship wanting to exchange cultures… They want to learn about America, and they love teaching us Americans about their own cultures,” Haag said.
Photo courtesy of International Programs and Services