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International orientation leaders. Row 1. Jone Tan, sophomore in graphic design, Dwarkesh Thakkar, sophomore in automotiv technology, Anoop Ponnanthara Vinod, junior in business finance, and Abhiraj Thakor, junior in automotive technology. Row 2. Xiaodi Xun, sophomore in piano performance, Nazneen, gratudate student in technology, and Anali Otazo, senior in communication.

International Advocates strive to promote cultural awareness

New international students arriving to Pittsburg State University for the first time may experience a wide variety of emotions including anxiety, homesickness, and confusion. With this in mind, the PSU International Programs and Services has roles for current Pitt State international students to be in positions to help new students adjust to the culture and life in the United States. 

International Advocates (IAs) are current Pitt State international students that through leadership roles, help PSU international students adjust to their new lives in the U.S. and help them through any issues that may arise.  

“I reach out to new students and become friends with them by resolving their queries, assisting during orientation and celebrating with them in several events and parties,” said Abhirajsinh Thakor ‘Raj’, junior in automotive technology. Thakor is an international advocate this year and is from the Western state of India, Gujarat.  

Thakor was inspired to become an International Advocate after seeing the enthusiasm and kindness of the IAs that helped him when he arrived in 2017. 

“I was happy to see a bunch of enthusiastic students from different countries who were there to help me and the other international students, right from the time I arrived at the airport and throughout the orientation week,” he said. 

The desire to give back to new students is a common drive for wanting to apply to be an IA. 

“When I first came in as a freshman I had no idea about anything that was going on and it was the Advocates who helped me out with everything,” said Anoop Ponnanthara Vinod, junior in business finance, an IA from Kochi, India. “So, I wanted to give back the experience and support that I received to the new students coming to Pitt State.” 

International Advocates help in a large capacity during the international orientation each semester; leading a team of new students through the orientation and building connections with them. 

 “I know how they would feel as the new international student,” said Xiaodi Xun, junior in piano performance. “So, I did open for any question, and I did control my negative emotions and carrying them as my brother and sisters. I tried my best to lead them step by step.” 

Xun is from Changsha, China and wanted to become an IA to develop her leadership skills and practice working in a team. 

Although one of the primary roles of an IA is being an orientation leader, the eight IAs work throughout the semester to achieve the mission of IAs.  

According to the International Programs and Services, the mission of the IAs is “to advocate for international students, and intercultural learning and understanding on the Pitt State Campus and community”. 

Ronald Tan, sophomore in graphic design, is an IA from Kuala Lumpor, Malaysia. Tan is involved in many on campus groups, including the Korean Student Association, Taiwanese Student Association, the International Student Association, and Ping Pong club. He has joined these groups to encourage and promote cultural diversity, in addition to promoting cultural events in class and on campus. 

“I would advertise or encourage some of the international events to the classmates I know whenever is possible,” he said. 

Many of the IAs are involved in many other leadership roles across campus and are members of other clubs and organizations.  

“Being involved with different initiatives like Big Event, Pitt Pal & Pitt family, Food & Culture, Taste & Sounds, etc. helps me to promote and get involved with international students in order to advocate multiculturalism,” Thakor said. 

International Advocates must apply to be a leader online, and if they are chosen, they receive a scholarship of $1,000 in the form of a tuition waiver for the semester they are participating in the program.  

To hear the individual stories of each of the eight IAs, refer to the “International Programs & Services – Pittsburg State University” FB page and the Pittstate_International Instagram page for an International Advocate spotlight. 

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