It may have seemed a strange analogy as he repotted the plant in a larger container and handed it to a smiling student sitting near the front. But his point couldn't have been clearer.
"This plant is like you," he said, discussing how environments can sometimes become too small - and soon, a bigger pot is needed. "Maybe when you were home in your country, you were very happy and comfortable. But at some point you said, 'I need room to experience more.'
"You are all adventurers. You are taking a risk to come someplace different and have a new experience, and I admire that."
Speaking to these new students from all corners of the world, Olcese's presentation on cultural adaptation kicked off a week of orientation for new international students at Pittsburg State. They, along with their international orientation leaders, returned to campus a week before the spring semester begins on Jan. 18 in order to get familiar with the campus and enroll in courses.
Along with learning American greetings and adjusting to the food in the United States, the students listened as Olcese spoke about the cycle of emotion that they will all undoubtedly go through: excitement upon arrival, then a time when the reality of being in a strange place sets in, and ultimately a feeling of happiness and accomplishment upon adapting to a new culture.
"I absolutely experienced those ups and downs during my first couple of months," said Luis Reyes, a senior from Paraguay who now works as an international student liaison. "It feels good to be able to help students now, because there were so many people who helped me."
©2011 Pittsburg State University