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'Pitt Pal' to help American, international students forge friendships

December 12, 2008 12:00AM

A new

"
I know (international students would) love to have American students showing interest in them and helping them learn more about Pittsburg and campus life. "
~ Brenda Hawkins, coordinator for Pitt Pal
program at Pittsburg State University will soon bring American and international students together to bridge cultural gaps and learn more about one another.

The program, named Pitt Pal, will link each participating American student to an international student. Students would have time to e-mail and get to know one another before the international students arrive for classes.

"International students have a lot of questions and are probably kind of scared to come here when they don't know anyone," said Brenda Hawkins, coordinator for Pitt Pal. "I know they'd love to have American students showing interest in them and helping them learn more about Pittsburg and campus life."

Hawkins said she heard about a similar program at Kansas State University, and thought it would be a good idea here. Having experienced the benefits of talking to international students in her home, she thought it would be of great benefit to PSU students to become friends with a someone from another country.

"Getting to know them has helped me learn so much about their countries, maybe more than if I'd visited there," Hawkins said. "And it's a fun way to be proud of our culture."

While a community program called "International Friends" already exists to help international students acclimate to Pittsburg by getting to know area families, there was no equivalent student-based program, until now.

Interested students will be able to apply online, and Hawkins will pair up students based on gender and interests. The pals might even be able to live in the same dormitory.

Hawkins said several students have already signed up, and that approximately100 volunteers are needed for the spring semester.  A few hundred will be needed next fall.

The Pitt Pal program will also be counted as credit toward International Knowledge and Education (IKE) certification, another new PSU program that aims to heighten cultural awareness and understanding.

For more information, call International Programs and Services at (620) 235-4680, or visit the Pitt Pal Web site at http://www.pittstate.edu/office/international/pittpal/index.dot.

---Pitt State---

©2008 Pittsburg State University