Allegheny College begins ‘Culture 2 Culture Peer Mentoring’

Allegheny College’s International Education Office is implementing a new Culture 2 Culture Peer Mentoring Program that will begin in the 2015 fall semester. The program intends to help incoming international students adjust to life at Allegheny and hopes to increase internationalization within the college community.

The program aims to pair one Allegheny student with two incoming international students. The current student will act as a mentor for the international students throughout their fall semester at Allegheny. Any current student (sophomore or above) with a minimum G.P.A of 2.50 can apply to a mentor position. The position is unpaid and open to both current international and domestic students.

Mentors will be expected to initiate contact with their respective students during the summer – before the student’s arrival on campus and this contact is expected to be maintained throughout the semester. Mentors are required to attend a training session in the spring and encouraged to join the Welcome Celebration at the beginning of the fall semester. Throughout the semester, the International Office plans to host events for mentors and mentees to attend, which mentors have to attend a minimum of two.

According to Lenee McCandless, International Student Adviser, the program is intended to be beneficial for both current and international students. For domestic students, McCandless hopes it will increase cultural sensitivity, help intercultural communication skills and help them understand different cultures more. For the international students, it is about helping them not only adjust to life in America, but also to integrate them into the campus community.

“International students have a unique set of needs, language, immigration wise, different educational systems and sometimes it can be very overwhelming when they are arriving in a completely new place, especially if they have never been to America before, or been in an American educational system,” McCandless said. “My hope is that this will bridge the gap between domestic students and international students…I want international students to feel that they are not just international students but that they are Allegheny students.”

Mary English, ’15, currently works in the International Education Office as a peer adviser of international students. She has worked on helping international students in all four of her years at Allegheny but said that every year the number of international students has increased. Because there are so many more international students now, she believes that this now has to be a community effort.

“There always tends to be an international community and an Allegheny community and bridging this through this program is very important” said English. “When you do an exchange the goals are the same: to learn languages and integrate yourself. Doing this outside of the classroom is just as important as inside the classroom…the one-on-one side would help with the integration of international students.”

Huno Michael, ’15, believes that the program would definitely be useful. Michael is a four year degree-seeking student from Ethiopia, who said he would have loved to have a student mentor from Africa, if not from Ethiopia.

“Personally, I would have preferred another international student that has adjusted to life here,” Michael said. “The transition from one culture to another is hard, so having someone who has been through the similar transition can only help. But I honestly believe this could be a huge success among international and local students alike.”

McCandless said that the mentor position has been targeted at students who have studied abroad; who are able to understand feelings such as culture shock, or at students who are interested in going abroad to help them learn more about different cultures and countries. However the positions are open for anyone who would like to apply and the International Office intends to provide all mentors with necessary training. This training will include helping students with culture shock, topics to initiate conversation, resources such as the international student handbook, and diversity training.

For now the program will only run through the fall semester, however McCandless hopes that relationships will continue to develop, even after the program officially ends.

“My hope is that the program will be successful and that students will continue their relationships with mentors on their own accord in the form of new friendships.”

Applications for the program are open until March 31.