A new ambassador program

Visiting a country that one is unfamiliar with can be intimidating. Committing to receive a form of education in a different country is a whole different story. Recently, it has been proposed that Virginia Wesleyan University have plans to start an ambassador program for current students to help international students become acclimated to the campus and the country. The general idea and purpose of the program is to provide a chance for future international students to connect with Virginia Wesleyan students for a chance to establish a mentor-mentee relationship. This will become a way for international students to not only make connections on campus, but a way for them to acclimate easier with a new and possibly intimidating environment.

In establishing this program, the general goal of the university is to create a safe environment, establish a support system and create genuine connections between the students attending Virginia Wesleyan and any potential international students. To begin trying to understand what this student ambassador is, it’s interesting to know what student ambassadors are by definition.

By simply googling the meaning for “student ambassador,” various general definitions constantly state things such as that they are students who are “dedicated” to representing their school, they provide campus tours and represent the institution as a whole to others or the public. This is an easy picture to imagine as everyday just sitting in the Batten Student Center student can constantly see many tours being given by the university’s own student ambassadors. This isn’t exactly what the university is trying to aim for. While these student ambassadors may have some of the same responsibilities in that they should show international students the campus and how it runs, I believe there is less focus on image and more focus on accommodating how an international student my feel like when arriving at Virginia Wesleyan University.

As for the creation of a program similar to this, but strictly for international students, I believe it would be a step forward in making the experience of such students in more comfortable. I personally have never had experience being an international student, but do know how hard it can be living in a different country that is culturally and linguistically different. There are different struggles such not understanding how a society may work and not understanding certain things that can be detrimental to someone’s experience. By having an international student ambassador program, it can truly make life for these students better, or at least make the transition a whole lot easier.

So much time is spent worrying about having the opportunity to study abroad that factors such as culture and language are forgotten. Not being able to communicate with the right social cues just because one may not understand can easily be fixed simply by having a colleague or friend nearby. By having this connection, it makes the experience more bearable and less exhausting. It’s easy to forget that sometimes, having a friend by your side makes the situation bearable and easy to accomplish.

Adding an ambassador program geared toward international students can also benefit the university as well.

Interacting with different international students can be a learning experience. While the university has hosted international students before, this program would create a better and more personal opportunity for Virginia Wesleyan students to learn more about what lies outside of the campus walls and Virginia itself. It’s good to know what’s different and how things work in other countries. By having this knowledge, a person can only grow and expand their experience. Creating connections such as these can only be, or at least should be beneficial, in the long run as learning about different people and how they may live their lives is interesting and exciting. By having such an environment, one can only hope good things will come from it. This may be a way to let future or prospective international students know that it shouldn’t be a daunting experience to study abroad but more so a liberating experience instead.

Marlyn Silva