If you’re a Plattsburgh State student looking to broaden your perspective but are unable to travel abroad, look no further than your own campus.

There are nearly 350 international students enrolled at PSUC who come from more than 65 different countries. Diversity week, which will run from Feb. 25 to March 3, presents a great opportunity to get to know some of them. The wide selection of events is already planned and can be found on the campus’ website. They include film screenings, book talks and panel discussions. Multiple events will take place daily, which accommodates most schedules. There’s no reason not to attend at least one of these sessions that piques your interest.

PSUC has hosted two open forums since the beginning of February on the topics of international issues and free speech. The first forum, held Feb. 1, was extraordinary. Mainly because it offered everyone the chance to hear the unique and crucial perspectives of the students who help diversify our campus.

While at an event such as this, it’s worth asking yourself, “Does this crowd reflect my own friend group?”

There’s a good probability it doesn’t, and that’s OK. Plenty of us don’t have friend groups consisting of many different ethnic backgrounds. Befriending new people isn’t always easy, especially when you already belong to a group, which is why it’s critical for campuses to hold events that not only attract diverse crowds, but also create interaction among them. It isn’t difficult to imagine how many U.S. born students enrolled here have never had an interaction with an international student lasting longer than mere seconds, if at all.

A recent study that appeared in the Journal of Intercultural Communication found that 40 percent of international students report having no close American friends and say that they wish they had more meaningful interaction with those born in the U.S.

Nearly half of the foreign students cited language proficiency or being shy as reasons for difficulty in befriending Americans. But, they also mentioned American factors, such as superficiality or lack of interest in other cultures.

On the other hand, not as many U.S. students are studying abroad as you may think. According to the 2016 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange data, approximately 90 percent of U.S. undergraduates don’t study abroad before graduating — though the number of U.S. students who do study abroad has consistently risen for more than two decades. In 1989-90, about 75,000 students did so. While in 2014-15, the number rose to more than 300,000 students.

Multiple studies have indicated major benefits for students who have traveled abroad including an increased chance of finding employment after graduating and greater improvement in GPA post-study abroad. Researchers at the Friedrich Schiller University at Jena, Germany, found that studying abroad can help students develop emotional stability and openness as well as cope with new experiences.

American and International students joining and interacting is by all means a win-win situation. Americans can gain a better understanding of how others live in different parts of the world.

While international students can better assimilate and feel more at home, we have too much to learn from one another to be deterred by shyness and apathy. Our connecting has the potential to enrich us in more ways than one.

So, if you can’t pack up and fly half-way around the world, remember this: half-way around the world is already here.

Email Steve Levy at cp@cardinalpointsonline.com

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