NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. – The International Peer Mentor program at Niagara University strives to help foreign students feel comfortable and appreciated in their new home. Although it is a relatively new system that operates through the Global Student Association, peer mentors are instrumental in creating a positive and welcoming atmosphere for international students. It allows those who have journeyed far from home to more easily get to know others pursuing the same career path as well as to have someone to turn to if they need help assimilating to campus life. The students in this program are hard at work planning their Spring 2017 events.
“Peer mentors are meant to be seen as a bridge between cultures,” Russell Wilson, the Head Coordinator of the international peer mentors, explains. “We’re here to provide a hand to reach to, and to listen to them and help them if they have any questions or problems. We’re essentially creating a sense of community in our association so that everyone feels calm and confident, at ease and at home.”
Students who are not active in the Global Student Association may be most familiar with the events that take place during International Education Week which work to involve the rest of the campus. Last semester, the organization kicked off this week by holding a “Food From Around the World” event in the Multipurpose Room in the Gallagher Center.
International students contributed some of their favorite dishes and shared them with the campus community. Several unique foods from a total of 11 countries were submitted, giving people the opportunity to experience bits of different cultures.
The peer mentors plan to hold more events this semester, including a huge bowling tournament for the students and their mentors to enjoy as they continue to get to know each other. The organization also has a celebration at the end of the year on the fourth floor of St. Vincent Hall, where students dress up and celebrate how much they’ve grown in the past year.
Peer mentors also take part in smaller events throughout the year based on the student interest. Some examples of these events include a Buffalo Bandits game, a trip to the Buffalo Zoo, and a field day with outdoor events such as water balloon tosses and athletics.
“Right now, the peer mentors are in the process of deciding which events they’d like to make happen this semester,” Wilson explains. “We try to have at least five or six international students paired up with two other peer mentors. We get our groups together based on a variety of factors. We always try to put people who are in the same major together first. We try to keep students who are from the same country together. We also take into consideration where they reside on campus.”
Students interested in joining the peer mentors must first go through an interview process. This is conducted to make sure that those chosen for this responsibility are truly committed to it. Students must be responsible, enthusiastic, and willing to sacrifice their time to help other people. However, it is a very rewarding activity.
“Building a connection with people from all walks of the world is a grand thing,” Wilson says.
The International Peer Mentor program provides its members with an opportunity to strengthen skills in communication, collaboration, and leadership. In addition, its members become exposed to new experiences and cultures and develop lasting bonds with people from all over the world.
To become a peer mentor, students can contact the Global Student Association, which is located in the lower level Gallagher Center.