Study Abroad ambassadors acclimate exchange students

Nov. 3, 2008 by Denise Nava NMSU Round Up

Meeting people from around the world is just one of the many experiences the Study Abroad program offers student ambassadors.

The Study Abroad Ambassadors mentor students who take part in the exchange program through NMSU.

“An ambassador’s job is to work with all incoming exchange students,” said Kristian Chervenock, adviser to exchange students for the Study Abroad program. “Each exchange student that comes to NMSU will have an ambassador assigned or partnered to them. The ambassador’s job is to essentially be that person’s first best friend at NMSU.”

Chervenock, who is also an adviser for the study abroad ambassadors, explained each ambassador contacts the exchange student through e-mail months before they arrive.

By establishing initial contact, the ambassador and exchange student have the chance to introduce themselves and learn more about one another.

Answering any questions regarding the weather, the Southwest region, life at NMSU and even what to pack and not pack are some of the things discussed, Chervenock said.

“We basically help foreign exchange students integrate into NMSU, the Las Cruces area and the United States,” David Diamond, student ambassador, said. “When they come in from the airport, we have a comfort package prepared for them.”

Diamond, a government major, said the comfort package includes necessities for the first night an exchange student spends at NMSU.

Because each student is new to the university, Chervenock explained the comfort package was necessary for dorm life survival.

“We give them things the dorms don’t supply,” Chervenock said. “Things like pots, pans, snacks and toilet paper.”

Other items handed out include vacuum cleaners, DVD players, televisions and microwaves, which are reused each year an exchange student joins the program, Chervenock added.

“[A relationship] starts out from just the necessities standpoint,” Diamond said. “We make sure they have regular trips to buy food because not a lot of them have transportation available to them. Then it becomes more of a social perspective. We plan weekly activities [such as] bowling and excursions to local places of interest like White Sands.”

Dustin Simon, student ambassador and marketing major, said by having a mentor an exchange student can have someone to rely on, especially because they do not know much about the NMSU school system or Las Cruces.

“We also introduce them to other international friends,” Simon said. “[Each exchange student] is in the same boat, so they feel comfortable around each other.”

“We help them register for classes and navigate around NMSU,” said Diamond about helping out each student. “We do this sort of whole-nine-yard thing and we make sure they are situated.”

However, the chance to help a student with their classes and NMSU information is only half of the idea behind the program and its ambassadors.

“Ultimately, the ambassadors are what makes NMSU such a desirable place to study,” Chervenock said. “These students have a network of people before they even arrive, which is not typically international. I would say NMSU is one of the few universities that actually has [a program] organized at this level.”

Meeting people from all over the world is a challenge in Las Cruces, Diamond explained. He said he believes the city is diverse, but not the most diverse.

“Being an ambassador is a way to increase diversity at NMSU and Las Cruces,” Diamond said. “It is a great [program] to push for. I am able to get a different sense of people’s viewpoints based upon their background and beliefs.”

Because the ambassador program helps each student with their initial culture shock, Chervenock said an exchange student can orientate themselves to the community and the university and feel more at home.

“It has been a pretty rewarding experience, in terms of helping these people have the best experience possible,” Diamond said. “A lot of these ambassadors, including myself have done trips abroad, so to some extent we’re giving back. There’s no university I think that provides the level of assistance.”

The program has more than 50 exchange students and close to 46 ambassadors, Diamond said.

“In general, it’s the willingness to do [the program] and the perseverance to give the energy and the time [to be a great ambassador],” Diamond concluded. “Anyone can sign up to be an ambassador.”

Chervenock said each exchange student is either at NMSU for a full year or one semester.

“The program is a way for NMSU students to really engage in a multicultural setting right here on campus,” Chervenock added. “So, being a part of a community of students from 15 to 20 different countries, learning languages and learning about each other’s cultures is a really enriching environment.”

The ambassadors are working on a trip to Carlsbad Caverns for this month and planning a farewell banquet for students leaving in December.

To become a student ambassador or to learn more about the Study Abroad program, call the office at 646-5107.

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