Study Abroad trip leads to student’s involvement in Passport

Written by Kendell Combs, Junior, Agribusiness Management & Agricultural Communication

Sara Lechlider (Sophomore; Agribusiness Management; Gaithersburg, MD) completed a Maymester entitled “An Italian Food Experience” this past summer with the AGEC department. It focused on food production, preparation, and marketing in Italy. Through her application process, she heard about Passport and knew it was something she would be interested in when she returned to campus for this fall semester. At a large callout in September, Sara signed up to be a participant in the organization.

Passport stands for Purdue Association of Student Study Abroad Participants and Other Recent Travelers. It is a club that pairs domestic students who have studied abroad at least once with international students studying at Purdue. There are almost 400 members at the moment, almost split evenly among domestic and international students. Each domestic student is paired with an international student. The idea is that you help your buddy outside of the program if they ever need anything, since most of them are trying to adjust to life in the United States. Various events are held throughout the semester and year. Some of their events have included Exploration Acres, Ice Cream Crawl around campus, a bonfire, football tailgate, and a scavenger hunt around campus. Sara’s Passport buddy’s name is Sean and this club has given them the chance to get to know each other, because they might have never met without Passport. “I have met so many great people here at Purdue who are from all over the world, and even from here in the U.S.”

Sara is thankful for gaining cultural awareness from this is experience and has had the best time talking with international students and comparing our culture with theirs. “It is one thing to study abroad and learn about other cultures while you’re in a different country of your own, because you are essentially forced to. It is a new level to reach to put effort into learning about cultures other than your own while you are comfortable with your surroundings.” She said there is a lot of talent at Purdue from all over the world and these individuals are going to be in very high places one day. “Even if they are not studying something related to you, there are always connections to be made and things to be learned.” Another benefit of finding a fit in Passport from Sara’s perspective is that employers are looking for individuals who are comfortable with those who are different than us. She said that having a good understanding of cultural diversity can set you far apart from other individuals here at Purdue because it is not necessarily a common trait to have. 

Sara’s Passport involvement has given her a platform to make an impact in the lives of Purdue’s international students who are trying to find their place at Purdue while also adjusting to life in another country. 

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