Ambassadors help visiting students, promote awareness

By Camille Quiñones

Members of Purdue International Agriculture Ambassadors

Photo provided by Linda Vallade

Members of Purdue International Agriculture Ambassadors pose next to the Purdue Boilermaker Xtra Special, a small version of the Boilermaker Special, Purdue's official mascot.

Carissa McCay spent time studying abroad in Honduras and Australia, so she knows what it is like to be in an unfamiliar country facing different cultures and customs.

"When I studied abroad, my interaction with others was very important," said McCay, a senior agribusiness management major from Tippecanoe, Ind. "It helped me understand the new culture and break down cultural barriers."

A desire to help others overcome the same barriers is one reason McCay is a Purdue International Agriculture Ambassador. The organization is made up of students who have studied abroad and who are now promoting Purdue Agriculture study abroad programs. They also serve as advocates for global awareness and as aides for exchange students who are currently studying at Purdue.

Because they have experienced the difficulties that come with culture and language barriers, the ambassadors can help an exchange student's stay at Purdue be a more positive and educational experience.

Ambassadors host many small events, such as an international food festival. During these events the international students get to know the ambassadors and each other. The exchange students also rely on ambassadors to be their American buddies. If they ever have questions or concerns, exchange students can turn to their ambassadors for help.

"The buddy system helps international students merge into the Purdue lifestyle," said McCay.

Ambassadors attend events all over campus to tell Purdue Agriculture students about study abroad opportunities and promote global awareness.

Learning about foreign study opportunities from those who have experienced it is very important, said Linda Vallade, program leader for Purdue International Programs in Agriculture.

"When they speak about the cultures they experienced, they are not only advertising that particular study abroad trip, they are encouraging others to take steps to learn more about places and cultures that are much different from what they experience each day," said Vallade.

"International Agriculture Ambassadors can provide genuine insight that an advertisement on a pamphlet could not," she added.

Becoming familiar with International Agriculture Ambassador members benefits current Purdue University students, as well.

"For freshmen, especially, they may have never known that there are options to study abroad the summer after their first year in attendance at Purdue," said Vallade.

"Being involved with international agriculture has been one of the best experiences for me," McCay said. "I feel that this group has helped me become more worldly."