International boundaries blurred as students from many countries coalesced on the fifth floor of Fairmount Towers where I lived while working on my Master’s degree.  It was a co-ed floor where American and international students were paired.  The student lounge was our mini United Nations with rich discussions of politics and culture.  The conversations continued at lunch and dinner in a seemingly magical space.  Late-night soccer games were a norm along with sharing traditions and food – oh, the food!   One night we sat in a circle and discussed animal noises in each language and laughed until tears rolled; we were a family.  Yes, we designed t-shirts to signify our collective citizenship.  For two years I lived in a temporary community that came together in a way that forever transformed my vision of the world.

Living on the international floor taught me the importance of multiple perspectives and the importance of friendship in the face of difference or ongoing geopolitical strife.  For example, there was the time my Syrian roommate, Mohammad, came in the room when I was watching the news.  The anchorman was talking about US ships firing on Syrian-backed troops in Lebanon as pictures flashed on the screen.   The reality of that moment was seared into my consciousness as Mohammad and I spoke of our friendship and governmental differences that ignored the common threads of humankind.  The education I received by living on the international floor was at least equal to that of my Master’s degree.

On November 16thof this year, I received an invitation from Jaafar El Tassa, a graduate assistant in our Global Education Office, to attend the Night of Nations.  He shared that there would be, “a pre-show featuring cultural workshops and activities brought to you by student volunteers from around the world” on Saturday night.  There also would be performances in Giltz Auditorium by students from around the world.  Saturday was very busy day in my home, but my son Benjamin was interested in attending Night of Nations so off we went to Hawkins Hall.

Graphic Design by Jaafar El Tassa

The pre-show workshops and activities were informative and interactive with music, slide shows, crafts, and discussions that celebrated cultural traditions from around the world.  The show that followed in Giltz by our international students was amazing.  It was a standing-room-only event with one of the most diverse audiences I have ever seen in Giltz Auditorium.  A few American students performed with the international students, a sight that carried me back to when I lived on the international floor – those students are so fortunate.  The Night of Nations provided the perfect context to share stories with my son.

SUNY Plattsburgh has the most international students of any comprehensive college in the SUNY system.  Cardinal Points reported that, “For the second year in a row, PSUC has received high rankings including No. 1 in the country for overall international student state of comfort by the International Student Barometer” (Excellent work by Jackie Vogl and her staff).   We are fortunate beyond measure to live and work in a place where there are multiple opportunities for everyone to transcend the conditioned boundaries of xenophobia and to learn more about a wide variety of cultures.

I celebrate difference and am thankful that our Campus Plan, now in its final stages of development, has a category entitled:  Increase Global Experiences and Multicultural Competencies.  Our ability to create a caring, productive community, country, and world, where peace and social justice are the norm, rests squarely on our ability to do this well.

P.S. Thanks again for the invitation Jaafar.

Reff, E. (2012, April 12) PSUC tops for international students. Cardinal Points. Retrieved from http://www.cardinalpointsonline.com/news/psuc-tops-for-international-students-1.2732769