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By Felicia Krieg
A new alternative spring break program developed by the SUNY Plattsburgh Global Education Office aims to develop a deeper connection among international students and the Plattsburgh community.
Spring Break in the North Country, a two-day program, was designed to promote teamwork among people of different cultural backgrounds and educate students about the local area, said program co-organizer Erika Clement, an intern in the Global Education Office.
Luciene Ribeiro, a junior management information systems major from Cape Verde, an island off the coast of Africa, had heard a lot about the Adirondacks in her time at SUNY Plattsburgh but hadn’t had a chance to explore them before spring break of 2016, she said.
Also participating were students Radhekrishna Patel of India, Ameshai Dore of St. Kitts and Kamilah Badiane, who is from the Bronx and has an international background.
On the first day, the four students traveled to Pok-O-MacCready, a camp in the Adirondacks. There, they worked together on ropes courses and other team-building exercises. They also scaled the camp’s indoor climbing wall.
The students in the program got to know each other well since the team-building exercises required extensive communication to overcome the obstacles that were the object of each exercise.
“I think they learned a lot about themselves and each other that day and how they work with each other,” said Clement, who is pursuing a master’s degree at the School for International Training in Brattleboro Vt.
Ribeiro said she liked how Clement actively participated in the activities, doing them alongside the students.
“She really encouraged us and I felt that made us feel more like a team,” Ribeiro said.
Through the activities at Pok-O-MacCready, Ribeiro said her teammates helped her discover new skills, increasing her self-awareness.
The second day of the program was spent learning about the local economy and doing a community service project in downtown Plattsburgh.
“It’s very hard for international students to get around because they don’t have cars and aren’t familiar with the local area and what’s out there to do,” Clement said.
SUNY Plattsburgh economics and finance professor Dr. Colin Read, who owns The Champlain Wine Company, spoke to the students about his business and 30 City, an organization that promotes local businesses, artists and events.
“There’s so many small businesses downtown that I wasn’t really aware of,” Ribeiro said, adding that she had walked by them several times but had never gone in.
Read provided the students with landscaping tools to help them with the community service project. To beautify the area, the students and Clement cleaned up parts of downtown Plattsburgh and picked up litter that had been discarded along the Saranac River.
“We actually had one or two community members jump in and join us impromptu, which was nice,” Clement said, adding that they also met other local residents.
Ribeiro said she looks forward to participating in the alternative spring break program again and she hopes to recruit friends to join her next year.
The Global Education Office plans to expand the number of activities and increase participants for spring 2017. Both international and domestic students will be invited so as to enrich the experience for both populations.
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