How Being an IPAL Helped Me Readjust
One of the best ways I was able to adjust back to life here, after being abroad all last year, was by getting involved with the IPAL program again. IPALs are the International Peer Associates League members who work with Arcadia’s international students. Our job is to help integrate these students in our American campus. We do everything from picking students up from the airport, teaching them how to use SEPTA (Philadelphia’s public transport), checking in on how their classes are, and introducing them to campus life.
Enjoying a trip to Atlantic City with international students and fellow IPALs
Arcadia receives international students from literally every corner of the world: China, Korea, India, Venezuela, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Mexico… the list goes on. So being involved in this program is an amazing way to meet new people, exchange cultures, and, of course, learn more about the United States.
The IPAL program has helped me adjust back to campus in several ways. Guiding the international students has served as a “welcome back!” refresher. For example, I was refreshed to be back in the American classroom, which differs greatly from the European classroom. In the U.S., we are given much more homework and smaller assignments as compared to courses in Europe, which usually rely on one or two big assignments and a final exam for grading. Explaining this to international students was a nice little reminder.
One of my favorite parts of being an IPAL is rediscovering Arcadia and the Philadelphia area. I love showing off my campus. The best part has to be giving castle tours and still being excited about the building every time I step into it. I’m also pretty passionate about my Philadelphia.
IPALs host a Philly trip right as the international students arrive, and it’s always such a great time to show everyone how wonderful and accessible Philadelphia is. We do all the Philly musts and then usually end with exploring. As you know from my other posts, (like this one), I believe exploration is the best way to discover a city, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop discovering Philly.
The final way the IPAL program has helped me adjust post-study abroad is that it brings with it the excitement of studying abroad. Not only do I get to explore and discover my city and my campus, I get to have new cultural exchanges and in doing so, I get to learn more about my own American culture through explaining and sharing our history, social norms, food, and cities. It’s a really valuable experience. And, since most of the IPALS have studied abroad already or are international, we always have fulfilling conversations about our experiences with our big, beautiful world!
And while the IPAL program has helped me readjust to American campus life, it’s a good feeling know that I will be part of someone’s life-changing experience, too.