Two SUNY New Paltz students and one staff member joined more than 200 members of the NAFSA: Association of International Educators at the organization’s 2018 Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C.
Ayaka Suzuki ’18 (International Relations) and Arjeta Prenaj ’18 (International Relations) joined Cindy Cullen, coordinator for International Student Services, in representing New Paltz in meetings with Congress people and other national policymakers.
SUNY New Paltz was one of eleven New York colleges and universities to take part in the NAFSA event.
Students took advantage of a rare chance to meet face-to-face with elected officials, including Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman John Faso, and to speak out for “the cultural, academic and economic benefits that international students, scholars and their families bring to the U.S.,” said Cullen.
It’s an important message for many members of the SUNY New Paltz community – the College is among the top SUNY campuses in both international student enrollment and domestic student participation in study abroad – and particularly to Suzuki and Prenaj, both international students preparing for careers in international relations.
In addition to her participation in NAFSA Advocacy Day, Arjeta Prenaj has studied abroad in China and enrolled in the SUNY Global Engagement Program, a for-credit experience that allows New Paltz students to work as interns at globally oriented organizations based in New York City.
“My appreciation of international education stems from my personal experience as an immigrant in the U.S., where I was able to pursue higher education and access many other opportunities,” Prenaj said. “I firmly believe that study abroad is a life changing experience whose influence spans well beyond the visits of tourist sites and trying new food in a different country. Because we live in such a globalized society, it’s crucial for youth to have access to opportunities that will expand their horizons, and increase their cultural awareness.”
Ayaka Suzuki also spoke from her first-hand experience as an international student. She will join Prenaj as a Global Engagement Program alumna later this year.
“It was absolutely important to let them hear our voices as the people who are involved in international education,” Suzuki said. “I talked from my personal experiences about why I came to the U.S., and I emphasized understanding various perspectives and interacting with various people.”
Visit NAFSA online for more info about the Advocacy Day event.