Aztecs buddy up with foreigners

Courtesy of Global Aztec Alliance

by Adriana Millar, Staff Writer

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A fairly new club on campus helps international exchange students adjust by pairing them up with San Diego State students who have recently returned from studying abroad.

Global Aztec Alliance aims to link together exchange and study abroad returnees by providing a buddy system and hosting social mixers.

“We facilitate different activities,” psychology senior and GAA’s President Savannah Benefield said. “Usually they’re social events or community event or fundraising events for the club. Basically they’re different ways students can meet each other.”

The club aims to have at least one event each week, and is planning a barbecue at the end of the month, its biggest event thus far. Other future events include a bowling event, a bonfire and s’mores night and a beach cleanup.

Javier Inzunza, a communications senior and GAA’s public relations officer, said GAA offers local students the opportunity to show the exchange students areas tourists wouldn’t necessarily see or answer questions ranging from buying textbooks to receiving financial aid.

The club deals primarily with exchange students who are spending either one semester or one academic year at SDSU.

“Its harder for them to make connections because they’re not long term,” Benefield said.

She added that GAA primarily deals with exchange students because they don’t have access to SDSU degree-seeking international students, but GAA pairs them up with a buddy if they are looking for one.

There are 250 exchange students and 175 SDSU students who are signed up, and the club sent out buddy pairs by email the first week of August.

“It’s up to them how dedicated they are to be to their buddy,” Benefield said. “We usually ask they at least email each other a few times (and) meet up throughout the semester.”

Currently anyone at SDSU can sign up to be a buddy, but the club hopes as their numbers grow to make it only available for members.

The club also hopes to help SDSU students study abroad.

“Our board is made of people who studied abroad and before we went there were no resources, and it was hard to ask questions or find a student who had already been to that country because there was no organized way to find them,” Benefield said.

Plans include speaking to students whose study abroad requirement, and creating a buddy system for students before they go abroad, with someone at SDSU who had already studied abroad there and a local student at that university.

Benefield was inspired to start the club after witnessing similar clubs while she studied abroad in Australia and Barcelona during the 2013-14 school year.

“I wanted to keep meeting internationals (after I came back),” Benefield said.

After coming back from abroad, she visited the SDSU international center and realized similar clubs didn’t exist, so she set out to create Aztec Global Alliance, which was officially recognized last March.

“It was crazy how much interest we generated,” hospitality and tourism management senior and Fundraising Chair Kiana Ghassemi said.

Even SDSU staff and faculty have shown interest and support.

“A lot of the administration has been like ‘Wow, we’ve really been waiting for something like this to come long,’” Benefield said.

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