Students sitting outside at a picnic table

PAL Program - Tips for Success

Follow the tips below to make the most of your Pal time:

Understanding Each Other

Our most important piece of advice is to keep an open mind. Before making quick judgments about your partner, remember the following:

  • Most U.S. students have names that come from other countries. This doesn't make them any less "American."
  • If your partner is reserved or seems uninterested, remember that we all have different ways of showing attention or respect. 
  • Just like you, your partner probably has expectations, preferences or goals for this experience. Openly discuss these topics at your first meeting so you can communicate better.  
  • Responding to emails in a timely manner and showing up to your meetings on time is a great way to show your partner you are interested and excited about meeting them.
  • Subjects that may not seem like a big deal to you may feel inappropriate or uncomfortable for your partner. 

Conversation Starters

  • Food: This is a topic that never fails to start a lively discussion! Ask your partner what, when, how, and why they eat what they eat. Compare and contrast your experiences.
  • Home Remedies: There are loads of weird and wonderful home remedies in every culture (whether or not they actually work!) which can be fun to talk about. Some might be personal to your family whereas others might be more widely used, such as lemon and honey for a sore throat.
  • Body Language: Even though verbal language is your main focus, it’s surprising how important – and often culturally specific – body language can be in learning to fit into another culture. 
  • Slang and Idioms: These are sometimes interchangeable but essentially, slang is informal language that tends to be used in speech rather than writing, and between people who are familiar with each other and share similar interests. Idioms are expressions or phrases that have a different meaning from their literal interpretation. Do you have similar slang or idioms in your cultures? Can you teach each other some new phrases?


As always, we encourage you to be safe and careful when meeting with your Pals. Follow the tips below:

  • Meet your partner in public places. Do not meet at your home or in isolated areas.
  • Do not consume drugs or alcohol when spending time with people you don't know well.
  • Because your partner may have a different first language and culture, it’s important to make sure you are both completely comfortable with any plans made.
  • Avoid driving or traveling too far away from campus.