Pauline Lacanilao Arnould
Nonprofits

This Nonprofit Fosters Intercultural Awareness By Supporting International Students

One To World (formerly Metro International) is a Visit.org nonprofit partner founded by a group of foreign student advisors in 1977 to build bridges between international students on campus and the broader New York community. What began as a series of orientations and publications quickly grew into a diverse and impactful set of programs aimed at creating strong international relationships. Today, One To World fosters intercultural awareness and understanding by creating opportunities for international students and Americans to come together and share their perspectives, experiences, and lives.

In this Q&A, Marisa Silva, Director of Membership & Programs at One to World, discusses the organization’s impact, and how your team can get involved

Tell us about the impact One To World has made on the community.

One To World engages the almost 100,000 international students studying in the New York-area (including over 800 Fulbright grantees) through programs that connect these unofficial ambassadors to local residents. Having dinner inside local homes, sharing culture and experiences in the classroom, and volunteering their time together through community service projects are just some of the ways U.S. residents and international students engage on an intimate level through One To World. Due to covid-19, One To World quickly adapted to mostly virtual programming in March 2020 to continue to offer meaningful experiences in a safe environment. Examples of events that have taken place online include one-on-one meet-ups, career advice talks with Moody’s Corporate and Colgate-Palmolive (through our Visit.org connection), virtual walks of NYC neighborhoods, and social events like game and trivia nights.

One To World’s adapted to a virtual volunteering program in March 2020.

No program exemplifies the value of these experiences better than the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference (NAFAC). Each year, One To World brings a delegation of international students to this conference, where undergraduates from the U.S. Naval Academy and other universities around the country gather to discuss the most pressing foreign policy issues of the day. Our delegation of international participants offers the U.S.’s next military and civilian leaders a chance to learn from their peers all over the world, while our students enrich their experience here with a once in a lifetime opportunity to bond with and learn from midshipmen and faculty at the Naval Academy. This year the event took place virtually in April 2021 and was equally impactful for the participants who felt that the experience has changed the way international students think of the U.S. military, and vice versa. There’s “learning on all fronts,” as one international student from the Philippines put it. Another international student from France shared that the conference afforded her the opportunity to meet her best friend, one of the military students, who was also taking part in the conference.

How does offering virtual activities through Visit.org help your organization’s mission?

Like Visit.org, we are an international team working hard to create impactful social programs. As we continue our work building an interconnected global community, we value Visit.org and their partners who are able to grow our community and offer meaningful programs for international students to meet and connect with employees from a wide range of corporations. Virtual activities offered through Visit.org are even more impactful than before, as we capitalize on the shift to virtual programming to reach more international students and scholars throughout the United States.

Before March 2020, One To World primarily offered in-person networking and volunteering activities.

How can corporate teams help you achieve your mission?

Corporate teams are invaluable when it comes to engaging international students and offering them a holistic view of life in the U.S. Whether it’s through teaching professional developments skills or sharing their experiences as part of the U.S. workforce, corporate teams can help a student maximize their experience here, and open doors for them as they move into the next step of their careers. As one student form Brazil put it, “It is so encouraging as an international student to get in touch with such successful people. I learn a great deal with them and I feel valued as a prospective professional.”

Do you see changes in people’s mindsets after volunteering with your organization?

One of our main goals as an organization is to provide a space for cross-cultural exchange and mutual understanding. And this definitely includes our volunteers, who often report feeling a fresh, personal connection to a new culture or to the global community as a whole, and many return to volunteer with us again. We also empower our volunteers and students to be more comfortable meeting people from all different backgrounds.

I think the apprehension of going online and meeting someone new for the first time – I did not know what to expect, but it turned out to be a delightful surprise.

– Pearlyn Neo, Student from Singapore


Marisa joined One To World in February 2017 as Coordinator of Enrichment Programs. In December 2016, she graduated with a Master’s degree in International Education from New York University. During her studies, she worked in programming for international students in a variety of capacities at New York University and at the Institute of International Education (IIE). Marisa studied both in South Africa during graduate school, and Portugal while completing her Bachelor’s degree at the College of New Jersey. Marisa has also worked at Center for Supportive Schools, a non-profit organization that implements youth leadership programs in K-12 schools throughout the tri-state area, and Amnesty International. Marisa became the Director of Membership and Programs in July 2019, and now works closely with One To World’s 70 member institutions, while continuing to oversee meaningful intercultural programs for their international students and scholars.

To book a corporate giving back experience with One To World, contact us at impact@visit.org.