Wahoos without Borders

University's history emphasizes global focus; international students face significant challenges

There has always been an international element to the University. When Jefferson opened the University in 1825, he recruited five of the eight original faculty members from England. Today it’s no different — roughly 10 percent of the student population is international, hailing from more than 100 countries. Walking around Grounds, you can hear dozens of different languages spoken and find many different nationalities represented by various CIOs. There remain, however, unique challenges to international students.

Linda Callihan, international students and scholars advisor, said the academic standards for international undergraduate applicants are equal if not higher than those for in-state students, who are already predominately from the top 10 percent of their high school class.

International students must also grapple with homesickness, coupled with the pressures of making friends with people of such different cultural backgrounds, Callihan said.

Michelle Janssen, a second-year College student originally from the Netherlands, said living in traditional first-year dorms made it easy for her to make American friends. “I can understand though that if you lived in the IRC, stuck with other [international students], it might be harder,” she said.

Janssen said American students were initially entranced by her accent, but the novelty has worn off with time.

But though the social struggles may seem substantial, the knowledge that international students are academically prepared for the classroom challenges of the University, and the pervasive international presence in Greek Life, clubs, and dormitories serve as a perpetual reminder that the international community is deeply entrenched in the broader culture of the University.

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