Richmond students returning from abroad packed into the International Center Commons alongside their foreign counterparts for the Welcome/Welcome Back Spiders Reception on Tuesday afternoon.

Students showed up for the good food as well as an opportunity to listen to Martha Merritt, the new dean of International Education, and President Crutcher discuss a new era of international studies at the University of Richmond.

57 percent of Richmond students now spend some time abroad at more than 75 universities and programs in more than 30 countries.

Dr. Merritt, a Russianist and political scientist, who was the dean of the College for Academic Programs and Advancement at the University of Chicago, discussed the shared experiences of students starting on and returning from their adventures abroad.

“This building and the people who work in it create a place where your stories and experiences are welcome,” Merritt said, “and in this building, your stories are relevant to what we do every day.”

Merritt said that diversity and globalization were great challenges for all campuses, and that it was the way we weave these things together that enhances students’ experiences as they learn new cultures and navigate across new frontiers.

The fundamentally international faculty and creative ideas about international education have Dr. Merritt excited about getting to work this fall.

Talking about new events and programs she was planning for international students, Merritt mentioned an upcoming trip to Monticello[cq] that domestic students were encouraged to attend as well.

“It’s an opportunity for someone from Beijing and someone from Dayton to learn how they view Monticello differently.” Merritt said.

Crutcher, himself a Fulbright Scholar, shared some of the personal realizations he had while living in Bonn Germany for five years in the 1970s.

“I learned how important it was to be by yourself, how to be alone without being lonely.” Crutcher said. “It changed my life.”

President Crutcher, who studied German language and music as an undergraduate at Miami University of Ohio, said he would have to walk to the nearest post office in Bonn to call home in 1972. He admitted that at one point he called his mother to say he wasn’t coming home.

Richmond students eagerly discussed their shared experiences over spring rolls and chicken kebabs after the speeches.

“I was the only person from Richmond in my program and I was able to branch out and make new friends." said Destiny LeVere, a senior who studied in Spain,

Cindy Portillo, also a senior, said she had learned how to depend on herself before depending on others while studying abroad in Argentina.

“It was a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone, and maybe the only opportunity you will have to do it.” Portillo said.

“If we are going to really prepare students to lead purposeful lives they have to be acquainted with the entire world, and be comfortable with the entire world.” Crutcher said.

Contact Collegian reporter William Shelton at william.shelton@richmond.edu