In spring 2018, the University of Richmond hosted more than 40 international exchange students from across the globe, according to the international education page on the UR website. How do students from thousands of miles away learn about this small liberal arts college?
Some students from different continents hear about UR through word of mouth. Students who previously studied at UR talk to other students planning to study abroad about their experiences here, and in this way information about Richmond is spread.
Hironaga Harauchi, an exchange student from Japan, is in his second and last semester here. He heard about UR through other students from his home institution, Akita International University. His friend from home had only good things to say about UR and convinced him to apply, he said.
Similar to Harauchi, Franz Deim, who attends Vienna University of Economics and Business, learned about UR through other students. After sufficient research, he chose UR school as his first choice. He came across UR when looking at a list of partner universities on his school's website.
Harauchi and Deim were both interested in the UR as a well-ranked school as well as the small class sizes, they said.
Deim also had a few other preferences when choosing a school to attend.
“I didn’t want to be in a very big city, so I crossed out New York and LA,” he said. “After looking at a couple of schools and how big they are, how nice their campus is, I kind of settled on Richmond.”
Deim’s home institution is the biggest business school in Europe, with a population of 23,000 students, and he said the smaller size of UR appealed to him. In addition to the small class sizes, the high-ranking business school and beautiful campus also drew him to UR, he said.
What finally settled Harauchi's decision to apply only to UR was the location.
“I heard this is the best city in the East Coast," Harauchi said. "Life in New York is too busy. Also, the only option in New York was Oswego. That’s not New York. That’s like Okutama, the edge of Tokyo."
For students such as Lara Morrison, who came from the University of Edinburgh and is studying at Richmond for a year, UR wasn’t a top choice.
“I did an online application to study abroad and put down five choices," Morrison said. "I didn’t get any of the five choices, but they offered me Richmond."
The schools Morrison applied to were all big state schools. However, she is glad she ended up at Richmond, she said.
“I heard they have an amazing business program, and everyone is so friendly and nice,” she said.
Morrison said she was excited about all of her new friends and to try a different lifestyle – both academically and socially.
UR has implemented programs and resources in anticipation that students planning to study at UR from outside countries may have to adjust to new cultures and customs.
Silvia Serrano, an exchange student from Charles III University of Madrid, said her first week at school was an adjustment.
“It was really weird," she said. "It was hard. You leave everything there. Your parents, your friends.”
The University of Richmond has implemented programs and resources in anticipation that students planning to study at UR from outside countries may have to adjust to new cultures and customs.
Despite moments of homesickness, Serrano has embraced this opportunity to step outside her comfort zone. International orientation week helped Serrano meet people from the Czech Republic, Australia and Pakistan, just to name a few countries.
“I have been hanging out with my orientation adviser, Emily [Churchill],” Serrano said. “I don’t know where she finds the time, but she does a lot here.”
Churchill and Serrano went to a Latin jazz festival in Carytown just a few weeks ago.
Many students still keep in touch with their orientation advisers and use them as a resource.
“The orientation advisers were really helpful," said Julia Roig Perelló, an exchange student from Madrid. "They can tell you how everything works from a student's perspective."
International students and exchange students have an online orientation, as well as an on-campus orientation.
“We do that so that the students have some idea of what they’re going to be experiencing,” said Krittika Onsanit, the director of International Student and Scholar Services.
Another important resource is junior Whitney Bai, the international student peer mentor. Her main responsibilities as a mentor include being a representative for both the international and exchange students.
Bai sends out weekly event newsletters and answers any questions students might have, she said. Bai is involved in many different clubs on campus and holds various occupational positions, so international students may find her to be a good example for being involved on campus.
Bai said there were so many opportunities for all Spiders, and these opportunities would present themselves when a student was open-minded.
“A lot of international students want to stay in their comfort zone, and I feel that, too, but once you step out of that zone, everyone is the same," Bai said.
Contact contributor Kaori Tachibana at firstname.lastname@example.org.