More than 80 international students arrived at the University of Lynchburg this week — a record number. Most of them were picked up by staff members who drove vans to Dulles International Airport on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
Vice President for Enrollment, Marketing, and Communications Aaron Basko and Admissions Counselor Kevin Gelok signed up for the afternoon route on Tuesday.
“I was thrilled to drive up there to welcome this diverse group of scholars to the United States,” Basko said. “It’s especially gratifying when you’ve only communicated via email, Google Meet, and webinars. To finally greet all of these students in person and make sure they get to campus safely was an honor.
“I’m really excited for this academic year. I’m sure they will have a fantastic time at Lynchburg, and I know their diverse cultural experiences will enrich our community.”
While the University has seen strong international numbers in the past, it’s never had more than 73 students from foreign countries on its campus. In Fall 2021, 15 international students lived on campus. By Fall 2022, that number had doubled to 32.
The 80-plus new international students this fall will bring Lynchburg’s total international student population to about 120.
One of the newbies this year is Sebastian Sierra from Bogota, Colombia, a computer science major and varsity tennis player.
“A friend talked to me about the University and the city,” Sierra said. “This made me get more interested about the University and start getting in contact with the tennis coach. After all the process, I decided to come here because of the kindness from the coach and the admissions office.
“Also, because it was not a big school and it was a really good college academically.”
Sierra added that he’s excited to connect with other international students — in addition to furthering his interest in computer science. “What really interests me is being part of and understanding the development of AI and machine learning,” he said.
“After I graduate, I would like to work in an IT company while I do my master’s, so in the future I will be able to have my own company and help many people around the world.”
Sierra is one of five incoming students from South America. There also are currently 48 students from Nepal, with four more expected in October — the largest international demographic joining Lynchburg’s campus. Overall, there are 34 countries represented, including Nigeria, South Korea, the Netherlands, India, and Honduras.
To better support Lynchburg’s growing international student population, the University has hired International Student Support Coordinator Danielle Sarchet. She’ll work closely with the students to connect them with programs and events on campus and direct them to the appropriate departments and resources.
“I’m thrilled to welcome our international students, and I’m very thankful for a warm and inviting campus that is eager to support them,” Sarchet said. “I’m here for these students, and I advise different departments at the University on how to support our international students. This is a joint effort.”
Sarchet also makes sure the students adhere to all Student and Exchange Visitor Program guidelines and are sufficiently covered by health insurance.
“All of these things contribute to the health and wellness of our international students,” she said.
Total fall enrollment numbers for Lynchburg, like for other colleges, won’t be official until September, but Basko is feeling optimistic.
“I’m very excited to see a continuation of the strong upward trend we’ve seen here at Lynchburg in undergraduate enrollment,” he said. “We are on track to hit our goal for this fall, and we’re thrilled to exceed the number of transfer and international students joining us here on campus this year.”
First-year students moved in on Aug. 17-18, while move-in for returning students is scheduled for Aug. 19-20. Fall semester classes start Aug 24.