International students Mohammad Shamim Reza of Bangladesh and Sunita Khanal of Nepal waited last week at the International Center for a trip to get Social Security cards.
International students Mohammad Shamim Reza of Bangladesh and Sunita Khanal of Nepal waited last week at the International Center for a trip to get Social Security cards.

As classes begin for the 2015-2016 academic year, among the new students at UofL are hundreds who chose to study here from outside the United States.

Every year, some 700 international students travel to UofL to pursue such subjects as engineering, business and health sciences, or to participate in exchange programs, according to Sharolyn Pepper, associate director of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).

Some of the students have to “jump through hoops just to get to come here,” Pepper said. “For them, it’s a dream.” She said two-thirds of the students are enrolled in graduate programs, many in assistantships.

Last year, international students and scholars represented more than 90 countries, with the most coming from China, India and countries in the Middle East, Pepper said.

“We are pleased that international students choose to come to UofL,” said Mordean Taylor-Archer, vice provost for diversity and international affairs, “because they enrich our campus community and provide opportunities for students from this country to learn about cultures from around the world.”

The students cite varied reasons for coming to UofL, from finding just the right course of study to following in their parents’ footsteps.

Josh Zhang, a PhD student in the Kent School of Social Work who is from China, said he chose to attend UofL because of the Kent School’s reputation, the university’s long history of quality education and a feeling that UofL was special. When he first walked across Belknap Campus, “I felt excited from my heart,” he said.

“The campus environment is rather different from where I studied and taught in China,” Josh said. “People here are nice and smile,” which helped him feel less anxious and strange in a new country.

The International Center handles everything from ensuring students’ immigration paperwork is complete to taking group trips to apply for Social Security cards to introducing them to shopping in American stores.  The center also holds orientation sessions and resource fairs, and is a central location for international students check in when they arrive as well as to visit when they have questions.

The center has two locations – one in Brodschi Hall on Belknap Campus, and one an HSC office that’s open once a week. Brodschi Hall is named after George L. Brodschi, who established the International Center in 1949 and was its director for 29 years.

The International Center has scheduled free “Meet and Greet Luncheons” throughout the 2015-2016 academic year. The following luncheons will be held at noon at the Red Barn: Sept. 17, Oct. 15, Nov. 19, Jan. 14, Feb. 25 and March 24. The following will be held at 12:30 p.m. on the HSC Campus in the Nursing Building, Room HK2006: Nov. 17 and Feb. 16. A final luncheon will be held April 14 at noon in the Student Services Annex in the Health Promotions Activity Room on Belknap Campus.

A welcome picnic is scheduled for Aug. 28, 5 to 7 p.m. at the Red Barn. A welcome reception will be held Nov. 19 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Alumni Club in conjunction with International Education Week, which is Nov. 16 to 20.

Janet Cappiello covers student success for the Office of Communications and Marketing. She has more than 30 years’ experience in journalism, including working for The Associated Press and magazines such as Vegetarian Times and Sustainability: The Journal of Record. She has been at UofL since 2014.