International Student Orientation

It’s one of my favorite times of year. The Sunday before Registration, admissions counselors in Annapolis don their SJC swag, pile into the College vans, and make about a dozen or so trips to two of our area’s airports. We spend the day (and night!) picking up international students from around the globe and helping them settle into their dorm rooms. Once on campus, they’ll participate in a two-day international student orientation before the rest of their classmates arrive on Wednesday.

This year, we welcome twenty-two international students in Annapolis. They come to us from all around the world: Lithuania, South Korea, China, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Taiwan, Nigeria, and Ukraine. I’ve been working with many of them for the past year (in some cases, many years) as their admissions counselor; we’ve exchanged countless emails, WhatsApp messages, and Skype calls. We’ve “met” over a computer screen, but for most, their trip on Sunday is the first time we will actually be face-to-face. It is so gratifying to finally welcome them to campus. And I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to experience St. John’s through their eyes. After 10 years, I sometimes forget just how beautiful Annapolis is—but seeing their eyes light up when they catch their first glimpse of the Maryland State Capital building is priceless.

Likewise, I’m always excited to introduce them to the campus community. I’ve gotten to know these students so well, and I know how awesome they are. But now I get to introduce them to the rest of the St. John’s College community and show everyone else just how amazing they are. Most of Monday is spent in meetings with various offices—everyone from the Assistant Dean and Housing to the Health Center and Library want a chance to meet our incoming international students. We talk about things that will be of particular concern for them, like how to maintain their F1 visa status and the intricacies of American healthcare. Returning international students are also excited to meet with new students. Some will join us for meetings that day, and some will take their meals with the freshmen in the dining hall. After a full day of meetings, Monday night is capped off with a game and movie night hosted by one of our Senior Resident Assistants, Jonathan. Jonathan lives on campus and works with international students throughout the year.

On Tuesday, students get to have some fun off-campus. We go for a walking tour of Annapolis, followed by a narrated boat tour to see more of the Annapolis coastline from the water. Afterward, it’s time to load back into the campus vans once more—this time for trips to the shopping mall, bank, and cell phone stores.

By Wednesday, the rest of the freshmen class will arrive. They’ll go through registration in the morning, and then it’s time for Convocation! Once they sign the official St. John’s College register at Convocation, they will officially be Johnnies. For some, that means they will never have occasion to return to the Admissions Office. But many more will stay in touch—they’ll check in informally to ask questions or to let us know how they are doing on campus. They’ll come by to share accomplishments … and sometimes they’ll stop by because the office’s coffee machine and plethora of comfy couches provide a welcomed respite.

However a student elects to stay engaged with Admissions after they are enrolled, we look forward to hearing how they are doing from our colleagues on campus. We enjoy reading their articles in the school newspaper, cheering them on as they kick Navy a** in croquet, watching them perform with the King William Players or at Collegium, smiling silently as they enter the BBC for their senior oral, and, eventually, giving them a standing ovation as they cross the stage to collect their diploma at graduation. But first, we load into the campus vans and greet them at the airport.

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