Year breaks records for international students at Trinity
By Andrew J. Concatelli
Portraits by Monica Jorge
Educating truly engaged global citizens means bringing the world to Trinity. “We not only send our students abroad, we also have our students live with, learn with, and engage with students from all over the world,” says Angel B. Pérez, Trinity’s vice president for enrollment and student success. “A college is one of the few places where people can really bridge divides, and that can’t happen without a student population that reflects the world around us.”
With 15 percent of its members hailing from countries other than the United States, the Class of 2022 has the most international students of any class in Trinity’s history. As of the start of the fall semester, students on campus represented 73 countries, marking an all-time high for the college; the first-year class alone includes students from 34 countries.
The growing population of international students reflects the increasingly common global experiences of many Bantams, according to Pérez. “It’s not unusual these days for a student to come from India, study at Trinity, go abroad on our programs in South Africa and Rome, and get that first job in London. That’s a very typical experience,” he says.
While Trinity has long recruited students around the world, Pérez says, the college is now pursuing a set of strategies aiming to bring an international student population that is even more geographically and socioeconomically diverse. “We want our students to interact with young people from all over the globe,” he says. “It’s part of a holistic education, and we are intentional about building a class that represents the world.”
Pérez adds that the college isn’t looking to reach a certain percentage of international students on campus. “We do not have a specific target; however, we continue to recruit the best and the brightest,” Pérez says.
Unlike many colleges, Trinity offers financial aid to international students and works with outside organizations that fund scholarships. The Class of 2022 includes seven Davis United World College (UWC) Scholars and 24 Global Scholars, which is an honor given to international students who were at the top of their classes academically. “We’ve also partnered with many scholarship foundations, including Mastercard, Bridge2Rwanda, Ashinaga, and more,” Pérez says. This fall, Trinity welcomed its first Royal Thai Scholar and first Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) Scholar, both of whom are sponsored by their home countries.
Ewanna Wiley, academic adviser for the ADIA scholarship program at the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates Cultural Division in Washington, D.C., credits Trinity for offering a high level of individual support to international students and providing a strong community. “There is definitely a great sense of positive energy on campus, which goes a long way to drawing in students who are looking for something to help launch their abilities into the next phase of achievement,” Wiley says. “By supporting diversification of the student body, Trinity is really promoting education on a broader stage. Students bring their own experiences and perspectives and are able to facilitate growth on many levels. Problem-solving, dialogue, community relations, and practically every aspect of education are all able to draw from this newly created greater awareness of world. The campus becomes both larger in reach and closer in terms of access.”
To expand that reach and build even greater diversity within the international body, Trinity works to attract prospective students from all over the world. Lukman Arsalan, senior associate director of international admissions and student success, says, “The single most important thing to us is finding students of high academic quality who would enrich classroom discussions.” Arsalan, who first came to the United States from Jordan to earn his master’s degree, travels the world to recruit international students. Trinity does outreach to international high school guidance counselors, diplomats, and foreign government officials, some of whom visited Hartford last summer to see exactly what Trinity offers. “We told them about all of the student-centered experiences here and unique things like how design thinking is incorporated into our orientation,” Arsalan says.
Duuluu Naranbat ’19—the first Trinity student from Mongolia—came to campus as a junior after transferring from Albion College in Michigan. “I really like the experience of a liberal arts education, and I wanted the feel of a city. I wanted more opportunities and more people, and the student body here seemed very goal-oriented,” says Naranbat, who is majoring in biochemistry and minoring in environmental science. “The financial package was a very important aspect of my decision to come to Trinity as well.”
Many first-year international students arrive on campus two weeks before classes begin, allowing them to get to know Hartford better and to ease their transition to college. When Boran “Max” Cui ’22 came to Trinity last fall from Beijing, China, he was ready for a new adventure and embarked on a four-day hiking trip with the Quest pre-orientation program. “Because I was the only international student in my group, it helped me make new friends before we started classes,” says Cui, who is part of the Cities Program for first-year students. He quickly learned how to skateboard thanks to a new friend from Texas, and he often gathers with classmates to cook food from home in the kitchen of a residence hall common area. “Trinity provides chances for international students to make friends from America and many different countries, like through Quest, the first-year seminars, and many events that are really friendly to all students,” Cui says. “Professors do a lot for us, too; any words we don’t understand, they will explain in a simple way. I love the environment here because all the people want students to have a better life.”
Indeed, the support for international students goes well beyond orientation. Katharine Clair, Trinity’s international student adviser, wants students to feel welcomed even before they arrive on campus. Her office assists first-year students and their families with student visas and travel arrangements to campus and provides workshops on topics including cultural adjustments, employment, and academic expectations. “We also talk about their emotional well-being, staying healthy, the social life here, and what they can get involved in at Trinity,” Clair says. Programming offered throughout the year includes the Festival of All Nations, an interactive event with food, activities, and information booths; an observance of Diwali; a Lunar New Year celebration; the annual International Show, which features dancing, singing, music, and poetry; and many other cultural and religious festivals.
To help international students form a personal network, a mentoring program partners upper-year students with first-year students, whom they invite to events or take to dinner several times using a small stipend. “Often, if we see a student is homesick or experiencing culture shock, it’s because they haven’t connected as well as they could have with the campus. The mentor students have the connections they can use to assist their mentees. It helps make them feel like Trinity is their home,” Clair says. Also involved is Summit Fellow for International Student Success Noah A. Weber. “Noah has met one-on-one with each first-year international student in a casual way, asking about classes and activities, checking in about things back home, and helping to solve issues as they arise. The students see there’s somebody looking out for them,” Clair adds.
Swiss Reinsurance Company Scholar Simran Sheth ’19, a student from India who is double majoring in math and computer science, is an international student mentor and president of the student-run International House, which is one of several cultural houses on campus that sponsor events and lectures throughout the year. “Different groups and activities make international students feel at home, and they also help American students know what is going on in the world,” Sheth says.
Feeling confident and connected often goes hand in hand with high achievement, says Clair, who notes the large number of international students named as valedictorian, salutatorian, and Trustee Award winners in recent years. “The caliber of the international students we bring here is phenomenal,” Clair says. “I’ve learned so much from them, and they are going on to do some amazing things,” including studying at Oxford, working toward a Ph.D. at Columbia, enrolling in medical school at UCLA, and working at Facebook.
Being a part of an international education can open up a world of opportunities, according to Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs Tim Cresswell, whose time as a British student attending American graduate school encouraged him to lead an enriching international life. “It has meant that I have been more open to, and appreciative of, a diversity of new experiences,” he says.
Cresswell adds that the presence of international students at Trinity benefits both those students and the domestic students with whom they interact. “Students gain a worldly view and exposure to forms of diversity and difference that they are likely to encounter in later life,” he says. “The world of work outside of Trinity is an increasingly interconnected place. Having significant numbers of international students from more than 70 countries at Trinity produces a context that matches the world our students will experience once they leave.”
Naranbat believes that without exposure to differences, there can be no personal development. “I think it’s important that we understand that there are a lot of things available to us beyond this campus, this state, and this country, and that hearing all these ideas really develops you as a person,” he says. “I love this college. It’s an amazing place for students to develop not only as individuals but also as a group.”
Sheth adds, “Class time doesn’t take up that many hours in a week, so learning from each other outside of the classroom is important. Trinity gives us the opportunity to talk to different people and learn about other cultures. I think coming here is the best decision I’ve made.”
View the gallery below, click an individual image to enlarge and read the caption.