By Erica Machia, Associate Director of Admissions
I remember the day I took over managing the international applicant territory…it was March 2008, and it felt overwhelming and exciting at the same time. Questions ran through my mind such as: How would I be able to read students’ applications? How would I understand their transcripts to know if they were admissible? How would I be able to communicate with the students when we don’t speak the same language? Thank goodness for the internet; Google Search and Google Translate became quick friends of mine!
Throughout the summer before the fall 2008 semester, I became email buddies with the incoming students, learning about them and helping them prepare for their arrival and time at Castleton. That fall we welcomed four international students … all from Canada. I was so excited to finally meet the students I had been working with so closely!
The spring 2009 semester we welcomed just one new international student from Canada who would join his fellow Canadians on the men’s ice hockey team. Now it was time to focus on the fall 2009 class, which turned out to be pretty impressive. We had nine students enroll from three different countries, Canada, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom. They were mostly athletes joining the men’s and women’s ice hockey, men’s basketball, and women’s ski teams.
Unfortunately, we didn’t bring in any new international students for the spring 2010 semester, but that did not discourage my efforts to work towards the fall, when we brought in five students from Canada, all joining the men’s hockey team, and one student from India! The following year, 2011, was fairly quiet with one student enrolling in the spring and five in the fall. However, it was our most diverse group yet; the students came from Canada, Japan, Peru, and Zambia that year.
By then I felt more comfortable in my role of working with international students through the admissions process. While I still relied on my trusty Google friends, I had started making connections with colleagues at other institutions and attending conferences to enhance my knowledge. In the fall of 2012, we brought in another exciting class including nine international students from Bermuda, Canada, Denmark, Honduras, Peru and Sweden.
The spring of 2013 was another quiet semester with no new international students enrolling, however the fall was certainly a notable class. We welcomed eight new international students from Canada, Latvia, and Switzerland. At that time I could say that I had helped welcome international students from 12 different countries, and we were really on the move with diversifying our international student body!
The spring semesters are always a challenging time to welcome new international students because they arrive in January during our cold, snowy, Vermont winters. I remember meeting our one new international student for the spring 2014 semester on a nice cold snowy day; he was from Pakistan and excited to start his adventure at Castleton. The year, 2014, marked a real turning point for Castleton as we started to dedicate and invest in our efforts to internationalize Castleton’s campus not only from a recruitment perspective but from a retention and support perspective as well. After some hard work and dedication during the spring and summer, we welcomed a record breaking number of new international students, 12 to be exact!!! They were from Brazil, Canada, Nigeria, Sweden, and Zimbabwe.
Three new international students from China, France, and Sweden joined the Castleton community in the spring 2015 semester. With the addition of the three students and two new countries to mark on the map, our motivation was high to work on the fall 2015 class of international students. Yet again, we broke our record and brought in 22 new international students! They hailed from Canada, China, the Czech Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, France, Germany, Kenya, Nigeria, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. That was certainly an impressive year!
With our excitement over the growth of our international student population, we were ready to take on the spring 2016 semester. We introduced three new students from Canada, France, and Germany to our beautiful campus. Our fall 2016 class was an exciting one. Not only did we welcome 21 new international students who would be enrolling as Castleton students, we also welcomed our first group of Global UGRAD students who would spend one semester with us bringing our total to 25 that fall! They came to us from Algeria, Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, and Vietnam.
Staying consistent with the past couple of springs, the spring 2017 semester welcomed three students, one each from China, the Dominican Republic, and Sweden. This coming fall 2017, we anticipate another strong class of international students, hopefully 25-30 new ones. We will welcome five Global UGRAD students and six students from other universities in France and Japan with whom we have built exchange programs. So far we have students who will be enrolling from Bhutan, China, France, Israel, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, New Zealand, the Philippines, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela.
I am happy to say that during the last nine years we have welcomed more than 130 international students from 39 different countries to our campus! That is no small feat for our beloved Castleton University. My work with Castleton’s international students has been very rewarding and I have built friendships with many of them. It’s always bittersweet to see them graduate and move on to new adventures, but I know that Castleton has served them well in their time here, they will go on to do great things, and lastly share their Castleton story with the world!