St. Lawrence University Welcomes New International Students

CANTON — Shiko Gitau ’17 may have traveled half way around the world to get to St. Lawrence University, but she already feels a little bit at home. Shiko is from Nairobi, Kenya, and her family has hosted St. Lawrence students who have taken part in the University’s Kenya Semester Program.

“I felt like I already had a connection to St. Lawrence, and it’s nice to go someplace where you already know some people,” Shiko said. “The three other Kenyan students and I also met together before we came, so I already have a great network of people here.”

Shiko was one of 74 new international students from 24 countries that St. Lawrence welcomed to campus this week. Most of the international students who come to the University plan to stay for the next four years and anticipate graduating with their bachelor’s degrees.

Musa Khalidi, director of international admissions, said that the incoming international students provide St. Lawrence University and the local community with diverse worldviews, which help to bring new ways of knowing and understanding to the campus.

“We are very excited to welcome our new cohort of international students,” Khalidi said. “We are also very much looking forward to making them part of the community."

At a reception held on Thursday, several of the incoming international students wore clothing that represented their national traditions from countries such as China, Belarus, Germany, and Japan. During the reception, the students not only got to know St. Lawrence faculty, staff and administrators, including President William L. Fox ’75, they also had the opportunity to meet other incoming international students who were attracted to the University.

Common themes quickly emerged as to why students chose St. Lawrence, including the small campus environment, its rural location, generous scholarships and the University’s emphasis on a liberal arts education.

Casimir Misiewicz ’17 of Zimbabwe, who is of British and Polish descent, said he learned about St. Lawrence from his mother. She had taught high school students in Zimbabwe who eventually had attended St. Lawrence, and she recommended he look into attending himself.

Casimir, who rows and plays violin, said he is most interested in doing something he has never done before.

“There are so many different things to do here,” he said. “Maybe I’ll try playing American football, or learn a new language or join a musical quartet. Who knows?”

Even though he has only been on campus for a few days, Casimir has made connections to several of the other international students.

“I love this place already,” he said. “It is so interesting to meet people who represent so many facets of the world.”

Fourteen of the international students had attended a United World College (UWC). UWC represents 12 schools worldwide, which share guiding principles of peace and tolerance in order to educate children between the ages of 2 and 19.

“UWC students absolutely represent the best of the best students from around the world,” Khalidi said.

Imman Merdanovic ’17 of Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, gave up an opportunity as a vocal finalist on Bosnia’s version of the X Factor to attend UWC Maastricht in The Netherlands. After attending a presentation by Khalidi and learning more about what St. Lawrence had to offer, she decided it was the right place for her.

“St. Lawrence shares a lot of the same values as the UWC, and those are values that I believe in myself,” Imman said. “I am very interested in sustainability issues, and I was also drawn to the music and science programs.”

While Imman would like to try out for the X Factor here in the United States next year, she is excited at the thought of being able to pursue all of her different interests at St. Lawrence.

“That’s what I like about St. Lawrence,” she said. “It’s possible to combine something like pre-med with music and that’s perfectly fine here.”

This year, 28 students from China made the decision to study at St. Lawrence, which is an increase of 11 students over last year.

Monty Wu ’17, of Xin Xiang, China, is not unfamiliar with the United States or small, rural settings. He was a foreign exchange student in Montana during high school and chose St. Lawrence exactly because of its location in northern New York State.

“A lot of Chinese students go to big universities,” he said. “I wanted to come to a smaller school, where I really get to know American culture.”

Like Monty, Shen (Amber) Chen ’17 of Hong Kong, China, also chose St. Lawrence due to its small size and rural setting.

“This is nothing like Hong Kong,” she said. “My parents would have been worried if I went to a big city in America. But here, it seems very peaceful and safe.”

And like many of the other international students, Amber said she likes the flexibility that St. Lawrence’s liberal arts education affords.

“I’m still not sure what I want to do,” she said. “So I want to try lots of different things. I can try engineering or maybe something completely different to help me figure out what I’d like to do.”

More information on St. Lawrence’s international students can be found at