Creating a Home at St. Lawrence
Davis United World College Scholars are making room for new communities.
“We are trying to create events that international students will come to and value, but we also are trying to get domestic students to come as well,” says Anja Simic ’25. Simic, a St. Lawrence computer science major, is originally from Niš, Serbia, and a graduate of the United World College’s program (UWC) in Duino, Italy. She serves as the coordinator of I-House, an international student organization promoting equality and multicultural understanding on campus, with a newly established theme house on Lincoln Street.
Davis UWC Scholars, other international students, and globally-minded domestic students have lived together for many years. They hosted gatherings in the University’s “International House” (I-House), located within a specific wing of the Sykes Residence—the last of St. Lawrence “theme houses” lacking a dedicated building.
During the summer of 2022, I-House moved to a new permanent, stand-alone residential theme house. I-House student coordinators for 2022-2023 are Class of 2025 Davis UWC Scholars Anja Simic and Tenzin Zomkey.
“Everyone was so much more excited about living in the house, visiting the house, going to events at the house, and feeling more like they have their own space, or that they can go to their own space,” Simic says. “People want to come, and they want to collaborate with us,” adds Zomkey. “Now that we have a house, we can have actual events with other clubs like the A.S.I.A. club or soccer club.”
Simic shares that the success of having a home for the I-House after several years of student advocacy has been a game-changer. She believes I-House’s involvement and the events hosted help to amplify St. Lawrence’s international educational goals. Along with her commitment to the I-House, she works at the Peterson Quantitative Resource Center (PQRC), the information desk in the Sullivan Student Center, and as an intern for Nature Up North.
Simic is one of 97 current St. Lawrence students who graduated from UWC, a pre-college program with 18 campuses spread across five continents, educating thousands of high school students from 180 countries. Of the 538 students in the Class of 2026, 60 are international students. They make up 12 percent of the new student population, up from 10 percent the previous year. Twenty-eight are Davis UWC Scholars, one of the largest Davis UWC Scholar populations in New York state. For the first time in St. Lawrence’s history, Davis UWC Scholars comprise almost half of the international student population.
The UWC of East Africa topped the list of the highest first-year student population entering this fall, matched only by the Hugh C. Williams Senior High School in Canton, New York, each with seven students.
“From their arrival on campus, our Davis UWC Scholars seek out opportunities for learning and growth,” says University Vice President for Enrollment Management and Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid Florence Hines. “They build significant representation in fellowship and internship programs; distinguish themselves as strong peer mentors, tutors, and residential community assistants; serve as student organization officers; and earn recognition for their academic excellence and overall leadership across disciplines and co-curricular life.”
Ignacio “Nach” Insaurralde ’25, an anthropology major and gender and sexuality minor from José C. Paz, Argentina, attended the UWC campus in Wales, United Kingdom, known as being UWC’s first Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) program location.
“I believe having an international student house is a great opportunity both for St. Lawrence to provide a home for UWC students and us to find a space we can make our own."–Anja Simic ’25
Their involvement included work with a local farm, yoga and Latin dance classes, and teaching Spanish. Insaurralde has brought the spirit of UWC’s CAS programs to St. Lawrence as a costume technician for the performance and communication arts department, a member of The Dub (a student-led sexual health resource), and as a research assistant for the Rural Feminism project led by Nicole Roche, the digital scholarship specialist at St. Lawrence.
“I feel like I used to think of myself as very monolithic, marginalized with my different identities and what I am a part of, but I also have privileges,” says Insaurralde. “Thanks to UWC, I have access to travel opportunities and working with projects like the Rural Feminist project.”
St. Lawrence’s UWC students are increasingly represented in every facet of the St. Lawrence experience, from majors to internships and off-campus study. One example is Timur Martinez Smirnov ’23, an Exchange Generalist Intern for IEX Group in New York City through St. Lawrence’s Liberal Arts in New York City Semester (NYCS) program with three other UWC alums in spring 2022.
“The UWC students from last year and this year have been like the backbone of the program. They continue to push the other students to explore, connect, and put their best feet forward,” says Beth Dixon, executive director of New York City Internships & Laurentian Engagement.
By fall 2021, Davis UWC Scholars accounted for one-third of the NYCS participants and 80 percent of the spring 2022 cohort.
“Because New York City is still an ‘abroad’ experience for our international students, the UWC students have led the way in how to best take advantage of learning about American urban culture and the various international communities in New York City,” says Dixon.
Davis UWC Scholars are also embracing a more North Country learning opportunity making up one-quarter of the Sustainability Program participants.
Enith Alejandra Altamirano Salazar ’24 says her reasons for choosing to spend a semester on the St. Lawrence Sustainability Farm include “getting to live with like-minded individuals and bond with some domestic students, fresh food that we harvest from our own garden, and a beautiful house and property just far enough from campus so you can have your own space and still be involved in campus life as one pleases. The farm is a gem and made me feel much more comfortable in the North Country.”
It is no surprise for Simic that the communal living opportunities in the North Country and off-campus are the integral connection between UWC students and life at St. Lawrence. She is excited by the potential to add I-House to the choices available to incoming UWC students.
“I believe having an international student house is a great opportunity both for St. Lawrence to provide a home for UWC students and us to find a space we can make our own,” she said. For Simic, currently studying in Denmark, the Laurentian community’s engagement opportunities are limitless. Chances are, there will most likely be a UWC student in the mix.