News & Publications
Letter Home, Spring 2009
An International Community
The epicenter of the earthquake that rocked China's Sichuan province last May was 50 miles from Liyu Jiang's hometown, Chengdu. Yet Ms. Jiang and her parents managed to get to Nepal, where she got her papers to travel to the United States, allowing her to make it to Annapolis for Convocation and the opening of classes in August.
St. John's has long been committed to welcoming international students, and this past year there has been a surge of interest. Thirty-two undergraduates attending the college are international students, coming from Turkey, Nepal, Korea, Latvia, Georgia, Montenegro, France, China, Hong Kong, India, Canada, Ireland, Wales, and Costa Rica. Eleven of these students are here on F-1 visas; 16 have dual citizenship or are U.S. citizens living abroad. John Christensen, director of admissions, attributes the increased interest in the college to several factors, including the heightened exposure of the college via the Internet. "The web has enabled all American colleges, not just the big-name schools, to be known around the world. Our students from Nepal and China, for instance, found us on their own via the Internet. In the case of one of our Chinese students, we were able to put her in touch with an alumna living nearby."
Specific initiatives such as scholarships for students from Turkey or of Turkish descent, established through an educational fund created in the memory of Ahmet Ertegun (class of 1944, founder of Atlantic Records)), have also attracted international students. "This year we have our first Ertegun scholar, Mehmet Altunas, who is from Istanbul," says Christensen.
Christensen visits high schools overseas, including American international schools and schools affiliated with the Davis World Scholars program. This fall he traveled to Bosnia and Wales to meet with prospective students at the United World Colleges (high schools) in those countries and share information on the college's distinctive curriculum. Speaking of the school in Bosnia, Christensen says, "In the former Eastern bloc there is a real appreciation of our Program as students never get to learn Western philosophy, literature, and history."
There is also a great deal of appreciation on campus for international students and the cultural diversity they bring to St. John's. In particular, students from Georgia are sharing their language, dances, and cuisine with their fellow Johnnies. OLEG, the Organization for Liberal Education in Georgia, hosts Georgian Dance lessons, literature discussion groups, language classes, and special feasts, called Supra, "the Georgian table."
Sisters Nini and Mariam Aduashvili, a freshman and sophomore, respectively, came to St. John's from the American School in Tblisi. "Their college counselor button-holed me at a convention in Europe and told me about these two students," says Christensen. The duo worked last summer with OLEG to raise $12,000 to help send four St. John's students and a St. John's tutor to Georgia to demonstrate the college's classical liberal arts program to students at the New Gelati Academy, part of Gigol Robakidze University in Tblisi.