Davidson's small community continues to take on a more global perspective with international students comprising more than eight percent of this year's class – a nearly 34 percent increase over last year's record high.
According to Kaye-Lani Laughna, director of international admissions, one reason why Davidson has received more international applications is that college admissions representatives have increased outreach abroad. Laughna recently went on a month-long trip to 11 countries, including Jordan, Croatia and China. Another is that Davidson's reputation for offering a community atmosphere is spreading around the world.
"A lot of what students hear is word-of-mouth, and I think they can sense that Davidson is a great choice because we're a safe and small community where everyone is valued as an individual, but also becomes a part of the local community," said Laughna.
When Manon Caous, a one-year student from France, was deciding where to spend her year of study prior to law school, she said talking to people about Davidson was what really convinced her.
"Something about the way people spoke about the college and the community was so appealing," she said. "A student from my school who had attended couldn't stop advertising how great Davidson was, and then I talked to Professor Homer Sutton and could really feel his love for it."
Davidson's host family program extends international students' experiences beyond campus by helping them learn about the local community, while also sharing their own culture with an American family. Host Family Program Coordinator Carol Sandke said that their goal is to provide a home away from home.
After only a few months, Caous said she already feels like a member of her host family. "They always invite me places, and I feel like I can go see them when I want to get off campus. One time they even cooked me a real American breakfast with everything imaginable."
Host families must meet with their students at least once a month, but many develop relationships beyond that. Keyuan Zhou '15, of China, said his host parents have become like his life advisors.
"My parents are far away and don't completely understand my daily life because they aren't familiar with American society. So it's really nice to be able to call my host dad whenever I have an issue," he said.
When Zhou was applying to colleges, his mother researched schools extensively. However, after she was informed about the liberal arts and Davidson by her Taiwanese business partner, whose son had attended, she encouraged Zhou to apply early decision.
A physics major who plans to attend graduate school in the United States, Zhou said, "If you really want to figure out what you like to do and want to explore, then I recommend Davidson. You pursue the things you love here, and the professors are more than willing to share their knowledge."
Many students have also found a level of accountability that comes with learning in such a close-knit community. Boluwatife Odumosu '17, of Nigeria, originally wanted to attend a larger university, but has found that the personal attention each student receives at Davidson allows everyone to benefit fully.
"After a professor heard that I hadn't properly learned how to use Excel while working on a group assignment, she asked me to redo it," he said. "Now I can work with Excel because each student gets that level of attention. Davidson provides a support structure with people to hold you accountable and make you feel like you're taken seriously."
Students agree that on-campus advising and programming have played a tremendous role in facilitating their transitions to the United States and to Davidson. The week prior to first-year orientation, international students attend a separate orientation in which they become familiar with Davidson and fill out necessary paperwork.
"I arrived at campus not knowing anything and she helped me take care of everything," Zhou said about International Student Advisor Jennifer Glass. "You can feel that she's really dedicated and wants to help you."
Glass said that on one level they want to fully immerse international students in the greater Davidson community, but they also recognize the unique challenges that international students face and work to address them individually.
"The transformative learning experience that students have when they study abroad is available for our international students who are studying abroad here," Glass said. "They have sacrificed a lot in coming to Davidson, and we hope they ultimately find it worthwhile because of the meaningful relationships and personal growth they experience."
She not only helps students with their initial transition, but also throughout their time at Davidson by organizing trips, advising international student organizations, and finding outlets for them to share their cultures. Her efforts in combination with those of others on and off campus create the community atmosphere that students hear about all around the world.
"You can feel a sense of belonging from all of the people on campus," Zhou said. "I should really thank my mom for finding Davidson for me."