Kunal Saxena from India

It has been almost one and a half years of my stay in VCU. The memories of the BIG moment when I left my country for the first time are slowly diminishing. I can faintly remember being excited and nervous at the same time as I had no clue what awaited me here.

That was a long time back. Today, I can say that I made the right choice by overcoming my anxiety and choosing VCU for my further studies. Right from the moment I met Pam Haney (Director, Intnl’ Student Services at VCU) when I landed at the airport, till now, I have met with the most wonderful and humble people I could ever imagine. The warmth and acceptance shown by the VCU community makes you feel at ease and quickly vanishes the feeling of being a new student.

An event for Tiranga, the student organization for Indian Nationals at VCU

Being a graduate student, I am fortunate to receive the most advanced research skills training and plenty of opportunities to interact with people from different fields. Learning at VCU is a fun-filled experience fun due to plenty of extracurricular activities which happen throughout the year. It also has a large international student population which has helped me learn about various different cultures around the world. Being an extra-curricular guy, I am involved in many activities and have great friends with students of American, Middle Eastern, Asian and European origin, in a short span of time. The United States has a great music scene and many national as well as international artists keep performing here. It also has an ever-growing food culture having cuisines from almost every country in the world.

One thing which I really like here is the spirit of happiness. It can be seen on people’s faces all the time, for reasons as small as reaching offices on time, or as big as celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas. Everyone loves to be happy! I have had the opportunity to share the happiness with some of the American families when I visited their homes during last Thanksgiving and Christmas time. Meeting them was a pleasant experience and a welcome break from my hectic school schedule. I look forward to go there again.

Along with all the fun, there are some things which the international students should keep in mind. Firstly, make sure, and I mean REALLY sure, that you have a health insurance as soon as you arrive here in the US. The health services are very expensive here compared to other countries in the world, and you cannot avail them if you don’t have insurance. Also, like any other place in the world, we have to be responsible for our safety and security. Although, VCU has an optimum police protection for students, it is better to be pro-active when it comes to keeping out of trouble. Be careful while deciding the place to live (staying on-campus is the most preferred choice), buying vehicles, or travelling within the US. These issues are discussed elaborately by the GEO office in the orientation, so make sure you do not miss it!

Finally, the encouragement, appreciation and motivation I got, being in VCU shall be the most fulfilling experience for me. I grew and developed both professionally and personally, and hope that I will continue to do so.

Thank you,
Kunal Saxena
PhD Student- VCU School of Pharmacy


Classes and environment

I came to VCU as a conditional admit. In ELP program I met some of my good friends. classes are very enjoyable, educational and interactive. I really liked the one-on-one with instructors about my progress in my classes, which really helped me succeed. Classes are very small so you do not feel invisible, plus class environment is really diverse. Your classmates are from all over the world, that is cool.

I fit right in

I fit right in, seriously I felt like home, because everybody has similar situation, you do not have to be nervous for being the only foreigner as I did in high school.

Shakeela Noori,
Major International studies, Women Studies
Minor Religious Studies

Eduardo Vidal from Brazil

Eduardo Vidal, VCU employee and student

My name is Eduardo Vidal. I am a native of Brazil and in 2001 I was working in the United States and decided to go back to school.  I chose Virginia Commonwealth University because of its commitment and involvement with research as well as its location (since it is so close to the country’s capital, the beach, the Blue Ridge Mountains) and it is the capital of the state.  It is also an urban university, which was very important for me.  I came to Virginia Commonwealth University and after a couple of months of adjustment to the academic life and the new city I became very comfortable with everything and very happy of my decision to come to VCU.

I loved the years I spent as a student, not just from the knowledge I acquired, but also because I had the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant in almost every semester in both of my majors (psychology and political science) and that was just another way that I was able to learn.  I was very pleased with the way they take care of international students: there are always trips and functions, plus once every two weeks they provide something called “coffee hour” which is completely different from the name: it is really a couple of hours where international students can gather and eat full meals (not just coffee) for free!

From all my positive experiences while in school, I must say that one of the best one was starting to work (as a student worker) in the former Office of International Education (now the Global Education Office) at VCU, because it opened the doors for my professional career.  After I graduated, I started working in a full time position in the immigration department, helping international students (just like I had been helped when I was student).  It feels great to be here to support all the new students who have just arrived.  Sometimes when they first arrive, I can tell they are not sure if this will work: I see scared eyes and sometimes facial expressions like “I have no idea what it is going on or what are they saying” so I step in and say “I can tell you from my own experience: it will work and you will love the time you will spend here at Virginia Commonwealth University.”


Eduardo Vidal
Immigration Services Assistant
VCU Global Education Office

Chenfang Hao from China

Chenfang Hao, a doctoral student in the School of Education at VCU, wins an award from Global Education Office

My Experience with the Orientation
I am Chenfang Hao, a doctoral student in the School of Education at VCU. I am an international student from China.
I volunteered for 2010 summer and 2011 winter orientations offered by the Global Education Office (GEO). According to my volunteering experience, the orientation is a must-attend event. You can gain plenty of information from the orientation which is of great help for your study and life in the United States. Especially new international students are not familiar with American colleges. By attending the orientation, you may learn about the campus regulations and rules which international students have to follow in VCU. As far as I know, some international students make unintentional mistake due to lack of understanding of campus culture. So, the orientation is a great opportunity for you to know about what you are supposed or not to do in America.

Making friends

You might meet new students and make friends with them during the orientation. I did make friends with a lot of international students when I attended the orientation as a new student, and our friendships last until now. I also establish connection and friendship with the new students while I volunteered for the orientation. It is a good way for you to expand your network by attending the orientation. Some students find a roommate or classmate in the orientation. Of course, it is very likely that you can meet the students from your own country.

Get involved

Last but not least, many VCU organizations show up on the day of orientation. It is a good time for you to know about those organizations and join in them. I suggest that you get involved in the organizations. Active involvement with the organizations can help you develop a sense of belonging. It is very easy for international students to miss home and the family. However, being part of the organizations will reduce feelings of loneliness in a foreign country. Moreover, your life will be enriched by actively participating in the activities held by the organizations.
Don’t miss the orientation. Its importance can’t be underestimated.

Thank you,
Chenfang Hao