An International Student’s Perspective of UVa

Ask any UVa student where they are from, and they will most likely answer either NOVA, Richmond, or Virginia Beach.  According to the Office of Undergraduate Admission, the majority of students at the university (approximately 69%) are in-state, while 95.5% are United States residents.  The remaining 4.5%, however, consists of students representing 118 different countries.  Every international student has a fascinating story to tell, providing a brand-new perspective on college life in America.

“I [wanted] to experience different styles of education and school life,” explained Celestine Tong, a first year from Shanghai.  “[UVa] has a closer community, more freedom in choosing what you would like to study and devote yourself to, and a bunch of incredible activities.” 

Universities in other countries often require students to declare a major before their first classes even begin. For Celestine and many others, this was a large part of their decision to attend an American university.

“I wasn’t ready to specialize in anything yet,” said first year Estée Keith regarding her decision to attend UVa.  “In the UK, they make you specialize in a very narrow subject very early on, which didn’t fit with me.”

Keith also added that “[since I] couldn’t come and physically visit colleges, I searched them on the Internet. UVa had the best YouTube videos.”

For most international students, attending college in the United States is an immense culture shock–academics and social life are radically different. Despite this, their outlook on the UVa and the States are largely positive.

“I was shocked by the fact that there were so many people who held discriminatory views and that they would be willing to showcase them in public.” | Photo courtesy:

I love the freedom so much!” said Tong.  “Another interesting thing is to know people from almost completely different backgrounds.  The only bad thing is that public transportation here is inconvenient and I don’t have a car, so it is always tricky to go shopping or go on a trip.”

“I really enjoy being able to study a wide range of subjects, [and I] like the friendly attitude of everyone here,” added Keith. 

Not everything WUVA heard from international students was positive however.

“In terms of America, I was shocked by the fact that there were so many people who held discriminatory views and that they [were] willing to showcase them in public in the Charlottesville neo-Nazi protests,” concluded Keith.

Meet an international student here on grounds and find out their perspective of UVa.


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