University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan and newly appointed Vice Provost for Global Affairs Jeffrey W. Legro offered a warm welcome Wednesday evening to more than 400 new international students and their families.
Speaking in Alumni Hall during the annual International Student Welcome dinner, Sullivan reflected on her recent trip to Asia on behalf of the University.
"One thing I learned on that trip is that the U.Va. family is truly a global family, and that students, parents and alumni in far-off regions of the world are just as connected and committed to U.Va. as those who live nearby," she said.
She told the audience that an increasing number of international students are applying to U.Va., with a 60 percent increase in applications in the past three years alone.
She said the new students and their parents should be extremely proud. "Students from across the nation and around the world work to get into this University through a very competitive admission process; you succeeded," she said, smiling. "Congratulations."
Legro reflected on the University's founding father, Thomas Jefferson, as a "global thinker."
"All his political, economic, artistic and entrepreneurial ideas were formed through comparative study and learning from his experience abroad and contact with foreign cultures, including Europe.
"If you are looking for the 'secret sauce' that fuels U.S. creativity, you have come to the right place," he said.
All Aboard the UVa Express
Many of the students at Wednesday's dinner arrived to Grounds via the University's signature bus service, UVaExpress, which is in its sixth year.
Monday and Tuesday, 10 buses traveled between Dulles International Airport and Charlottesville, offering free rides to more than 200 new students and scholars.
Tuesday morning, Tom Howell sat at the terminal looking a bit weary as he waited to board one of the buses. Despite having traveled more than 8,000 miles from New Zealand, he perked up as he discussed his plans to study politics for a semester. "I've always had an interest in U.S. politics, but we don't really do a lot of it in New Zealand," he said.
Howell said he is especially excited to be in Virginia during the U.S. presidential election season. "From what I've read, Virginia is a battleground state, so you're standing at the forefront of everything that is going on. It will be fantastic experience," he said.
As his bus made its way to Grounds, the landscape slowly transforming from the hustle and bustle of Northern Virginia to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, bus captain Katherine Willard stood to tell her passengers a few important things they needed to know about U.Va. before they got there.
"First of all, it's called 'The Grounds,' not the campus," she said. "Do NOT call it a campus."
Willard also said the terms freshman, sophomore, junior and senior are frowned upon. "You are either a first-year, a second-year, a third-year or a fourth-year," she said.
As she talked, some of the students appeared to be paying attention, but others looked absently out of the bus windows or nodded off.
That is, until she got to football games and the "Good Ol' Song."
"Every time that we score, we sing the school song. You have to entwine your arms with the person next to you and you sway back and forth like this," she said, demonstrating the move.
Some laughter erupted as she began loudly miming the song's chant:
RAY! RAY! U-V-A!"
Gradually, more voices joined hers. After a few rounds of call and response, most of the students seemed to have a handle on the wording and cadence.
Everyone rallied for a final chant and they ended with fists pumping and hearty cries of "Wahoo-Wah!" Many said they would be in Scott Stadium to cheer on the Cavaliers on Sept. 1, when they square off against the University of Richmond in the season opener.