News and Events

Saint Leo University Providing Welcoming Home To International Students

15% of new students come from other countries to study at University Campus where they find support from a variety of programs services, clubs, and organizations.

Tags: Academic Affairs Bridge Program Core Values International Students Student Affairs University Campus Center for Global Engagement
18 September 2023 - By University Communications

¡Bienvenido! Willkommen! Selamat datang! Bienvenue! Svaagat He! Khush amdeed! Ласкаво просимо! Добро пожаловать! Welcome! 

From September 11 through September 14, Saint Leo University’s Intercultural Student Association celebrated International Student Week. This week offered opportunities for students from the United States and from throughout the world to get to know each other better, as well as providing them information about the many support services available. 

It was a fitting celebration as Saint Leo welcomes its new international students this year. Of the more than 800 new students, 15 percent are from other countries. More than 100 countries are represented in the university’s student population. The top five countries that the new Lions hail from include the Bahamas, India, Jamaica, Canada, and Brazil. 


“Our new international students joined a diverse international student population made up of more than 100 different countries,” said Paige Ramsey-Hamacher, executive director of Saint Leo’s Center for Global Engagement

“Each individual and the university as a whole is richer when we are able to celebrate different cultures and learn from one another,” Ramsey-Hamacher said. “This is an excellent example of the Saint Leo core values of respect and community. Learning occurs inside and outside the classroom as we develop our own cultural competencies.”

“The university’s Bridge Program is an excellent example of Saint Leo’s efforts to guide and support international students in their initial steps into the new academic culture,” said Dr. Iona Sarieva, an associate professor in the Department of Language Studies and the Arts and director of the program. “For more than a decade, the Bridge Program has welcomed and educated students from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America to ensure their academic success and foster a sense of belonging.”

International students must meet minimum English language proficiency requirements for university admission. But the Bridge Program goes beyond supporting the admitted international students by providing them with high-quality English for academic purposes instruction. The main goal of the program is to maximize students’ opportunities for academic success through assuring their balanced language development, personal and academic growth, and smooth transition and adaptation to their new academic culture, the program’s mission states. 

“Saint Leo’s classes, events, and student organizations promote cross-cultural understanding, endorse tolerance, and break down stereotypes,” Sarieva said. “Students break cross-cultural boundaries through interactions with peers from diverse backgrounds; they develop fresh perspectives, broaden their horizons, and learn to appreciate the richness of human diversity.”

Opportunities for International Students

There are so many options for students to choose from to get involved at Saint Leo. “There is everything from joining a variety of multicultural clubs on campus such as the Intercultural Student Association (ISA), the Caribbean Student Association (CSA), and the Indian Association for Students (IAS), to the K-Pop and Anime Club, Black Student Union (BSU), and the Spanish Club, just to name a few,” Ramsey-Hamacher said. “In addition, the university plans a plethora of events throughout the year that students can attend and enjoy. 


“One of the ‘Fan Favorites’ at the university, International Food Night, takes place the third week in November during International Education Week and the Saint Leo community is able to sample a variety of foods and drinks from all over the world,” she continued. “It is a time where our students, staff, faculty, and Dining Services can cook their favorite dishes and bring that dish for others to sample. This has been offered each year for about 20 years now.” 

A convenient way to find out about events and organizations is Saint Leo’s platform EngageLeo. “It [EngageLeo] offers easy access to information about the unique opportunities students have to engage in campus life through finding the student organizations and clubs, discovering the campus events of their interest, and even tracking their engagement to showcase their involvement with the community,” Sarieva said. 

Tips for Success

Not only does Ramsey-Hamacher recommend international students get involved on campus as much as possible, but she also suggests they experience everything they can and keep their minds open to experience their new environment. “Remember that ‘It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just different’ when comparing one culture to another,” she said.

Sarieva also offered advice to the new international students: 

  • Embrace cultural diversity: “Extend yourself! Be open to new experiences and new traditions. The Saint Leo University community is diverse — we welcome people from different parts of the United States and around the world! Make new friendships to learn about the U.S. and other cultures!” 

  • Know your support team: “Your success is Saint Leo’s success — we offer the support you need to excel. The Center of Global Engagement team is here for you. They will provide valuable resources related to cultural adaptation and will advise you on visa-related issues. The Center for Academic Vision & Excellence  (CAVE) team offers support with developing stronger academic skills; its tutors will guide you in your work on projects and assignments. The Cannon Memorial Library offers a rich collection of hardcopy and digital resources for learning and entertainment. Its dedicated team of librarians is there to help and guide you!”

  • Embrace the new academic culture: “Know and adopt the academic rules! Education is organized in different ways in different countries. Understand how your course of study is organized at the university. Understand and follow the university procedures, rules, and requirements. Take time to learn about class policies, academic integrity practices, course requirements and sequence, to name just a few. Do not be shy to seek assistance and support from your professors, success coaches, and academic advisors when unsure.” 

At Saint Leo University, all are welcome! The university was founded by Benedictine monks, priests, and sisters in 1889, and its core values are based on the Rule of St. Benedict. Hospitality is one of the highest values of the Benedictines, and St. Benedict wrote: “Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ.”