A student standing next to a GLOBE leader
VCU international students graduating in May 2022 received cords at last week's ceremony. (VCU Global Education)

Inaugural ceremony honors global learning and international students

Event celebrates students who have pursued the “curiosity and growth” of global learning while navigating the challenges of the pandemic.

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The Global Education Office held its first Global Learning & International Student Achievement Ceremony on Friday to honor study abroad scholarship winners, English Language Program completion, international student graduation achievement and the induction of members to Phi Beta Delta.

Jill Blondin, Ph.D., executive director of the Global Education Office and keynote speaker at the ceremony, said the heart of global learning is “curiosity and growth.”

“It's about flexibility and adaptability. It's about changing,” she said. “It is about changing perspectives, and it's about figuring out ways to do things that might be better than you knew before because you've been exposed to those new perspectives.”

Blondin said she’s led many study abroad programs for students, and she always tells them “a different person will return home than the person who originally came on the trip … that person doesn't exist anymore.”

She praised the students for the way they have navigated the dark shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Look at the courage that so many of you have shown to persist in your global learning, despite the challenges that have been presented during the past two years,” she said. “That’s been extraordinary.”

One such example was Jayla Moore, a graduating psychology major and anthropology minor in the College of Humanities and Sciences, who joined the VCU Globe program as a freshman. Moore was one of the first students from VCU to study abroad once COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. Even though she was abroad in South Korea, Moore still took a virtual Korean language class.

“I was able to use what I learned in class outside in the real world, so that kind of really inspired me to keep learning and to keep trying my best,” Moore said.

Pooja Sriram, a graduating psychology and sociology major from India, started studying in the U.S. on a visa in high school, and chose to continue her education at VCU. While Sriram applied to many colleges stateside, she said VCU was the only university to reach out to her and let Sriram know that as an international student, she would be taken care of.

In addition, she said VCU’s diverse student body made her feel at home.

“I never felt out of place, regardless if I was at a function … if I was sitting in class amongst other students, VCU made me feel like I wasn’t missing home,” Sriram said.

Yosef Mirakov Cohen, a graduating marketing major in the School of Business from Israel, said VCU’s diversity was a large draw for him as well.

“The culture [at VCU] is amazing, really diverse, really open and accepting,” Cohen said. “You can really express yourself, however you are, there is not too much judgment.”

In addition to studying in the U.S., Cohen took a bold chance by starting a vegan charcuterie company, C’est Lä Vé , while at college. He said resources like the da Vinci Center helped set him up for success.

“Overall, VCU really gives you the tools and the information to use and convert it into knowledge,” Cohen said.