F&M Stories

International Seniors Reflect on F&M Journeys

On a chilly spring evening in late March, a dozen Franklin & Marshall seniors gathered at Joseph International Center sharing food, hugs and memories. 

Four years ago, this seemed nearly impossible.

That’s because this group of international students began their College journeys in fall 2020 amid the height of the COVID pandemic. That meant they had to attend off-site campus programs or participate virtually. Four cohorts were formed: two in China, one in England, and one solely remote. 

“All of us continued our friendships, and I’m very glad to have had them around throughout my college life,” said Xingyuan “Ben” Chen, of Shanghai, China. 

Chen will graduate with a double major in mathematics and philosophy and minor in Classics. 

F&M will graduate 518 seniors at Saturday’s Commencement ceremony; 85 (over 16%) of those students are international. See the start of their F&M journeys


Students who began their first-year F&M journeys in Bath, England due to the pandemic celebrate a reunion in the Joseph International Center.

To ease the transition for students with Chinese citizenship, fall 2020 cohorts were created in Beijing and Shanghai. The Shanghai program offered a connection in real time with F&M faculty, while the Beijing program operated similarly to a study abroad experience, said Sue Mennicke, associate dean of international initiatives.

The College also formed a third cohort in Bath, England, with F&M's existing Advanced Studies in England (ASE) program. This offered an accessible base for eight students from Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Madagascar, Rwanda, Spain and Ukraine.

The College's fourth cohort was solely remote, with students studying from their home countries of Canada, China, Ghana, India, Nepal, Portugal and Sierra Leone. 

Cohorts continued through the spring 2021 semester as needed. 

A photo from fall 2020 shows international Class of 2024 members at the start of their College journeys in Bath, England.

A photo from fall 2020 shows international Class of 2024 members at the start of their College journeys in Bath, England.

“Exploring Bath while everything was closed down was also fun, as I gained autonomy and learned to be [comfortable] by myself as well as to enjoy the company of my friends,” said Sofia Silva de Almeida e Souza Netto, of Gerais, Brazil. 

A government major, she remained active in programs offered by F&M’s Ware Institute for Civic Engagement

Four years later, these international seniors are excelling as club presidents, grant winners, interns and more. Many are graduate-school bound or excited to begin their professional lives in the U.S. and beyond. 

Apurva Subedi, of Kathmandu, Nepal, was president of the International Student Advisory Board. A double major in economics and mathematics and minor in music performance, he spent last summer exploring sustainable tourism in the Himalayas.

Erich Huang, of Shanghai, China, is currently working in Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace’s office and will remain there through the summer. A German language and culture major, Huang will enter Washington University’s systems engineering program this fall. 

Liantsoa Rasoanjanahary, a business major and mathematics minor from Antananarivo, Madagascar, recounted her first-year experience in a fall 2021 “Alone Together” series.  

Ziru Sha, of Nanjing, China, is a recipient of multiple grants and conducted developmental biology research along with providing translations for the multilingual glossary project at F&M’s Quantitative and Science Center. Sha, a neuroscience and biology double major and studio art minor, plans to work in U.S. research labs after graduation before applying to medical school.

Alfee Rubayet, of Dhaka, Bangladesh, is the Diplomatic Congress executive officer for social justice & equity. She will pursue a master’s degree in International Development at American University’s School of International Service. 

Reflecting on a spring 2021 semester spent in England, Rubayet notes the meaningful moments that stand out most: 

“We all saw the best in each other because every interaction – dinners, our gorgeous Eid [al-Fitr] celebration, each little walk around Bath – cemented a relationship and memories that I'm going to keep alive,” she said. 

ASE Class of 2024 reunion at Joseph International Center.

"We all saw the best in each other," said Alfee Rubayet '24.

International First-Years Begin Their F&M Journey Abroad

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