UMD: A Globally Connected University

Incoming Undergrad Terps Meetup in Ahmedabad, India: Destination UMD

Incoming Undergrad Terps Meetup in Ahmedabad, India: Destination UMD

August 16, 2023 | By Maryland Global Editorial Staff

The 2022-23 academic year stands out as an all-time high for incoming international student enrollment, with 248 students across 30 countries making their mark on campus. As we move into 2023-24, it seems the momentum established last year continues among the undergraduates preparing for their arrival to campus this coming fall semester. Anushk Pokharna ‘27, incoming Computer Science student and member of the First-Year Innovation & Research Experience (FIRE) program, hosted an international meetup for his small cohort of four other undergraduate Terps in Ahmedabad, India, on May 5 and again with their families on June 3. 

We have received word of several international meetups taking place amongst incoming students from India all over the region in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, and more, with as many as 50 students gathering together in a single afternoon.

With over 4,000 international students enrolled on our campus, the international undergraduate population makes up a smaller percentage of that number. For international students, with their arrival date most often being their first on-the-ground introduction to UMD, their transition to college life in the U.S. inevitably looks different in comparison to those who’ve grown up here, whose pre-arrival preparation most often comes in the form of in-person freshman orientation, complete with the fanfare of an overnight stay in the dorms on north campus and sometimes, the familiar faces of those you went to high school with. It raises an interesting question for consideration: how do these international undergrads prepare for departure from nearly 8,000 miles away?     

Before we can investigate this, it’s important to note that these students are not left to fend for themselves as they prepare for the massive leap of pursuing a degree overseas—the office of International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) coordinates a robust series of pre and post-arrival activities including webinars covering the F-1/J-1 visa process and services offered by the department, meet-and-greets with International Orientation Leaders (IOLs), and an in-person schedule of welcome events before the first day of classes. Further, UMD has a storied history in hosting students from all around the world for over 150 years—ever since Pastor A. Cooke of Panama arrived on campus in 1871, we’ve had thousands of global Terps boldly walk the path of international education.

As Pokharna shared the details of his undergraduate first-year meetup, he mentioned that a group of soon-to-be UMD sophomores, also from Ahmedabad, are helping facilitate their smooth transition to American campus life this summer through an informal support network. On June 15, the five person cohort along with their second-year peers discussed the must-know details in acclimating to campus life, pursuing internship opportunities, sharing professor recommendations, and more. 

“It’s a relief to have students from the same city attending the same university in the U.S.,” said Pokharna. 

For students arriving to college the first time, many find comfort in the shared experiences of their institutional peers. To this end, high schools in the state often facilitate tours to campus and connect their prospective seniors to current college students to get a feel for the day-to-day at UMD. Further, as of Fall 2022, enrollment stats show that nearly 80 percent of undergraduate students are residents of the state. However, regardless of residency status, many students have some connection to our university that informs their decision to attend before they even set foot here, whether that be through parents, siblings, classmates, or friends—you’d be hard pressed to not find a Terp in your inner circle. We can now say the same is true all around the world, and in the case of Pokharna and his peers, the draw of UMD from nearly 8,000 miles away lies in the glowing reputation of our Computer Science program (currently ranked 8th nationally among the country’s public undergrad programs), expansive alumni network (405,000 and counting), and its unique location in near proximity to the biggest industry hubs in the state; including healthcare giant Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, aerospace engineering at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, and quantum computing at the Q-Lab in the College Park Discovery District right off campus. 

“I had received admission offers from various top schools in the U.S. and so did all my peers—but one thing that stood out to me and everyone else was its proximity to Washington D.C.,” said Pokharna.

UMD’s next-door status to the nation’s capital supports its global reach which has rapidly accelerated in recent years. With more than 300 international partners, we continue to make strides as an attractive destination for both incoming and outgoing students. To leave everything you know behind for a new life and education overseas, choosing an institution that sets you up for sustained success is crucial, and supporting students in this way is something that Jody Heckman-Bose, a 23-year veteran of ISSS and current associate director of the office, is passionate about. We spoke with her last year, and a large part of that conversation centered around how the successful acclimation of international students is a gain for the entire UMD community.

“Their experiences, in terms of adding to the discussions in classrooms, cannot be replicated with a book or a video or a reading. You really need those voices in the classroom aiding in the discussion and pushing the boundaries,” said Heckman-Bose. 

When it comes to the current international undergrads assisting Pokharna and his cohort get acclimated, they are motivated by the lived experience of anxiously awaiting their own departure two years prior. 

“I remember how overwhelming it was as a first-year student, and I wanted to help someone else navigate through the process. I was lucky to have a few upperclassmen who provided me with guidance, and I wanted to pay it forward,” said Tanay Shah ‘26. 

In addition to the practicality of forming campus connections with your peers ahead of your arrival to campus, these pockets of UMD communities supporting each other worldwide are indicative of the outstanding character of our students. In every continent, you can be sure that there is no Terp left behind. 

“Making these groups definitely makes the process of transition less stressful,” said Pokharna.

When it comes to plans for future meetups on campus, Pokharna and his cohort are excited to continue the tradition of community-building through other informal events independently, through ISSS, and the diverse array of student-led organizations.  

In the year ahead, we are excited to welcome all of our new students to campus, domestic and international alike. No matter how you got here, our campus is the shared home base of future Nobel laureates, business magnates, Fulbright scholars, generation-defining artists, and of course, fearless Terps.