Record Pathway class brings new faces, cultures to INTO USF

There are a few things you can expect to see when arriving at INTO University of South Florida—palm trees, sunny skies and the flags of more than half of the world's countries hanging in the lobby. The flag display symbolizes the 113 nationalities represented at INTO USF since its first intake in 2011. The center has added 15 new flags in the past 18 months alone.

"It's a really cool sight when you walk in," said Janna Eveland, INTO USF student services coordinator. "Students love finding their flag or seeing their flag hung for the first time."

Last month was a busy, but exciting time for Janna and the INTO USF staff as they prepared for the arrival of more than 700 new international students from nearly 70 countries to the Tampa, Florida campus. "Fall Orientation is an event we prepare for all summer and anticipate with enthusiasm and excitement," said Glen Besterfield, PhD, INTO USF center director. "In addition to welcoming our largest Pathway class to date of nearly 500 new students, we had more than 240 students arrive for the Academic English program. I congratulate the entire INTO USF faculty and staff for their dedication and commitment, and all of my colleagues at INTO for delivering as promised to help internationalize USF."

In just six years, USF's international student enrollment has increased from 1,465 to 4,656. The growing global presence on campus was apparent to incoming international students on their first day of Orientation. "In Paraguay, there is not a lot of diversity in universities, but here I have met so many people from different countries and cultures, which helps open your mind," said Natalia Mendez Acevedo from Paraguay.

The center's largest Pathway Orientation began on a beautiful, sunny morning—as nearly 250 days a year do in Tampa. Hundreds of new students were introduced to their student leaders who guided them through the week of activities. "The information sessions were helpful because the INTO USF staff informed about everything we need to know and where we need to go in case of emergencies if we are in trouble or if we have any insurance or medical problems," said Egyptian native Mohammed Musa.

Students also got a chance to mingle and bond during the party at nearby Clearwater Beach, named 2016's No. 1 beach in the US by TripAdvisor earlier this year. They experienced American culture by eating barbecue and playing beach games, and also shared some of their own as they danced to popular songs from many different countries.

Vladislav from Ukraine particularly enjoyed the campus tour. "I was very impressed with the amount of things going here, like the fitness center, the swimming pool, all the clubs, a lot of restaurants and coffee shops like Starbucks. There are six Starbucks. In Ukraine we don't have Starbucks at all. I was very shocked in a good manner with this huge campus," he said. His words of wisdom to future INTO USF Orientation attendees: "The best advice is not to be nervous, go with the flow and follow student leaders. If you do this, you start to be calm and confident with everything you hear and see."