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All Around the World to IU

Choosing to attend a college is one of the early milestones on the way to adulthood for many. Finding the right fit is exciting, but it can be a lengthy process—spending weekends and holidays visiting campuses near and far. For some students, the comfort of familiarity is paramount, for others the adventure of a cross-country college experience calls.

A survey in 2019 by the Education Research Institute found that over 40% of U.S. freshmen attending a private four-year college went to a school farther than 500 miles away from home, while only 14% attending public four-year universities chose to travel that distance. The numbers are more similar when comparing backyard options—with nearly 4% of private university students and 5.5% at public universities living five miles or less from their school.

Maybe not surprisingly, 69% of Immaculata’s traditional undergraduate student population resides in the Keystone State, with New Jersey having the second most at 19%. What may be unexpected, however, is where the rest of our students hail from…and how they got here.

“I knew I wanted to leave Southern California and try something new,” said Lindsey Swartout ’13, who attended an all-girls Catholic college in Long Beach, California. After researching psychology programs at private institutions across the country, Swartout landed on Immaculata, applied and never looked back. She did not set foot on campus until the day she moved in. “I loved that I could continue learning in a Catholic environment and still be part of a small community despite being far from home,” she explained. “My mom flew out with me for move-in day, and while I was in orientation events, she was shopping and setting up my room.”

Julie Ellner ’89 (see full story on page 12), from Funk, Nebraska had a similar experience. She first attended a local college for one year on an athletic scholarship. However, once she sustained an injury, the scholarship dried up and she desperately wanted to leave Nebraska and focus on getting into a college on the East Coast that had a high acceptance rate to medical school. She applied to over 25 schools. “I settled on Immaculata sight unseen, applied for all the financial aid I could get, packed my Oldsmobile and drove to Pennsylvania,” she said.

Thornton, Colorado is a picturesque suburb of Denver, where the Rocky Mountains loom large across the landscape. Born and raised in Thornton, Sara Rode ’23 attended a softball tournament after her junior year of high school. Feeling a draw to the East Coast, she emailed collegiate coaches in the area—including Immaculata. She toured the campus that summer and again during the fall of her senior year and was impressed by Immaculata’s nursing program and softball team. Now entering her junior year, Rode loves the small campus environment, often saying that Immaculata feels like a home away from home. “I love Colorado, but I knew I wanted to try something new and experience being in a new place,” Rode explains.

Some students looking for specific program options sometimes find it necessary to attend college in a different state. Growing up in Katy, Texas, just west of Houston, Cristal Garcia ’22 was seeking a bachelor’s degree in diagnostic medical sonography, but the only offerings she could find near her home were associate degree programs. After expanding to a nationwide search, she discovered Immaculata where she is pursuing her career choice through the allied health major with an added bonus of minoring in health care management.

Like her counterparts from the West Coast and Midwest, Garcia did not visit Immaculata until she was ready to schedule her classes. “I know most people I meet are shocked when I say I’m from Texas,” she adds.

Of course, many Immaculatans are born and raised with the dome in their backyard. “Even though I’m from West Chester—a little under 10 minutes away from Immaculata, I was unfamiliar with and pleasantly surprised by the amazing facilities and beautiful campus,” says Luke Biely ’23. Although he lives nearby, Biely decided to live on campus. “For me personally, it was a great decision because I wanted more independence and more of the college experience,” he says.

As exciting as it is to see the local and broad national appeal for IU’s campus in Malvern, Pennsylvania, people abroad are also locating our dot on the map.

America is the top destination for studying abroad, and U.S. colleges and universities enrolled over 1 million international students for the 2019-2020 academic year. Immaculata enrolled 12 international students (F1 visa holders) during 2020-2021. Three students came from Nigeria and one each from Canada, China, Eritrea, India, Mexico, South Korea, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

“I settled on Immaculata sight unseen, applied for all the financial aid I could get, packed my old Oldsmobile and drove to Pennsylvania.”

From his experience working with prospective international students, Immaculata admissions counselor Danny Luu speculates that future students may come from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and India because that is where many international students are coming from currently. However, there is stiff competition for these students and the pandemic only exacerbated the issues. The recent Open Doors Report by the Institute of International Education indicated a 43% decline in new international enrollments during the fall 2020 semester. According to the report, with the pandemic, students have had much longer to think about, and more time to apply to, different universities in a variety of countries.

Born in Delta State in Nigeria, Olive Monye ’22 became interested in fighting financial fraud and wanted to pursue her college education in the U.S. Monye researched colleges in Pennsylvania, where she has relatives.

Monye acknowledged that it was not easy to come to the U.S. She had a hard time understanding the various American accents and cultural differences. “I didn’t think it would be wise to put myself in a place where I couldn’t cope.” Immaculata’s manageable size appealed to the finance and accounting major, and since she was born into a Catholic home, Immaculata’s Catholic heritage helped her feel comfortable.

Sister Janet Walters, IHM, director of international student services at Immaculata, along with other key staff, work with the international students to navigate the paperwork and complex process, and help them prepare for the journey to and life in the U.S.

Colombian Simon Madrinan, with an MBA in hand, moved to the U.S. in 2016 with the goal of continuing his studies in America. While working in the financial industry in Chester County, his employer recommended the master’s program in management and leadership at Immaculata. Madrinan met with the chair of the program and determined that the degree would be a perfect complement to his MBA. With just a few remaining classes, he is already reaping the benefits of attending Immaculata, recently accepting a new job in Massachusetts at the Harvard University Employees Credit Union.

“I didn’t visit Immaculata until the day I moved in,” says Nuri Jeong ’14. While growing up in the small city of Suncheon in South Korea, Jeong’s parents placed immense importance on education. During her junior year, she attended a high school in Connecticut as an exchange student and then headed across the country to spend her senior year at a Christian academy in Oregon. When it came time to consider college, she wanted to go back east. After reading a brochure from Immaculata, she liked what she saw—small class sizes and a beautiful campus. “I guess you could say it was sort of a blind decision,” she admits. Jeong earned a B.S. in Allied Health.

Born and raised in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State in Western Nigeria, Patricia Ezike ’21 wanted to study in the U.S. and then return to help her local community as a nurse. She reached out to the university’s international student services and decided to pursue her education at Immaculata. After completing her R.N. to B.S.N. degree, Ezike’s nursing advisor asked what she wanted to accomplish with her degree. Ezike stated that her goal is to use her education to impact her local community. “With a country population of over 200 million people, and a continent population of over 1 billion, what are the chances that a woman from Nigeria, with no living parents or political affiliation, would be a part of the agents to spark a significant change in the health care sector?” she asks. With that in mind, she continued her education at her alma mater, earning an M.S.N. degree and an Ed.D. in higher education from Immaculata.

Ezike joins more than 20,000 Immaculata alumni, of whom 75 live outside the United States in cities such as Cairo, Lima, Dublin, Tokyo, Glasgow, Auckland, Rome, Barcelona and Bangkok.

Whether down the street, on the Left Coast or across the globe, Immaculata’s doors are open to the world.

Around the World to IU