Qingning Yao, who came to Yale from the University of Hong Kong five weeks ago, describes himself as introverted. But he hopes that coming to Yale will help him come out of his shell.

“There’s a strong social culture here at Yale,” Yao said. “I want to make sure I meet new people and challenge myself.”

Yao is one of 24 students in this year’s Yale Visiting International Students Program. The students, all undergraduates, come from four partner universities in Hong Kong, Singapore and India. Students stay on campus for either one semester or a full year, and, during their time on campus, are afforded the full Yale experience. Visiting students live in residential colleges, take Yale classes and participate in extracurricular activities.

Students and program organizers alike are excited for this year’s program. Director of the Yale Visiting International Students Program Katie Bell said one the most valuable things the program offers visiting students is access to liberal arts classes, which some students may not have the opportunity to take at their home institutions. Bell added that they are able to experience the warm campus culture and community at Yale, and, by the end of the year, they feel as though they are truly a part of the University.

Bell said her favorite part of the program is getting to know the students.

“They are so special and wonderful, and watching them come together and watching students who are from Singapore and Mexico get to know each other as they develop and grow into a family is incredible,” she said. “Working with the [Peer Liaisons] to help support the students is really fun, as well.”

She explained that three peer liaisons, who are assigned to the program, help visiting students adjust to life in the United States. Alice Oh ’19, one of this year’s three peer liaisons, said she is enjoying the role so far.

“I really enjoy meeting different people around the world, and I studied abroad last year so I can empathize with their experiences,” Oh said.

Oh said her favorite part of being a peer liaison has been planning social events to help build community among the visiting students. Last Friday, Oh and the other liaisons took students apple picking, and, this past Sunday, she invited everyone in the program to her home and baked them an apple pie.

Losheini Ravindran ’18 told the News that New Haven is the farthest she has been from her family and that she gets homesick from time to time. But Ravindran added that Skyping her family helps her stay in touch with those at home and that the group of visiting students provides a community away from home.

“This is a very diverse group that is going on this one journey, and they are always there to provide emotional support for me,” she said. “On my 21st birthday, the peer liaisons made arrangements to celebrate it. There is always someone there for me.”

Ravindran said she has enjoyed taking classes in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, because this is the first time that she has come across an entire department dedicated to those studies. At her home university, she was confined to taking classes in her major, South Asian Studies.

Yao described his experience at Yale so far as positive, saying that everyone has been friendly toward him and that he has been impressed by the ways Yale students aspire to use their education to better the world.

“My favorite part of Yale is that I feel like students here have this idea that we are responsible for making changes and doing the most good in the world,” he said. “In the computer science faculty, they have a desire to make changes, even though one might not think that it is a department where they would feel this sense of responsibility.”

Yale’s Visiting International Students program launched in 2011.

Isha Dalal | isha.dalal@yale.edu