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Student Life

Home Away from Home

By Ryan Klinker, March 15, 2023

Students from around the globe find care and guidance at Liberty’s International Student Center

There are now close to 700 international students from over 80 countries studying on campus at Liberty University, and helping these students feel welcomed and cared for is imperative to their success as they prepare for future careers. Created in 2004, the C. Daniel Kim International Student Center has greeted these students to Lynchburg, Va., with open arms and connected them with other students from America and abroad. 

“Our main goal is to serve the needs of the international students, and we act as a connecting point between the international students and the rest of the Liberty community,” said David Hart, an executive director in the College of Applied Studies & Academic Success (CASAS), which oversees the International Student Center. “All of our programming is about our international students and connecting them with each other and the (domestic) student body.”

The C. Daniel Kim International Student Center open during weekdays, including during some of the university’s breaks when international students are not able to return to their home country. (Photo by Chase Gyles)

The ISC was named for Dr. C. Daniel Kim, a longtime religion professor who also pastored the 701 Korean Church in Lynchburg for decades. Kim helped bring thousands of Korean students to Liberty, and today Korean students make up the largest demographic of Liberty’s international student body at 104 students. 

Administrative functions of the ISC include helping students stay up to date on their government paperwork like F-1 student visas and I-20 forms, enroll in classes and receive academic transcripts, find on-campus employment and health insurance, and connect with local churches, among other services.

To many of the students, the center is more than just an office — it’s a second home. Located off the Grand Lobby on the second floor of DeMoss Hall, the center keeps its doors open during weekdays, including during some of the university’s breaks when international students are not able to return to their home country. Students often spend their free time in the center’s common area, completing homework and fellowshipping with their peers.

“We want to make the center a home away from home for the students,” Hart said. “It helps them connect with other international students who are going through that same experience and understand what it means to go through culture shock. All of our team — which includes International Student Advisors, International Student Advocates, and more — has a passion and desire to serve students, whether it is having students sit in their office and helping them with life or just hanging out here with a cup of coffee and sharing cultures.”

“I joke that I pretty much live here, a lot of us do, and that’s because they’ve made us feel at home,” said senior Justin Hudson, who is from the Bahamas. “They make us all feel like a family, and they actually care for us. Coming over here from an entirely different country, entirely different culture, it can be difficult and scary, but they’ve made it a little smoother.”

International students fill their plates at the ISC’s annual Thanksgiving celebration on Nov. 22, 2022. (Photo by KJ Jugar)

Once a week, the center hosts a Breakfast Connection in partnership with Liberty’s Counseling Services where students can talk about cultural adjustments and connect over a fresh-made breakfast.

The center hosts multiple events each semester that highlight the various cultures around the world where Liberty’s international students have lived. Twice a semester, the center holds Global Connect events in which students from a specific country make presentations on their home, answer questions, and provide food samples. Liberty’s student body is encouraged to get involved and learn more about different cultures at multiple open houses with music, games, and authentic meals. Each year, during Global Emphasis Week across the university, the ISC hosts a “Taste of Nations” event in which cuisine from around the world is served.

Student participate in a Taste of Nations event in September 2022.

“It’s been really nice to feel at home and display our cultures for others who might not get to see it otherwise,” said Amanuel Adane Egata, a junior from Ethiopia. “The fun parts aren’t just the events. It’s just been coming here and having fellowship with many students, international or not, and talking with them.”

The ISC also partners with academic departments across campus. The John W. Rawlings School of Divinity piloted a Global Partner Student Program in 2021 in which global studies students meet with international students to talk about cultures and have a global exchange of information multiples times throughout the semester. A related program involving the School of Divinity, titled “Cross-Cultural Conversations,” was launched last spring to give all Liberty students the opportunity to earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) by participating in workshops and ISC events.

When new international students first arrive on campus, they are greeted by International Student Ambassadors — students who volunteer to help their peers get accustomed to Liberty throughout their first semester. Ambassadors email newcomers before they come to campus, remind them about orientation, and share tips on how they can prepare for the move. The center has also partnered with the Office of Residence Life to create a hospitality team made of resident assistants (RAs) who connect with international students upon arrival. 

“Ambassadors help with a lot of the things that your family would be able to help you with if they were able to come to check in, but a lot of the international students don’t get to have their family come with them,” said Tara Watkins, a former career missionary and current International Student Advocate who has worked in the ISC since 2013. 

Both Egata and Hudson said the ambassador program helped them adjust to campus life.

“My relationship with the ISC started at orientation when we first came here,” Egata said. “I had ambassadors introduce me and greet me and show me around campus. God just made everything work together, and I’m glad I’m here today.”

“Some of the friends I made on the day of orientation are still my friends to this day,” Hudson said. “This year I got to be on the flip side and be an ambassador for the next generation of Liberty international students.”

Hudson’s freshman year was filled with challenges. The Caribbean was hit by Hurricane Dorian in the fall, and the COVID-19 pandemic arose in the spring. He attested to the care and service he received from the ISC and the university as a whole.

“They advocated for us (Bahamian students) to the people in Convocation and LU Serve so much so that Bahamian students were able to go on a trip to the Bahamas to do relief work,” he said. “Up until that point, I didn’t fully understand how much these people cared about me and (wanted to know) how my family is, and that was a great example of the ISC’s heart.”

International students also benefit greatly from studying at a campus that values global awareness.

As vice president of the Africa Connect Association, a student club under the Student Government Association, Egata was able to volunteer at the School of Business’ CEO Summit in October and meet with many African leaders. 

“I really got to understand some of the things we struggle with in Africa and how we can solve that with the United States,” Egata said. “We realize the vast network that exists at Liberty among the students and alumni, and we want to connect to people from Africa and the United States for the future.”

Hudson is a member of the new Caribbean Student Association, which he said has helped him find fellow students from near his home.

“It’s really important to foster this community of Caribbean students because for a long time it was hard to find fellow Caribbean students on campus,” he said. “We’re trying to give Caribbean students a home away from home while also educating other students about who we are and helping address some of the misconceptions people may have.”

Hart said that when international students are more involved in campus life — academically, spiritually, and relationally — the entire Liberty community is impacted in a special way.

“Those who teach and pursue majors like international business, global studies, international security, political science, music in world cultures, humanitarian action and human rights, teaching English as a second or foreign language, and more, can enrich formal education by engaging with students from all over the world,” he said. “All students, foreign and domestic, no matter what their major is, should have a global experience before they graduate to be ready to make an impact in the world.”  


Republic of Korea   104
Canada   91
Nigeria   51
China   47
India    26
Brazil    24
Haiti    17
Kenya    17
Dominican Republic   12
Peru    12
South Africa   12

To learn more about the C. Daniel Kim International Student Center, visit Liberty.edu/ISC, email ISC@liberty.edu, or call (434) 592-4118.

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