When embassies shut and travel bans were enacted this past spring and summer, Calvin had a choice to make: either accept that most of its international students would likely have to wait a semester or year to join its community or work to create a path for them. Calvin chose the latter.

“In this cloud of uncertainty, we were able to collaboratively pull together an option,” said Sara Vander Bie, English as a second language instructor and academic counselor at Calvin University.

The option was the international online cohort, a group of 65 students who were unable to attend in-person for the fall semester, but who chose to begin their time at Calvin online. In order to make this online cohort successful, it would take an army of professors, tutors, and student life workers to deliver a meaningful college experience online, one that not only delivered a quality educational experience to the first-year students, but placed equal importance on helping students feel a sense of belonging to the community.

The cohort proved successful: All 65 students who completed the fall semester are either continuing online or in-person this spring.

Calvin’s international student population is 13%, more than double the national average.