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A winning university experience satisfies the mind, body and soul. For international students, it’s also one that makes leaving home and family worth it. University of Puget Sound offers that kind of holistic and well-rounded experience.

Located in one of the most beautiful and fastest growing regions in the US, its Tacoma campus bustles with copious extracurricular activities and opportunities for experiential learning. International students here get to be in the thick of it, as they stay on campus for the first two years. Many students choose to stay on after as well, not yet ready to leave behind the fun roster of activities that run all year long, from clubs to artistic performances and sporting events. 

“Our international students participate in athletic teams, conduct research with faculty, hold on-campus jobs, participate in student government, and lead student clubs,” says Nova Fergueson from the Office of International Programs of international programmes.

In all they do, international students can access many types of support. These range from help with getting up to speed with academic English proficiency to OPT application guidance. OPT refers to Optional Practical Training, temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student's major area of study. Fergueson notes that more than 20% of undergraduate students pursue a career within the health professions. “Students pursuing these professional paths receive comprehensive advising support from the moment they arrive on campus until they successfully matriculate into the professional health programme of their choice,” she says. 

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medical school acceptance rate over the last 10 years


dental school acceptance rate over the last 6 years


students named winners for the Fulbright US Student Programme in the last 2 years

Top 7%

of baccalaureate-granting institutions whose graduates go on to earn doctorates

Finding your niche

Sofia Colvin is the definition of an international student. Born in Texas, she grew up in the Middle East, then went to Germany for boarding school. She applied to Puget Sound after completing the International Baccalaureate diploma programme, which gave her a strong foundation and a competitive edge.

Currently studying biology, this first-year student has found that she wants to focus on the natural world to explore her interests in animal conservation. The impact of climate change weighs heavy on Colvin’s mind, so she is taking the BIOL112: Evolution and Diversity class. It highlights the importance of maintaining ecological balance, mass extinctions, and the mechanisms of evolution.

When she’s not digging deep into the science of life, Colvin is part of the Wetlands magazine. People often underestimate how vital it is to be able to write in the sciences, hence why she’s making the most of her time with the campus publication to hone her writing skills. “Besides being a place to build skill and flex my creativity muscles, Wetlands has been a really good source of community for me. Just getting to know people I normally wouldn‘t talk to has been a great experience,” she says.

International students have many people rooting for them and supporting them throughout their journey. In her first year, Colvin was given a long list of staff she could reach out to anytime: success coach, peer advisor, faculty advisor, resident advisor, and a specialised advisor for pre-health students. “These people are a really great resource for all of your needs, and if they can‘t help you, they always know how to connect you to people who can,” she says.

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“I‘ve recently been finding myself enamoured with entomology,” she adds. “I‘ve always had an interest in the world around me. I think curiosity is an innately human trait my parents always encouraged in me.”

Such surroundings are a big advantage that animates the education of Puget Sound students. But Wang didn’t even need to leave campus to dive deeper into his field. Last summer, he participated in a summer research programme that computationally investigated the binding of the SARS-CoV-2 spike with human ACE2 protein.

When he’s not in the lab, Wang is a member of the American Chemistry Society and Phi Sigma biology honour society, where he has the chance to tutor other students and high schoolers. He also runs for the track and field team. While it sounds like a busy schedule, Wang is confident everything is playing its part to help him prepare for the future. “In general, being in a liberal arts college allows me to talk to my professors for hours, which in turn has helped me a lot in deciding my career and academic paths.”

“My research adviser, Jeff Grinstead, allowed me to explore this topic and helped me understand the computational tools we are using,” he says. “He gave me a chance to explore my topics of interest and never really limit what I should do. Now I am applying machine learning and other computational biology tools to my research, which you wouldn’t expect to be able to do in a more ‘regular’ lab.”

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Yongjia (Alex) Wang discovered a passion for biochemistry when he was preparing for the United States Academic Decathlon (USAD). This was when he first learned about DNA as the building block of all living creatures. He was fascinated by it. To truly understand biology, however, Wang knew he had to pair his future major with chemistry, which was what led him to Puget Sound. An uncle added another crucial element to Wang’s college search: liberal arts. “The idea of attending a liberal arts school was strongly recommended by my uncle, who is a wise professor who lived in the US for over 10 years and now teaching at a university in China,” he says. “He used his experience to convince me and my family that liberal arts education is the most essential part of the American undergraduate education.”

Since joining, Wang has discovered another side of himself: a love for maths. Thanks to professor James Bernhard’s “great wisdom and passion in maths,” Wang says he’s not only learned about linear algebra but also “the thinking in higher dimensions and the world of imaginary numbers.” “Now I can easily explain how higher dimensions look like in our 3 spatial dimensional world and apply so much knowledge I learned from him beyond the classroom.”

Another highlight for Wang has certainly been the experiential learning opportunities. Putting concepts into practice is one of the most effective ways to retain and understand new knowledge. As the university is in Tacoma’s vibrant North End neighbourhood, Wang has a location and community with plenty of opportunities to apply all he’s learned in the real world. Tacoma is part of a booming economic corridor that stretches from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Portland, Oregon. Just 35 miles away lies the technology-hub of Seattle. A major international airport is closer still, located 25 miles away. 

Pursuing your true interests

Better than a master’s

After completing her Bachelor of Science in Biology from The King’s University in 2020, Kaitlin Miller-Ulmer applied for a master’s programme at an Australian university but decided against going because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She then worked as a special education assistant and behaviour interventionist. In 2021, she discovered Puget Sound’s onsite occupational therapy clinic and saw how the university cares about diversity. “This was the only school I had applied to that required an application essay detailing the student's value of diversity,” she says.

Plus, the Entry-Level Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) is not offered in her home country Canada. It currently only offers the Masters or PhD programme in Occupational Therapy. “I found that the OTD offers the best of both worlds,” she says. “The OTD requires meeting all of the clinical competencies of the master’s degree with an added research component. My STEM background likely influenced my decision to pursue the OTD.”

This programme ensures that students build a strong foundation well before they learn job-specific skills. For Miller-Ulmer, who is in her second year, the courses have all impacted and shaped her understanding of this subject. The addition of experiential learning further enhances her learning. Ulmer has participated in Experiential Learning in Context (ELIC) projects, volunteering at an organisation where the occupational therapy skills can be adapted into goals for whatever setting the students choose. “Through this experience, I learned a lot about curriculum design and course-sequence planning,” she says. This semester, she hopes to run physical activity groups for residents of a local memory-care facility. 

A fan of competitive sports growing up, Miller-Ulmer has been able to play volleyball and be part of soccer intramurals on campus as well. The Pacific Northwest, one of the most beautiful regions in the country, offer students like Miller-Ulmer even more ways to experience the outdoors, learn new skills, and meet new people. From exploring nature local to Tacoma to catching some waves, there are many activities planned all year long to get adrenaline pumping. 

Once she graduates, Miller-Ulmer plans to sit for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam to become certified to practise in the US. “I plan to practise in the US for an undetermined amount of time while I wait for my credentials to be transferred to Canada,” she says. “I hope to sit for the National Occupational Therapy Certification Examination (NOTCE) to become certified to practice in Canada.” 

Another long-term aspiration? Paying it forward by taking a leaf out of Puget Sound’s book. “One of my biggest long-term goals is to provide an annual scholarship for a student of a diverse background to attend occupational therapy school, as increasing diversity in the profession is something that I see as imperative,” Miller-Ulmer says.

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“I found that the OTD offers the best of both worlds,” she says. “The OTD requires meeting all of the clinical competencies of the master’s degree with an added research component. My STEM background likely influenced my decision to pursue the OTD.”

A vibrant education awaits at University of Puget Sound.

My long-term goal is to become a subject matter expert in supply chain, which is the backbone of the industry. I found BGSU's Logistics Systems Engineering program is a combination of engineering and management, which helps me to enhance my knowledge and skills. I joined BGSU in January 2022 and got the opportunity to work as a Graduate Assistant on an industrial project under the guidance of Dr. Sarder.

Swati Arora, India
MS in Logistics Systems Engineering

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