From a Hashtag to Campus Quads: Meet the First #YouAreWelcomeHere Scholars

What began as a social media movement to welcome international students to the United States has become a tangible commitment to bring those students to U.S. campuses.
The inaugural class of #YouAreWelcomeHere scholarship recipients. Photos courtesy of each student.
Charlotte West

Since #YouAreWelcomeHere first appeared in social media posts in 2016 as a message to international students that they are welcome on U.S. campuses, the campaign has expanded from its grassroots beginnings to a comprehensive scholarship program.

As the movement gained momentum through videos and social media, it was formalized and centralized by Jessica Sandberg, MA, then-director of international admissions at Temple University. To date, more than 300 U.S. institutions have participated in the organized campaign.

In an effort to translate the #YouAreWelcomeHere sentiment into action, institutions introduced a scholarship component in 2018. More than 50 colleges and universities committed to offering the #YouAreWelcomeHere scholarship, which covers at least 50 percent of tuition for selected international undergraduates.

The inaugural class of 33 #YouAreWelcomeHere scholars arrived on campuses across the country last fall. International Educator talked to five of them to learn about their first year in the United States and their experience of living and learning through a pandemic. All agreed that the #YouAreWelcomeHere scholarship was the door that led them to choose their particular institution.

The students also shared stories of the challenges of navigating a new educational system, learning about U.S. culture, and making friends from around the world. As they all start their second year in the United States, they look forward to reconnecting with their campus communities.


Editor's note: Listen to an audio version of this story on the International Educator podcast below.


Photo of a student in front of a lake
Naw Lia Paw, a student at Furman University.
Naw Lia Paw

Home country: Myanmar (also

Subscribe now to read full article

Already a NAFSA member or subscriber? Log in.