School of International Affairs Class of 2024 attends orientation

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State School of International Affairs (SIA) welcomed the Class of 2024 on Friday, August 19. After a long year of many international students going through a difficult visa approval process, meetings on Zoom, and communicating through email, the class gathered in-person for the first time in the Lewis Katz Building in University Park.

The morning started off with breakfast and professional headshots. In minutes, students were introducing themselves and chatting in the Katz lobby. After an hour of making new acquaintances, the class went to the Greg Sutliff Auditorium for opening remarks and welcoming messages.

The Journey Begins

Vice Admiral (Ret.) James W. Houck, interim dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs, offered the class three pieces of advice to help them be successful during their time at SIA. “Absorb. There are so many people who are here to help you. Second, be the best version of yourself. Third, we have students from all over the world. Take this opportunity to make friends and develop close relationships with such a diverse group of people.”

Dr. Elizabeth Ransom, interim director of the School of International Affairs, greeted the class with a quote that she believes highlights the opportunity the new class will have with their time at SIA, “‘Sometimes you want to be near people who have accomplished a lot in life not to learn what they have to say but to see how they think.’ You’re going to be surrounded by really accomplished people in our program. You’ll learn a lot from them and you’re going to want to see how they think. This captures the subtleties of all you can get from this program.”

She asked the new class to all rise. After she conferred the Class of 2024, she said, “I am confident that you will exceed our expectations and you will be a class that we will remember for your exceptional qualities.”

Meet the SIA Class of 2024


Penn State School of International Affairs Class of 2024

Penn State School of International Affairs Class of 2024.

IMAGE: Emma Kappel/Penn State School of International Affairs


The incoming class is from many different parts of the world and has a multitude of interests and varying educational backgrounds. Quick facts about the SIA Class of 2024 include:

  • Represents 13 countries, including China, Egypt, The Gambia, Indonesia, India, Japan, South Korea, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestine, Togo, United Arab Emirates, and the U.S.
  • U.S. students represent 15 states. 
  • Have backgrounds in more than 26 different majors.
  • Collectively speak more than 31 languages.
  • Have a variety of careers as English teachers, program managers, researchers, legal assistants, journalists, a Fulbright Fellow, U.S. Navy officer, special assistant scheduler to Pete Buttigieg, and a stand-up comedian.
  • Some worked on political campaigns, interned in law offices, and volunteered for social justice organizations.
  • One student has a black belt in taekwondo, and another has a black belt in karate.

While there are many differences within the class, one similarity came through in their application essays. Many students shared their wish to be change agents in an increasingly complex and globalized world after they graduate from SIA.

Set Up for Success

After assembling for their class photo, the class participated in team-building activities on Katz lawn. Key One Jung, a first-year student from South Korea said, “I really liked the get-to-know-you activities. They were really helpful.”

SIA Orientation also held a resource fair full of organizations dedicated to helping graduate students get involved with their school and to be successful in their classes. Many of the organizations are run by second-year SIA students, who were eager to share their time and expertise.


SIA students speaking

SIA student speaking with the Student Government Association at the resource fair. 

IMAGE: Emma Kappel/Penn State School of International Affairs


Vera Muzzio, who attended Penn State for her undergraduate degree, said, “It’s a little overwhelming but it’s also really exciting. You’re meeting people from all over the world and you’re seeing new faces from all over the country as well.” She added, “I felt very welcomed and they’ve made the resources available to me really obvious through this fair. I’m very grateful for that.

It makes me feel more comfortable and acquainted with what we’re going to be doing for the next two years. It’s been a great experience. I’m excited to continue to meet everyone and start the program, to learn, and be challenged in the best possible way.”

Ransom summed up orientation, “Today has been great. This new class has a lot of energy and they’re engaging with each other. This resource fair has been phenomenal, the turnout was amazing, all our students seem to be taking up the task of either serving as resources or learning about what’s out there. I’m excited that our students seem so ready to engage.” 

Share this story