International Student Finds Support and Community at UNCG 

Posted on January 08, 2024

Students walk past blooming flowers at UNCG.

When Sierra Leone-native Jessica Lambert arrived on UNC Greensboro’s campus for her college tour, she found something she’d been lacking during her initial years living in the United States: a sense of community.

“I fell in love with everything about UNCG from the campus to the people,” Lambert said. “People say the United States is a melting pot. If you live in North Carolina, the best place you can get that melting pot is UNCG.”  

Choosing UNCG 

Jessica Lambert

Born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Lambert arrived in the U.S. in 2017 after her mother died. She moved in with an aunt in Charlotte and enrolled in Charlotte Catholic High School. When it came time for college, she visited only two universities – UNC Charlotte and UNC Greensboro. 

“One thing that captured my attention on the UNCG tour was how much diversity the school had,” Lambert says. She saw students from all walks of life and everyone she encountered said, “Hi.”

“I take pride in being a student here because of how I’ve been treated by faculty and students,” Lambert continued. “Everyone is polite, kind, and treats me like a human. The biggest thing that deterred me from UNC Charlotte, and staying in Charlotte as a whole, is I always felt out of place. I was always that one African girl or that one multi-diverse girl. I couldn’t walk into a space and see anyone who looked like me. I know I made the right decision because I don’t think I would have an experience like this anywhere but UNCG. I wouldn’t feel as comfortable anywhere else.” 

Since she enrolled, visiting other universities has only underscored her positive perspective of UNCG. 

“UNCG is a community-based school. I personally have made friends with other Sierra Leoneans, Nigerians, people from Kurdistan and Pakistan,” Lambert says. “I’ve also found a family with my friends at the African Student Union. It’s one of my best campus experiences! Whether you’re from Iran or Egypt, or Palestine, wherever it is you’re from, you would always find a fit in UNCG.” 

A community of support 

When Lambert moved to the U.S., she was very lonely. UNCG changed that.  If it weren’t for her new community, she’d have insisted on returning home. Although she misses her family – four siblings and her father (with whom she speaks daily) – Lambert finds UNCG’s cozy atmosphere incomparable and says it’s the reason she’s happy and thriving in the U.S. 

“You have to look for a place that will give you a sense of community,” she says. “That’s an important thing, because education aside, international students can get lonely.” 

The community bolstering Lambert at UNCG is vast and diverse. In her first year, support and inclusion came with an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner from Jennifer Kelly in the International Programs Center. Her residential college coordinator Will Dodson introduced her to campus life and always kept her spirits up with a joke.  

Currently in the process of changing her major from political science, Lambert is working through her prerequisite science courses to apply to the School of Nursing.  She says she couldn’t do it without Professor Jeremy Ingraham, her anatomy professor. Her ultimate goal: to work with children and pregnant women.

“He is a big part of my career at UNCG now. He really made me believe in myself and that I can do this,” said Lambert. “I want to be able to help a child in need, and I just think childbirth is such a beautiful thing.” 

Spreading Spartan support 

Lambert’s experience has made her an unofficial recruiter for UNCG, singing its praises to family, friends, and even strangers while shopping.  

“It’s almost impossible to feel out of place at UNCG,” Lambert says. “You don’t have to worry about people being stuck up or not being able to make friends because there are friends everywhere.”

“I would jump at any chance to express my love for UNCG,” said Lambert. “No matter where I go, I will always be a Spartan, always.” 

Story by Alexis Richardson
Photography courtesy of Jessica Lambert


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