Student Drew Borchert in his residence hall

Student Chronicles

September 18, 2023
Abby Ioannou

Follow along as a group of students share their stories during four years of college and see the Spider college experience through their eyes. This series begins with an introduction to five students from the Class of 2027, who have come to campus from all over the country.

Before classes started, Tsion Maru of Silver Spring, Maryland, took part in the Thrive multicultural orientation. She and Abby Ioannou of Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania, enjoyed moving in early with the Endeavor first-year, living-learning community.

“We had the opportunity to attend a few classes and get to know our classmates,” Ioannou said.  “We were able to create bonds with the people that we would be learning with all year before the semester actually started.”  

Drew Borchert (photo at top) of Chesterfield, Virginia, had a lot of friends who were seniors when he was just a junior in high school. “For me, move-in was a very settling experience because most of my friends already had a year of college under their belts,” Borchert said. “It felt strange but exciting.”

Brian Botero

Brian Botero made the 13-hour trek from Chicago with his family. He immediately made a connection with his roommate. “I am Colombian/Mexican, and he is Guatemalan. We had a lot in common — from how we were raised to the Spanish language as well,” Botero said. He was happy to soon find a Hispanic community on campus since he was one of few such students at his high school.

Along with getting to know the University during orientation week, students attended events where they could gather as a community for the first time and connect.  

“I loved getting to meet other first-year students during orientation week and hear their stories,” said Alvaro Ledezma, who hails from California but was born in Venezuela.

The fun kept going after the sun went down. “I really enjoyed the block parties the school hosted after the orientation sessions because it created a welcoming environment which had a warm feel to it,” Botero said.

Tsion Maru

The five first-year students looked forward to learning about all the different student clubs at SpiderFest. Ioannou plans to try out for the SpinnUrs dance team. Borchert is interested in club soccer. Botero wants to give the Spider Monkeys Ultimate Frisbee team a whirl and go kayaking and camping through the Outdoor Adventure and Recreation program

Some students almost felt overwhelmed by the number of activities from which to choose each day.

“In high school there was an immense pressure to be involved in a lot of extracurriculars before applying to college,” Botero said. “I still want to be busy, but this time around I want to focus on maintaining a balance of social and sports I enjoy and career-based programs that will help me post-graduation.”

Botero, who is considering majoring in environmental science and economics, said that, in addition to generous financial aid, some of the University’s appeal included the fact that the campus was tucked away in a forested environment, yet close to city life. He liked having D1 sports like football and basketball. “I wanted to feel school spirit, since that is something my old school lacked,” he said. Joining the Spider community was an upgrade. “My high school mascot was a frog,” he joked.

Maru, a Richmond Scholar like Ledezma, enjoys being part of a close-knit university. “I went to a large public high school where I sometimes didn’t feel supported by faculty,” she said. “Richmond is a smaller university with lots of resources for students to access. I love the small class sizes, the availability of professors, and really feeling like part of a community.”

Alvaro Ledezma

Things are off to a great start for Ledezma, who is considering majoring in mathematical economics. “All of my professors are interesting, and my classmates are super friendly. All the free time is a change from high school, but I'm enjoying it,” he said.

When asked to name one apprehension, he said, “The only thing I’m worried about is feeling homesick. I'm from the San Francisco area, so it's not very easy or cheap to travel back home.”

Ioannou likes her classes but is worried about eventually having to declare a major. “However, I have plenty of time to explore and figure out what I enjoy,” she said.

Borchert, who hopes to double major in business and leadership studies, said work is officially starting to ramp up. “I have so far managed a good schedule, and I’m making some friends and great connections with my professors.”

He’s still getting used to being away from home “but other than that I am having a blast and can't wait for more.”

Want to know what lies ahead for these students? Stay tuned. We’ll be checking back with them at the end of the semester.