International students deepen their roots on campus during International Tree Planting

The seventh annual International Tree Planting took place at the International Grove on Thursday, May 18.

Elon University’s graduating international students, joined by their families and loved ones, gathered at the International Grove on Thursday, May 18, for the seventh annual International Tree Planting to plant their oak saplings, cementing their roots on Elon’s campus.

Maxime Colignon ’23 at the 2023 International Tree Planting ceremony.

“This is a great ceremony,” said Maxime Colignon ’23, a French student who received his degree in international business. “It’s really symbolic and it’s a great way to end my two years here.”

At each International Tree Planting ceremony, Director of International Student Services Kristen Aquilino shares a quote that she feels best represents the graduating class. This year, Aquilino shared the Malay proverb, “The tree with strong roots laughs at storms.”

Throughout a variety of political, social and global health storms, the 22 international students in the Class of 2023 have continued to put themselves out there and push beyond their limits, Aquilino said. The oak trees that will grow on South Campus are symbolic of the roots that the international student have developed within the Elon community and the readiness they have developed in themselves, Aquilino said.

“Something that we tend to forget is that trees communicate through their roots. Sometimes we allow for what we understand to come from only what we see above ground,” Aquilino said. “We hope that you will remember that you have grown and will continue to grow very strong, unshakable roots that can remind you in times of storms, that all of these beautiful experiences, hardships, successes and challenges are integral to who you are now and who you are discovering yourselves to be. You are always more than what is visible above ground.”

The tree-planting ceremony was established in 2017 and is designed to acknowledge and celebrate the many contributions of Elon’s international students. Many international students have trouble transporting the saplings across country borders, so the International Grove offers a special place for the students to plant their trees and maintain a connection with Elon as they set off to their respective homes around the world.

International student planting their sapling on the International Grove during the 2023 International Tree Planting ceremony.

At the Numen Lumen: Senior Baccalaureate reflection on Tuesday, May 16, members of the Class of 2023 were given their oak saplings — a symbol of their growth and transformation during their time at Elon.

“You truly light up our campus,” said President Connie Ledoux Book at the International Tree Planting. “It creates a curiosity about the world to have you here … and I hope you feel the same way. It truly is a gift and we are so appreciative that you selected Elon for this experience.”

Asumi Endo ’23 was overcome with emotion at the tree-planting ceremony. The Japanese student graduated with a degree in international and global studies and while her time at Elon was filled with moments of great joy, there were also difficult moments.

The tree planting ceremony brought a mix of feelings to a head for Endo but the main feeling she has before going into commencement is pride. “I’m proud of myself. [The tree planting] made me remember to work hard and not give up on my dreams,” Endo said.