Elon University / Today at Elon / International students deepen their roots on campus during International Tree Planting

Elon University / Today at Elon / International students deepen their roots on campus during International Tree Planting

The Seventh Annual International Tree Planting was held at the International Grove on Thursday, May 18th.


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International graduates of Elon University, along with 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 tree seedlings, strengthening their roots on Elon’s campus.

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

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

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

Despite various political, social and global health storms, the 22 international students of the class of 2023 have continued to do their best and push their limits, Aquilino said. The oak trees that will grow on the south campus are symbolic of the roots the international students have developed within the Elon community and the willingness they have developed within themselves, Aquilino said.

“We often forget that trees communicate through their roots. Sometimes we allow what we understand to come only from what we see above ground,” Aquilino said. “We hope that you will remember that you have grown and will continue to develop very strong, unshakable roots that can remind you in times of the storm that all of these beautiful experiences, hardships, successes and challenges are an integral part of it who you are now and who you are, who you are. You are always more than what is visible above the earth.”

The tree planting ceremony was established in 2017 to recognize and celebrate the many contributions of Elon’s international students. Many international students find it difficult to transport the seedlings across national borders. That’s why the International Grove offers students a special place to plant their trees and maintain a connection with Elon as they make their way to their respective homes around the world.

International students plant their seedling at 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 received their oak seedlings—a symbol of their growth and transformation during their time at Elon.

“They really brighten our campus,” said President Connie Ledoux Book at International Tree Planting. “It fills a curiosity about the world to have you here… and I hope you do too. It truly is a gift and we are so grateful that you chose Elon for this experience.”

Asumi Endo ’23 was overwhelmed 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 has been full of moments of great joy, there have also been difficult moments.

The tree planting ceremony elicited a mixture of emotions from Endo, but the main emotion she feels before the ceremony begins is pride. “I am proud of myself. [The tree planting] reminded me to work hard and not give up on my dreams,” Endo said.