Life on Campus and in Lexington

1. What is the Honor System?

Washington and Lee University's honor system is an all-encompassing system of trust that is an important aspect of student life. A central implication is that students will not lie, cheat, or steal. Students found to have violated the honor system are immediately dismissed from the university. For international students, this means the termination of your visa status.

2. How can I get involved with student organizations?

There are over 100 student organizations and many activities to choose from. Ask your orientation leaders, peer counselors, and pre-orientation trip leaders about their experiences with student organizations. The Student Activities office can help you identify organizations that fit your interests. There will also be a student activities fair during o-week (Orientation Week).

International students may be particularly interested in the following student organizations:

  • SAIL (Student Association for International Learning) is a multicultural organization that addresses international issues and promotes exchanges between the diverse cultures represented at Washington and Lee.
  • PAACE (Pan-Asian Association for Cultural Exchange) is dedicated to supporting the voices and the perspectives of Asian students on campus. PAACE promotes awareness and fosters interest in all Asian cultures. PAACE serves as an information resource on and forum for the exchanging ideas and experiences about Asian American affairs.
  • African Society - The statement of purpose of the AS is as follows: the W&L African Society is dedicated to supporting the voices and perspectives of African students on campus, promoting awareness of and interest in African cultures, and serving as a catalyst for discussion and debate about African affairs.

3. What is Greek life?

Greek life may be an unfamiliar concept to many international students, but it makes a significant impact on the social life of Washington and Lee University students, as more than half of the student body will join a Greek organization before graduation. Some international students choose to join a Greek organization, while others do not and remain an "independent." The perspectives of several international students on Greek life at Washington and Lee are listed below. The Greek Life website maintained by Student Affairs has lots of information including frequently asked questions, fee information, a list of all Greek organizations active on campus, and more.

International Student Responses:

Paradis Ikirezi '23

Why did you choose to be independent?

I wanted to be more involved on campus and it'd have been hard to manage greek life and other organizations. I also had other platforms that allowed me to meet new people.  

What are the pros and cons of being independent?  

Pros: Biggest pro is definitely having more time to do other things that you might be interested in and meet people you wouldn't have met if you had been involved in greek life  

Cons: Easy to feel left out and like you are missing out, especially if a lot of your freshman year friends end up living together in the house.   Do you think you benefited from being independent? How so?
Yes! It has given me more time to invest in my passions and has taught me to be intentional with my friendships.  

What advice would you give to incoming international first-year students when it comes to rushing?

Be open! Greek life is a good opportunity to easily meet other students but at the same time you don't need to be affiliated to get plugged in. So, try it out and if it matches your vibe, then go for it. And if not, there are other ways to meet people. 

Jacopo Scagliotti '24

Why did you choose to join a fraternity?
Joining a fraternity was a great way to learn more about American culture and get to know peers with similar interests.

What are the pros and cons of being in a frat?
Pros: You get to build bonds that last for a lifetime.
Cons: There are not many cons to be honest. The only one that comes to my mind is that you mostly hang out with the same group of people.
What advice would you give to incoming international first-year students when it comes to rushing
Have an open mind about everything. Greek life offers much more than you can see superficially and, in my personal experience, it turned out to be significantly more inclusive than I was expecting it to be.

Diwesh Kumar '24

Why did you choose to join a fraternity?
I wanted to explore the different opportunities being in a fraternity presents - I think Greek life is a big part of campus life at W&L and I wanted to truly explore all the different facets of this campus. This also presented me with the opportunity to meet a lot more people and develop those long-term relationships that I wanted.
What are the pros and cons of being in a frat?
Like everything, being affiliated also comes with its pros and cons - you get an opportunity to be a part of a lot of social events and broaden your friendships to different groups. That said, sometimes Greek life can be a little overwhelming because there's always so much happening so you just need to find the right balance.
What advice would you give to incoming international first-year students when it comes to rushing?
I would take your time to explore the campus and see what you truly want your experience to be like. There's no right or wrong way and there's no one route to being happy at W&L - you just have to explore the different options and evaluate for yourself if you want to be affiliated.
Charlene Nsengimana '24
Why did you choose to join a sorority?
I joined a sorority mainly to expand my social circle and meet new people that I wouldn't have otherwise run into on campus.
What are the pros and cons of being in a sorority?
Pros: A major pro is all of the people you get to meet. You get to connect with so many upperclassmen and underclassmen that you wouldn't cross paths with regularly. You also get to meet a lot of people in other sororities and fraternities through mixers and joint philanthropy efforts. Being a part of a sorority gives you a great way to connect with so many people on campus outside the classroom.
What advice would you give to incoming international first-year students when it comes to rushing
Don't force it and be open to whatever happens. I recommend going on rush dates and meeting as many people as possible, just to see if there is a particular sorority that you can see yourself in. And if you don't seem to see yourself in a particular sorority, don't try to force the relationship and change yourself to fit. Definitely reach out to upperclassman both involved in Greek Life and not to learn more about it and see if it is really for you.

4. What is the Student Health Center?

The Student Health Center is located on campus and provides medical care to students 24 hours a day, 7 days a week while classes are in session. Most services are free to students. Healthcare in the U.S. can be expensive, so it is a good idea in non-emergency situations, to go to the Student Health Center first.  

5. Can I stay on campus during class breaks?

Yes, you may stay in your residence hall during Thanksgiving, February, and Spring breaks. University housing is closed during winter break for all students unless there are extenuating circumstances. You would be able to submit a request to stay on campus for winter break if you have an extenuating circumstance.

Summer housing is provided to students who are working on campus and/or involved in summer research with a faculty member; otherwise, like winter break, the university may be able to accommodate students in summer housing who have extenuating circumstances. 

You would need to need to submit requests to stay a few weeks in advance of winter and summer breaks. The summer housing fee is $60 per week – students are billed the following August for summer housing as this is not part of the regular academic year room fee. You would need to double-check to see if financial aid would cover the additional summer fee each year. You may discuss your options with Hunter Swanson. The Residential Life office posts a list of important residence hall dates

6. What resources are available to assist me academically and mentally?

There are many resources to help you academically and mentally that are available to all students. 

7. How do I obtain a Driver's License or Identification Card?

International students may obtain a Virginia Driver's License or Identification Card by following the requirements of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (VA DMV). The CIE has created a guide to assist international students obtain a Virginia Driver's License or Identification Card. Please note that there are websites that purport to provide official advice on this issue, but may actually steal your personal information. The URL for all official State of Virginia websites ends in .gov. 

8. What are the transportation options for getting to and from Lexington?

There are many options for traveling to and from Lexington, including taxis, W&L shuttles, and a daily bus service. Public Safety can also provide transportation around town when needed.

9. What should I do in an emergency?

The number to report an emergency situation in the U.S. is 911. In the event of an emergency, you can also call the W&L Public Safety dispatch number (540-458-8999) that is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, you are strongly encouraged to download the W&L LiveSafe app and make sure your phone number is current in the General Alerts notification system

10. What is there to do in Lexington during the weekends?

- Go to a W&L Sporting Event
- Hike in Shenandoah National Park
- Check out a movies at R/C State Cinema
- Visit Just Games or Tommy's Arcade with your friends
- Visit the Lexington Farmers Market every Wednesday (8am- 12:30pm)
- Take a stroll at Chessie Nature Trail
- Tour Natural Bridge State Park