Mississippi State University takes pride in the diversity of its students. According to Director of the International Students Office Lauren Wright, MSU is home to over 21,000 students and roughly 750 of those students are international students who collectively represent 80 different countries.
Yongxin Yu is a junior majoring in landscape architecture. Yu is from China and is participating in an exchange program through Beijing Forestry University. She says, if not for her university, she never would have heard about this opportunity. In fact, if not for the exchange program between Beijing Forestry University and MSU, she says she would not have given much thought to Mississippi in general.
"The first time I heard of Mississippi was when I was learning about the Mississippi River in geography class. I was 14," Yu said.
Yu's favorite part about her time here has been her classes.
"Here I am learning more about practical things. For example, how to make concrete. It is very interesting, and I have many chances to do things in the real world. The courses I take here give me fresh ideas," Yu said.
She expressed the only thing she could complain about is the hassle of transportation.
"I have no car, and the bus here is not very convenient. Everything else is great," Yu said.
Lauren Wright shed some light on the resources available to international students through the university.
"There are a variety of student organizations available, where students can find their niche. Whether that is a student organization from their home country, within their major or some other interest group, there is a group for everyone," Wright said. "The Holmes Cultural Diversity Center also offers the LINC program where an international student is paired with someone or a family in the community, and that is a great way for them to experience American culture."
Wright said the English Language Institute and the Writing Center are also helpful resources for students needing assistance with language or writing skills.
Malavika Jinka is a third-year graduate student pursuing a master's degree in applied anthropology. She is from Bangalore, the technology capital of India.
Before arriving in Starkville, Jinka thought she would experience a strong culture shock. She said she was surprised to find out that was not the case.
"When I came here, the International Student Organization helped me so much. It is really amazing. They helped me find an apartment and had programs where I could participate with other international students," Jinka said. "Back in India, I always used to feel there would be a huge culture shock, but when I got here, it really didn't happen. I was always looking forward to meeting new people and making friends."
Jinka said she immediately noticed a difference in the attitude of students here at MSU, and this attitude has inspired her.
"I like the sense of independence that American students have here. It makes me feel like I can do anything. It is also surprising to see the way students are so responsible. Back in India, the parents do more. Here the youngsters are so much more independent. They pay for their student loans. They pay for their car insurance. This is really amazing," Jinka said.
Jinka said, although she counts herself lucky for the way her experience has been, she encountered challenges.
"I think the most challenging thing was to get used to deeper parts of culture. I did not know what Thanksgiving is, or what people do on Halloween. It was more of a learning process," Jinka explained.
In her three years at MSU, Jinka has enjoyed getting to know many different people, whether they are domestic students, other international students or her professors.
Jinka is appreciative of the opportunities she has at MSU and for the ways her professors urge her to take advantage of them.
"I really like how the professors engage with their students. They encourage their students to ask questions. My professors encourage me to think differently, and encourages me to find the answers myself. The best thing about MSU is it gives you so many opportunities. Every day, there is a new opportunity. I don't think you can ever be bored here," Jinka said.
Laura Wright spoke about what international students bring to the MSU campus.
"International students add so much to campus. They all have completely different experiences than most of our domestic students, and they bring all of those to classroom discussions and interactions," Wright said. Their cultures are all unique and the opportunity to interact with students from many countries without having to leave Starkville is such a great opportunity for other students."
To find out how to get involved with different international organizations on campus, visit the International Student Advisory Board at https://msstate.campuslabs.com/engage/.