The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

MSU can better cater to international students

Mississippi State University and Starkville are very fortunate to be the home of international students from 88 countries and American students from all 50 states. According to 2015 enrollment data form the Office of Institutional Research & Effectiveness at MSU, India, China, Nepal, Iran, Brazil and Sri Lanka are the top 6 countries that international MSU students come from. 

Although MSU hosts international students from a large number of countries, international students make up only a very small portion of the student population. Statistically speaking, only 3.8 percent of the MSU student body is international. 

This number is significantly less than that of, say, the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT). Almost 33 percent of the FIT student body is composed of international students. This makes them the most international student friendly college in the United States.

While MSU’s low percentage of international students could seemingly be explained by things such as MSU’s university ranking, and the general popularity of Mississippi as a state to visit, I am a firm believer that these are things MSU could overcome in the eyes of the international community. Our university has a special charm of its own and thus has the potential to become the second home of an even larger number of international students.

Unlike many other universities, MSU offers a very affordable and real American college experience for international students. We have a beautiful campus in the heart of calm and charming Starkville. 

This, combined with all of the friendly southern people that make up a large part of the university population, definitely appealed to me as an international student. The campus and local atmosphere alone should be enough to entice people around the world; it should just be more broadly advertised. 

In considering the needs of international students, we also need to remember college education in America is even more expensive for international students than for Americans. Another major selling point for MSU is that it is one of the most affordable public colleges for international students in the United States. 

While it is true that most statistics are not in favor of MSU when it comes to diversity and inclusion indexes, my two years of living in Starkville have taught me a very important lesson: diversity is not a matter of statistics but a matter of mindset. 

Ever since I came to Starkville, I have been continually blessed to meet and befriend amazing people from all walks of life.

My time at Mississippi State University has taught me that, unlike what most of us think, diversity is not just a group effort to respect others’ differences.  In truth, diversity is when people are able to enjoy each other’s similarities no matter their many differences.

Although this was something I personally learned from experience, it is widely regarded that friendships and romances alike start when people find and then concentrate on their similarities. According to Robert Cialdini, author of ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,’ sharing similarity is the most important factor in how well a relationship develops.

However, most of us are guilty of a habit that distracts us from focusing on similarities when we meet people from other lands. This habit is asking someone where he or she is from. While the answer is usually interesting, this question is going to do more than just quench your curiosity. 

It shifts both sides’ attentions towards a major difference you have right off the bat. While it is totally unintentional, this can consequently put barriers in the way of fast friendship.

Another accidental and dire consequence of the “Where are you from?” question is that it can make international students uncomfortable. Many international students are self-conscious of their ability to speak English. 

When they are asked that question, it seems as if their accent is too thick and can make them think they are not doing well conversing in English. I experienced this many times when I first came to America for college two years ago. 

International students like myself often truly want to avoid focusing on backgrounds and nationalities, so that we can instead focus on revealing who we are as people. 

Although it may seem innocent, itching to know someone’s background from the    get   go is not just a symptom of curiosity. Because international students may seem particularly unique and posses a culture that is new to you, interactions with them might beget an unconscious effort to box them in, in your own head. 

Recent neuroscientific research   has cast some light on why humans have a tendency to label and categorize. It is an innate behavior, and our brain constantly wants to ascribe the situations we are dealing with in a pre-existing category that helps us to be more comfortable. 

However, regardless of whether the boxes we put people in are positive or negative, labelling someone by their nationality is not a far cry from labelling people based on their skin color, gender or religion. 

The very first step to guard against issues such as racism and sexism is to accept that we are all prone to them. This can then motivate us to watch our mind and behavior when interacting with people with different skin-colors or backgrounds. 

MSU is an affordable school with a great campus, which are things that should be more heavily advertised to international students in particular because both are major draws. 

In my experience, our town and university also have a population that is very well intentioned towards those that are different, which also feels very welcoming towards international students like myself. If we could all just put forth a more conscious effort to focus on similarities, rather than differences, MSU would be able to better meet its full potential as an international student’s second home.

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MSU can better cater to international students