Mississippi College

International Students Enjoy Home at Mississippi College

February 4, 2014

Mississippi College is thousands of miles away from his native Nigeria, but Joseph Oladele Afolabi discovered the Baptist-affiliated university is a comfortable place to earn his master’s degree.

“I like Clinton,” the 30-year-old finance major said as he reflected on his first few weeks at MC in the new year. “It is peaceful, and the people are friendly.”

A 2009 accounting graduate of the University of Lagos in a Nigerian city of more than one million people, Afolabi relishes the close-knit environment on the Clinton campus. It’s easy to get to know professors, he says.

Afolabi is part of an uptick in MC’s international population to 252 students this winter. That’s up by 50 students from the fall with the latest international students coming from such nations as China, Bangladesh, India and Saudi Arabia.

There are nearly 820,000 international students attending colleges in the United States in Fall 2013, a jump of 7 percent from a year ago, reports the New York-based Institute of International Education. China is the leader with 236,000 college students in the USA or nearly double the number of second-ranked India.

Afolabi says he will use his MC education to become a financial analyst in Nigeria.

Salman Alahmari, 27, of Saudi Arabia is working on a master’s degree in public relations and corporate communications at MC. He hopes to join the business world in his native land. But for right now, he’s happy with the people he’s met at Mississippi College and around the Magnolia State.

“I enjoy hanging out with friends I have discovered all over Mississippi,” Salman said. “I feel it’s a second home for me. This is a good place and environment to help students.”

A friend from Saudi Arabia at Mississippi College encouraged him to come to MC. And now, after a few weeks, he wants to spread the news to bring more people from his Middle East nation to the university in metro Jackson.

Salman’s discovered some new things outside his MC classrooms in the School of Business. “I had never seen snow in Saudi Arabia,” he said, but was delighted to see snowflakes for the first time in his life in Mississippi in late January.

Students from Mississippi and around the nation say the international students at Mississippi College add a great deal of diversity to their education and expand their knowledge of other cultures.

The growth in international enrollment this semester didn’t happen by accident. Vice President for Academic Affairs Ron Howard credits Global Education Office director Mei-Chi Piletz and her staff for working hard to recruit and advise international students.

They’ve worked diligently to process applications and help international students to adjust to life in the USA and Mississippi College, he said.

“Our goal is to increase enrollment steadily, along with the services to assist these students in their academic progression,” Howard said. “We have a devoted faculty and staff who go out of their way to make our international students feel welcome in our classes and on our campus.”

Piletz says the staff at her office worked long hours, and thanks faculty and staff at the university for welcoming international students.

“This is just the beginning,” Piletz says. “We are now working on students’ retention through our mentoring program and our collaboration with dedicated professors across campus. We want our international students to realize that MC offers a nurturing environment that a lot of big state universities might not be able to do.”

M.D. Mynul Byzid, 29, a graduate student in finance, is happy with his Mississippi College experience after just a few weeks. He comes from a city of millions in Bangladesh, but enjoys the peaceful community of 26,000 people in Clinton. “I like the education system here and heard that Mississippi was the Hospitality State,” he said. “I would recommend my cousins and friends to come to Mississippi.”

The bulk of MC’s international students are natives of China, including mathematics major Tianmen “Robby” Chen. A new student at Mississippi College in January, he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. “MC is a Christian school. I got baptized last year,” said the 27-year-old senior. There are other reasons he’s satisfied. “The international office is really good. They make me feel like I’m home.” 

Photo: Tianmen "Robby'' Chen of China, MD Mynul Byzid of Bangladesh and Joseph Oladele Afolabi of Nigeria are among Mississippi College's 252 international students this winter. That's up by 50 students from the fall.

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