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Culture Smash! International Festival’s Exhilarating Performances Break Down Barriers

The Office of Global Education's International Festival will celebrate the cultural richness of MC’s student body on Friday, April 1.
The Office of Global Education's International Festival will celebrate the cultural richness of MC’s student body on Friday, April 1.

Editor's Note: To view the 2022 International Festival at Mississippi College, visit​​​​​. To view photos from the festival, visit the Office of Global Education's Facebook (20+) Mississippi College Office of Global Education | Facebook or Instagram Office of Global Education (@misscollegeoge) • Instagram photos and videos pages.

Saima Arif understands what it means to step out of her comfort zone.

The senior mathematics major and accounting minor at Mississippi College left the teeming metropolis of Dhaka, the capital and largest city in Bangladesh, and traveled overseas to attend college in the U.S.

“Mississippi College promises an education with the integration of religious values,” said Arif, who serves as president of MC’s International Student Association. “This aspect of MC pleased my parents, and we decided that it was the place for me to go to pursue my education.

“After coming here, the class size and the enthusiasm of the professors to help their students surprised me. I loved how convenient it is to reach out to the professors should you need any help.”

She also loves the way the MC Family embraces its international scholars. Close to 130 such students representing 46 different countries call Mississippi College their “home away from home.”

The diversity of MC’s student body and its richness of cultures will be displayed during the 2022 MC International Festival sponsored by the Office of Global Education at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 1, in Swor Auditorium in Nelson Hall on the Clinton campus.

Fourteen scintillating acts by Mississippi College students – from the songs and dances of cultures from Cambodia, China, Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, Nepal, and Taiwan, to a recitation of the 23rd Psalm in two Nigerian tribal dialects, to an exhibition by Ukrainian members of MC’s former world-class table tennis team – will accompany a breathtaking fashion show of traditional men’s and women’s clothing from a wide array of nations. The finale to the 90-minute festival will involve a rousing sing-along of inspiring worship songs led by the Latino Church Band from Restoration Church in Ridgeland that will encourage audience participation with an onscreen translation of lyrics.

Arif, who will serve as one of the emcees for the fashion show, said she is looking forward to seeing the intricate, colorful dresses students from Colombia, India, and Nepal are planning to display.

“But I am most looking forward to seeing China’s traditional attire,” she said. “I am in love with the design and art that they do on the dresses.”

Each year, audiences fall in love with the dynamic performances, the brilliant attractions, and the moving songs that originate from a multitude of countries, many of them located thousands of miles away from the Clinton campus. But Mei-Chi Piletz, executive director and principal designated school official in MC’s Office of Global Education, said the festival is more than an entertaining cultural showcase – it’s an opportunity to support international students at MC directly.

“Every single penny we receive goes to helping these international students with their tuition,” Piletz said. “We appreciate those who, in addition to purchasing tickets to the show, give donations to benefit these fantastic, very gifted, and bright students.

“The exchange rates vary so much, it’s becoming more and more difficult for parents to send their students over here. And those who are from areas of conflict, like Ukraine, often lose the ability to transfer money. In situations like that, the students really need financial assistance. So we appreciate it when people step up and contribute.”

She said local residents can also provide support by volunteering as an “American host family” for an international student. Host families serve as cultural mentors for their “adopted” students, meeting with them once each month and sharing the American way of life with them.

“This relationship builds mutual understanding between people of different cultures,” Piletz said. “The more we understand each other’s culture, the fewer problems we will have. Our international students contribute a lot to our society and to MC in all aspects.

“Fear comes from misunderstanding one another. Understanding one another better can lead to world peace.”

The International Festival is an opportunity to help create that understanding at MC. Arif said learning about different cultures helps students and attendees become more knowledgeable about the challenges people from other parts of the world face.

“It’s a beautiful thing to know more about the world and experience the differences that God created in us, to sit and observe these differences and sometimes try to put ourselves in others’ shoes and truly comprehend the struggle of life,” she said. “Because struggle means growth in many ways, and growth only comes when someone steps out of their comfort zone.

“Many people don’t appreciate these differences, but I feel that all our differences are beautiful and make us unique in our own way. Festivals like these help us see the beauty in the cultures we are surrounded by. There is so much to learn from these events as they portray the cultures, traditions, and values of the different nations of this world.”

The opportunity for such a memorable exchange has been hit hard by COVID-19. The festival is the only annual public fundraiser for international student scholarships at MC, and the pandemic caused its cancellation each of the last two years. Therefore, it’s more important than ever for the Office of Global Education to gain support for the event from the Clinton community.

“Every year, we have had people from Clinton and the greater Jackson community support us,” Piletz said. “Since many of us don’t have the opportunity to travel to foreign countries, the Lord brought these international students into our midst. Through the festival, the audience gets to glimpse the culture of these countries.

“It’s a happy occasion, and we want the audience to make a personal connection with the student performers.”

Following the festival, audience members will have the opportunity to interact with the students during a reception in the Nelson Hall lobby. Refreshments will be available.

MC International Festival tickets cost $10 each for adults, $5 each for students, and $20 for families. Tickets may be purchased in advance or at the door. For more information about supporting international student scholarships at Mississippi College, or to purchase tickets to the festival in advance, email Piletz at