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International Festival at Mississippi College Fosters Greater Appreciation of World’s Diverse Cultures

Talented Mississippi College students from around the world will showcase the unique cultures of their native countries during the International Festival April 12.
Talented Mississippi College students from around the world will showcase the unique cultures of their native countries during the International Festival April 12.

Diego De Cooman, a sophomore from Ottignies, Belgium, originally came to Mississippi College to play tennis. He soon fell in love with the Christian University.

“I enjoy the student life and the tennis team at MC,” De Cooman said.

The immensely talented Choctaws tennis star enjoys demonstrating his considerable freestyle racquet skills at events on campus, including the upcoming International Festival, a dazzling showcase of Mississippi College’s diverse student body.

“He can do all kinds of amazing tricks with a tennis ball,” said Mei-Chi Piletz, executive director of MC’s Office of Global Education. “We invited him to perform at last year’s event. He did a fabulous job, and we’re looking forward to having him again this year.”

De Cooman said he enjoys seeing the crowd’s reaction when he performs a series of jaw-dropping athletic feats.

“It’s important to meet all the international students at MC,” De Cooman said. “You can discover new talent. Enjoy the show and come support the tennis team whenever you have the occasion.”

One of his fellow tennis aficionados, Yu-Hsiang Huang, will also take the International Festival stage this year to display a different athletic skill – traditional Taiwanese dancing. Like De Cooman, the sophomore business administration major from Taipei became attached to MC once he set foot on the Clinton campus.

“The classes are great, and the professors are knowledgeable,” said Huang, whose language skills have grown while he has served as a student worker in the Office of Global Education. Piletz said she has been impressed by the youngster’s development at Mississippi College.

“Yu-Hsiang loves MC,” she said. “He has made a lot of friends, and his language skills have really improved. When I met him and his parents in Taiwan, he was very shy. After he came to MC, he transformed.

“He’s very capable – he helps everybody in the Office of Global Education – and his English is fluent. We’re looking forward to his performance in the International Festival.”

Huang said the International Festival is important because it gives students like him an opportunity to represent their countries – and themselves – on stage.

“It allows everyone from different countries a chance to show their culture,” he said. “The audience enjoys the festival when everyone has a good performance.”

Mariam Eliseeva, a senior marketing major from Vinnytsia, Ukraine, works alongside Huang in the Office of Global Education. She is preparing to recite a poem in her native language penned by Taras Shevchenko during the International Festival.

Eliseeva’s sister earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from MC. The sisters were introduced to the Clinton campus by their grandfather, who once hailed from nearby Brandon.

“The first time I encountered Mississippi College, I was 14 years old,” Eliseeva said. “Even then, I was drawn to its welcoming community and the high standard of education it offered.”

“When her sister graduated in 2019, the whole family came to Mississippi College to attend the ceremony,” Piletz said. “We’re so happy to have these wonderful international students here.”

Eliseeva participated in the International Festival’s signature event, the fashion show, last year. She derives satisfaction from cultivating new friendships and fostering meaningful relationships with people.

“I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to meet new individuals, witness their talents, and partake in celebrating their cultures,” she said. “Many individuals here in Mississippi have limited exposure to cultures outside their own region or country, and some are unaware of the linguistic diversity beyond the United States.

“The International Festival provides exposure to diverse cultures, fostering greater understanding and appreciation. It is not only an entertaining event, but also an educational one.”

De Cooman, Huang, and Eliseeva will be joined by a host of students from throughout the world demonstrating their unique talents and the cultures of their native countries during the Office of Global Education-sponsored 2024 International Festival, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 12, in Swor Auditorium in Nelson Hall.

Piletz said the goal of the festival is to give international students an opportunity to celebrate aspects of their heritage by performing a series of three-to-five-minute eye-catching demonstrations that will captivate the Mississippi College community and help those who speak English as a second language build confidence in their presentation skills.

“The International Festival is all about letting international students showcase and boost pride in their culture while communicating to Americans that we are all the same,” she said. “We sing. We dance. We love music. We are all God’s people.

“We cannot possibly travel to all the different countries represented by the students in the International Festival. God brought these students to our doorstep, and while they are here, we need to love them and help them realize that Christians are different.”

Although her office conducts several events throughout the year to celebrate worldwide holidays and promote fellowship among students, the International Festival is the largest – and only performance-based – international exhibit at Mississippi College.

“Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, our international students have really needed financial assistance,” she said. “The International Festival is our only fund-raiser for international student scholarships through the Office of Global Education.”

Talented students from more than a dozen countries are expected to participate in this year’s event. Past shows have featured a Jordanian skit, a Jamaican performance, a poetry recital by Chinese school students from Jackson, a K-Pop dance by a Chinese exchange student, and a performance of American bluegrass music.

This year’s festival will include a crowd-favorite fashion show featuring brilliant outfits and authentic clothing from a variety of cultures encompassing almost every continent. Among the planned acts are a cultural “Kung Fu Panda” program, another recital by the visiting Chinese school students, a performance by Ballet Magnificat dancers fresh from a tour of Japan, faith-based performances, and even some stand-up comedy.

Piletz said many members of the MC, Clinton, and greater Jackson-area communities who attend the festival gain an appreciation for the abundance of multicultural talent at Mississippi College.

“My favorite part is when the audience – including our domestic students, international students, and members of the community – enjoy the performances, take part in the fun, and learn more about international cultures,” Piletz said. “People from the community have come to me and said, ‘I never realized I could learn so much from a festival.’

“I enjoy seeing how our domestic students work with our international students to put the program together. We want all of our students to get to know one another and not live in separate silos on campus.”

As the Office of Global Education’s sole fundraiser for international students, the International Festival is a critical resource to keep the pipeline of academic talent from around the globe flowing to the Christian University. New this year: a silent auction of incredible items that will serve as keepsakes from what is expected to be another landmark event in the campus community.

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

Tickets to the International Festival cost $10 each for adults, $5 each for students, and $25 each for families of any size. They may be purchased in advance or at the door.

Piletz said the festival provides the perfect “date night,” “family night,” and “friend hangout night” attraction.

“It’s an affordable, fun, and educational event for the whole family that can make a difference in these international students’ lives,” she said. “Helping others is what life is all about.”

For more information about supporting international student scholarships at Mississippi College, email Piletz at To purchase tickets to the International Festival in advance, click here.