Only four percent of the Ole Miss student body is comprised of international students. As a minority on campus, they rarely have the chance to be heard, but last night, the Associated Student Body Committee for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement gave them an outlet to voice their concerns.
The committee designed the meeting to give international community members the chance to voice their concerns about issues on campus. Some of the primary problems facing international students are transportation to and from campus and finding a community that connects them to domestic residents.
Masa Miscevic and Hanh Ngyuen, both members of the ASB committee, co-led the event with Miller Richmond, the director of ASB Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement.
Miscevic said her biggest difficulty as an international student from Serbia was becoming more involved on campus, and she recommended all international students to participate as much as they can.
“If there is anything that any student is interested in they should definitely seek a way to get involved and get out of their comfort zone,” she said.
Miscevic said the ASB Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement committee tried to organize events to promote and improve the relationship between international and domestic students last semester, but were unsuccessful.
“We wanted to hear directly from the international students about the problems and concerns they have and the events they want to have, not just what we as an organization are thinking,” Miscevic said.
Miscevic said Ole Miss is a difficult place to adapt to as an international student.
“If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be making this event and we wouldn’t be concerned about everything that’s happening with international students,” Miscevic said.
Nguyen, an international student from Vietnam, works as a community assistant for the international student dormitory at Residence Hall 1.
Nguyen said she believes the biggest reason for the separation between domestic and international students is the differences in social life preferences.
“A lot of domestic students go to the bars and the international students like to cook, or read books and do their own thing within their culture,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen said international students tend to socialize with other students from their own country, making it difficult for them to make connections with the domestic students on campus.
Nguyen said most domestic students who socialize with international students do so because they know how to speak the students’ first language.
“If a domestic student is a Chinese major then they are going to hang out with Chinese students,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen suggests having all international students live on campus would help to break the barrier between them and the domestic students, as well as solve transportation problems caused by limitations of the bus system.
“Some students want to study at the library on weeknights,” Nguyen said. “They have no ride there or back to their apartment.”
Nguyen spent her freshman year living in Crosby Hall, which she said she specifically chose because it was not where all the international students typically live on campus.
“I came here with a perspective to learn about the culture and hang out with students from other countries,” Nguyen said. “You have to come here with a goal to make friends with the domestic students.”
Rod Bridges, Associated Student Body president, advised the event.
Bridges said there is a lack of communication between the international and domestic students, staff and administrators on campus.
“It’s going to be our focus to work with these different groups that were represented today to make sure that international students are getting plugged into everything the University has to offer,” Bridges said.
Bridges said he believes the discussion gave those in attendance great talking points to enhance future international students’ experiences.
“This shows that we have a lot of work to do, as far as making sure the international students feel engaged with the University,” Bridges said.
Bridges said he thinks a lack of communication occurs at a lot of different campuses, not just Ole Miss.
“Understanding culture, understanding history and our place in context might be difficult to translate to someone not familiar with this region or this culture,” Bridges said.