Tag Archive | "international students"

International students weigh in on the invasion of Crimea

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International students weigh in on the invasion of Crimea


From the anti-government protests in Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine, to the Russian invasion of the Ukrainian territory Crimea, Eastern Europe appears to be in an uproar.

According to Eastern European students abroad in the United States, however, the threat of war between Russia and Ukraine is either extremely unwanted or unlikely.

“The biggest concern I have is that we are very close nations, we are very close ethnically,” said a native Russian Ph.D. student at Michigan State University, who requested to have her name withheld. If the current conflict between Russia and the Ukraine escalates, it could turn brothers against one another.

Alex Karpenko, a native Ukrainian and also a Ph.D. student at MSU, believes if the Russians attempt to seize Ukrainian land beyond Crimea, a full-scale war could erupt.

“I think there are not many people in the Ukraine that really want this war to start,” Karpenko said. “It would be a bad idea, and I’m totally against it.”

Echoing the language of his Russian peer, Karpenko said a war would turn friends and family against one another. He has loved ones in Russia and the Ukraine: Karpenko said he has nearly 20 friends living in Moscow.

The native Russian Ph.D. student said her great-grandparents migrated from the Ukraine to Russia. They moved to Siberia, a northern region in Russia, to help the Ukrainian government manage overpopulation. Her family has since lived in Siberia for generations.

Karpenko said she does not expect a war to break out, because Russia does not have the money to fund the operation. Taking over Ukraine would also require Russia to fund Ukraine’s impoverished areas with money it cannot spare at this time.

Russia and Ukraine are culturally and ethnically interwoven because both lands were once a part of the Soviet Union. However, 85 percent of the population in Ukraine voted for independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union was falling apart, said Matthew Pauly, a professor and Eastern European history expert at MSU.

Pauly said Vladimir Putin, the current president of Russia, is not happy about Ukraine’s continued independence. According to Pauly, Putin has asserted the Ukrainian government is run by fascists, and the Russian president is on the record for calling the fall of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century”.

Though Karpenko is familiar with Putin’s sentiment, the Russian leader’s invasion of Crimea did not come to him as a shock. “I believe the plan existed for many years,” Karpenko said. According to Karpenko, Putin said he did not recognize Ukraine as an independent state in 2008.

A recent article from CNN said at the 2008 NATO summit, Putin told former U.S. President George W. Bush Ukraine was not a country, but land mostly belonging to Russia.

“Russia is concerned that Ukraine is drifting distinctly and fundamentally from the Russian sphere of influence,” Pauly said. This is part of the reason behind Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea.

Pauly said Crimea is a special case, because it is the only place in Ukraine with a Russian ethnic majority (roughly 58 percent). Part of this majority wants the land to be reunited with Russia, but essentially “ethnic Russians in other parts of Ukraine are willing to accept citizenship in Ukraine,” Pauly said.

Crimea also houses a number of Russian military bases, Pauly said. According to the native Russian at MSU, Ukraine originally permitted the bases in exchange for cheap gasoline from Russia.

According to Pauly, Russians living in their native country largely support the invasion of Crimea. However, polling data could be skewed by business and economic interests, misinformation from Russian media, and government restraint of unpopular opinions.

Pauly said when Russia stormed Crimea, all newsfeeds from Ukrainian protests in Kiev were cut off by the invaders.

The native Russian student said she knows firsthand how one-sided Russian media can be. “I don’t watch Russian television, because they do brainwash,” she said. “I think it’s really shady.”

When the U.S. news announced Russia annexed or invaded Crimea, the headlines in Russia announced: “Russia incorporates Crimea”, the Russian student said.

Crimea is a big resort destination for Russians, she said. “It was never perceived as something foreign.” Citizens of her hometown were excited to hear Crimea was “incorporated,” because it would be easier to travel there. Personally, she said she did not find the invasion to be very legal, and Russia is setting a bad example on an international scale.

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International students come to experience culture, despite being far from home

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International students come to experience culture, despite being far from home


For some Michigan State University students, home is just a 15-minute drive away. For others, it is multiple hour-long flights back to a country on the other side of the world.

According to the Office of International Students and Scholars, 7,161 international students were enrolled at MSU for the Fall 2013 semester among the 49,343 total students. The number of international students at MSU is moving in an upward trend, but why do they choose to attend school here?

Senior advertising student Michael Wong from Hong Kong and freshman general management student Qi Zhang from China said they made the choice to come to MSU because of the programs available.

Wong said he attended Washington State for his freshman and sophomore years but transferred because MSU offers such a good advertising program.

As a freshman, coming to a new country may seem like a scary idea, but Zhang and finance major Xinyi Jiang from China said they were not nervous. Zhang said she knew she wanted to study abroad and Jiang had visited America before.

All 3 students said school back home in China is much different than MSU.

“The style of study is study is different because when we study in China, we just prepare for our biggest exam,” Zhang said. “We think the exam is very important but when we study in America, we think not just the exam. We also need to do lots of work.”

Zhang said when she compares school life with her friends back home, her friends are mostly focused on exams at the universities they attend.

Assistant Director for the Office of International Students and Scholars Brooke Stokdyk said one of the struggles she sees international students have is getting used to the American learning style.

“The participatory style, the level of engagement, the fact that a final test isn’t 100 percent of your grade those all things that are usually, most of our international students are experiencing for the first time,” Stokdyk said.

Jiang said school life in America is different because back home, she has help from friends in family, whereas in America she said, “I just have myself.”

She thinks she will grow up faster than if she were to study in China.

China is just one of the 131 countries represented at MSU and it is home to more than half of MSU’s international students. Other international students come from countries such as India, The Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan. The full list of countries represented can be found on the OISS webpage.

The OISS assists international students with support and their needs, serves as the liaison between international students and the U.S. government, and manages visa statuses, Stokdyk said.

Stokdyk said in order for any international student to attend school at MSU, he or she must obtain an I-20 or DS-2019, which are Visa documents.

Through those documents, the student is given either an F-1 or J-1 Visa. Most MSU students are on the F-1 Visa, according to Stokdyk.

Wong said he is required to renew his visa every four to five years. As a senior, he is given three months after graduation to find a job. He hopes to find one in America; Otherwise, he will go back home to Hong Kong.

Stokdyk said through engaging with international students, domestic students can learn about the greater world and how the world we live in is much bigger than some people may think.
“Very few Americans end up learning a foreign language, but even if you don’t, because a lot of people do speak English now, but you do have to have cultural knowledge in order to connect around the world and be successful in a career,” Stokdyk said.

However, building friendships with American students is another struggle international students face, Stokdyk said.

“There was a recent study that showed 40 percent of international students graduate without having made a real American friend which is really unfortunate,” Stokdyk said.

Just like domestic students can learn about different cultures from international students, Zhang said she has learned from some of her fellow classmates.

“The students from Michigan they also tell me where is the best place to have a trip in Michigan,” Zhang said.

Wong said working part time for MSU concessions has helped him and taught him a lot.

“In my opinion, it’s a good way to get better speaking and writing skills,” Wong said.

Before studying in America, Jiang said she had more in common with fellow students back home. Now, she said she has less because she has studied different cultures and interacted with different people in America, while her friends back home have not.

Though she is thousands of miles of home and feels the culture conflict that comes with interacting with different people, Jiang said she also feels the warmth from people around her and through making new friends.

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International students seek shelter over winter break in East Lansing and beyond

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International students seek shelter over winter break in East Lansing and beyond


The banks of the Red Cedar or traveling the U.S.? International students have options over winter break. Photo credit: Julia Grippe

As the 2012 fall semester comes to a close, students living in residence halls pack up their belongings and most make the journey home for the holidays. Some get on a plane and travel outside of Michigan, some students get picked up by their parents to take them back home, while others venture off to a family vacation. But the options for international students greatly differ.

“When an international student applies for the residence halls, there’s a question that says ‘will you need housing over the December break?’ If they answer yes to that, that’s why there is large numbers of international students in Hubbard Halls,” Director of Office for International Students and ScholarsnPeter Briggs said.

MSU is willing to make accommodations in advance for those who have signed up to live in their dorms over winter break, otherwise international students must move out.

“If you’re an international student, you have to go to the housing office and they will tell you that you can stay in the Kellogg, or in Hubbard,” intercultural aid Illami Martinez said.

The Kellogg is offered at $30 per night to students who are willing to pay if they hadn’t signed up for living on campus prior to enrollment. But international student Haofeng Li admits that he would rather travel the U.S. than visit home.

“If I stay in America, I would choose to travel probably to California or Las Vegas with some friends,” Li said.

But since his friends would rather visit home, he is going to make the long journey back to Beijing. Li also has friends in China he is going to visit during break. If he could make any suggestions for improvement, he would want international students to be able to stay in their own dorms.

“I don’t want them to have to spend more money, it’s a waste,” Li said. “I want MSU to give a chance to MSU international students to live in their dorms.”

In the past five years, the number of Chinese undergraduate students at MSU has increased tenfold from 43 to 2,845. With such increasing numbers, adjustments for residential housing over university-sanctioned breaks had to be made.

“Housing is doing a great thing by giving the opportunity for international students who are a long ways from home to be in the residence halls over the break here. The downside is it gets misinterpreted,” Briggs said.

People have begun to question why 400 of the scholars in Hubbard Hall are international students.

“The reason is they signed up for housing over break, and you think gosh, they are putting them in a Chinese ghetto,” Briggs said.

However, the criticism is really due to a lack of knowledge on the topic. Moving the international students to a couple of buildings provides an economically sound solution as well as better companionship.

“The international students will be here with other international students, to bond with each other, and get to know others around campus,” Martinez said.

The adjustment has sprung for a number of reasons.

“To them it’s a big sacrifice, but it’s worth it,” Martinez said. “They don’t get to go home, see their families, and most of them go four years straight without seeing their families.”

But many stick it out and either travel the U.S. or stay in East Lansing.

“Most of the international students travel to Chicago, New York and California because it’s cheaper to travel in the United States than back to China,” Martinez said.

The cause may call for future adjustments to be made.

“MSU has really shifted from being a graduate school for international students to a decidedly undergraduate school,” Briggs said.

More and more international students are admitted to MSU each year. It is uncertain as to which options provide better suitability for breaks including winter. Either way, international students have options when it comes to deciding how to spend their few weeks without class during the end of the year before spring semester arrives.

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Insight from Abroad: Australia

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Insight from Abroad: Australia


Meet Andrew Cox, a mathematics junior who comes from a land down under, hailing straight from Melbourne, Australia.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Cox

The Big Green: What drew you to America, and more specifically, Michigan State?

Andrew Cox: “I came to America because I was interested in seeing what it would be like to study in a different English speaking culture. I was born in Ohio, so I was very keen to study somewhere in the mid-west and I wanted to go to a big university with an active sports program as well. In the end I chose MSU because it had the academic program I was after, as well as hundreds of school groups to be a part of.”

TBG: How has your family supported your choice to study abroad?

AC:  “I’ve been away from home for about six months now, which has been the longest time in my life. My parents and family have all been very supportive of me going away, but I miss them and am looking forward to seeing them again next year. I miss my brother, who will have graduated school and be at university by the next time I see him.”

TBG: Where do you live at MSU? How has that experience been for you?

AC: “I live in Wilson Hall in the South Neighborhood. It’s been a really good way to get to know people and I’ve really enjoyed the experience for the most part. It is slightly strange though, because in Australia by the time you graduated high school, you wouldn’t share a room with anyone ever.”

TBG: What activities are you involved in on campus?

AC: “I play underwater hockey at MSU, which is a lot of fun. We train twice a week, and I went to London, Canada for a tournament with my team, which was a really memorable weekend.”

TBG: Can you talk a little bit about your culture at home?

AC: “Australia is quite similar to America in many ways, but there are some differences. While we still love our sport we play Australian Football, Rugby and Cricket at home. Because there aren’t as many big cities in Australia, there will generally be a fairly even mix of fans at a game, and the stadiums aren’t like fortresses for the home team chants. It’s also much warmer at home, which is something I miss a lot!”

TBG: What are some other differences between life at home and life in America?

 “While we speak the same language in Australia, I often get caught out saying things that have absolutely no meaning to American people. I think attitudes towards things like politics are very different in Australia, as the intensity of the attack ads in the recent election was a real shock [to me]. At home I am also really used to eating food from all over Asia and across the world such as Indian, Thai and Ethiopian but I’m finding that most people here don’t really like food like that.”

TBG: What is your favorite part about being in America?

AC: “I love getting to discover something new every day. There are hundreds of little differences, which I am slowly finding out about. Halloween was a particular highlight for me, and a huge change from Halloween at Australia where it falls in the middle of our exam period and is not really celebrated.”

TBG: What has surprised you the most about America?

AC: “How nice and welcoming the people are. Before I came to Michigan I was traveling around the U.S. and people would invite me to stay with them or help me find where I was going. It’s the same at MSU, people will go out of their way to make you feel welcome and are very friendly and more than happy to start up a conversation with you.”

TBG: So you’ve been treated pretty well here then?

AC: “People have always been really nice to me and really interested in what I’m up to. Everyone seems to enjoy my accent so I think I’ve been asked to ‘just talk’ by people I’ve just met about 500 times since I got here

TBG: How would you describe your experience as a study abroad student at Michigan State so far?

AC: “Studying abroad at MSU has been a lot of fun. All the study abroad students went through orientation together, so I have lots of friends also studying abroad here. It has been a bit of a shock compared to university at home, where most people live off campus in the main part of the city, go to their classes at university each day and then go home again. Attendance has never been marked in lectures for my degree, and your lecturers don’t know you at all and don’t really worry whether everyone passes or fails, so you have to be much more proactive in getting help. There is also a lot more continuous assessment in the form of homework and projects here, at home I am used to exams worth about 70% of the final grade for a subject.”

TBG: What do you miss most about home?

AC: “I miss my dogs the most! Every time I talk to my family, I Skype the dogs in the backyard and get them to do tricks through Skype. I also miss my friends, and just hanging out with them. I also miss the food from home, and being able to go to the beach whenever I want to.”

TBG: What are your plans for the future?

AC: “Unfortunately I need to go home after this semester to continue my studies in Australia, but I’m hoping I can come back soon and see all the people I’ve met here, because I’m going to miss them!”

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Insight from Abroad: Ghana

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Insight from Abroad: Ghana


Each month, global view will feature in international student at Michigan State, and share their insights on life at home and abroad.

Barbara Kotei took a path that includes not only highways and streets, but also oceans when she first arrived at Michigan State University.

Kotei, a molecular biology freshman, is an international student from Ghana, located in West Africa.

Barbara Kotei is an international student from Ghana.

Kotei said she was already familiar with MSU before she became a student.

“I met with the admissions office [before choosing to attend MSU],” said Kotei. “I had a couple of friends here, and I even came here with another boy from high school.”

In addition to the friends that Kotei knew before she came here, she said she appreciates the friends she has made on her floor.

Kotei said she made friends on the floor through intramural soccer and has made more friends at MSU from going to salsa dancing classes.

However, she also said that although her American friends are generally receptive, a lot of them don’t fully understand where she is from.

“People don’t know much about Africa,” said Kotei. “I have to explain that [Ghana] is a country, and that Africa has countries.”

Kotei said that Ghana is a unique country with many different cultures and languages, with many of those languages being a tribal dialect representative of Ghana’s diverse culture.

“I can speak three languages: Gha and Twi, which are tribal languages, and English,” said Kotei. “Many people are unaware that English is actually the official language of Ghana.”

Kotei said that she also tried to study French in school, but found her experience to be difficult and uninteresting.

Kotei lived South Africa for two years, and she said the culture of both countries was similar.

She also said that her hobbies at home are not much different than those of average young Americans.

“I like to hang out with my family and friends a lot,” said Kotei. “I really was able to bond with my friends there, as well as my family at home.”

The major difference she noticed in American culture upon arriving at MSU was the freedom of expression.

“People express themselves a lot more freely here,” she said. “The dress is different, there [are] transgender individuals, too.”

Kotei also said that this freedom of expression applies to language as well.

“The way [Americans] speak in general […]at home, it’s rare to see people cuss so much,” she said.

However, Kotei said that her experience in America and at MSU has been a good one so far.

“People have been very receptive; it’s been a good time so far,” she said.

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Spartans Salute Japanese Culture

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Spartans Salute Japanese Culture


By Rebecca Nelson

The Asian Studies Center at Michigan State University will be tipping its hat to Japanese culture throughout the month.  The celebration will include a series of events that have been carefully planned out by students in the hospitality business class at MSU.  Although the campus-wide recognition of Japan has been an annual occurrence for decades, this is the first year of a month-long festivity.

“Our hope is that by focusing on a region for an entire month, we can provide a wide range of activities that will appeal to a diverse group of people. We hope that we have put together a program that has something for everyone,” explained Leslie Jablonski, coordinator of the Asian Studies Center.

The events began with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, Feb. 27, to announce “The Dolls of Japan: Shapes of Prayer, Embodiments of Love,” which will be displayed in the International Center Lobby until the end of the month.

The film "Ran" was screened in honor of Japan Month on Wednesday, March 14.

The travelling exhibit showcases more than 70 representative dolls from Japan including Girls’ Festival dolls and Boys’ Day dolls, dolls associated with performing arts, regional dolls from throughout the country and “creative dolls” made by Japanese craftsman.

“They reflect the customs of Japan and have regionally distinctive attributions,” Jablonski said. “These dolls are more than toys; they tell the story of the Japanese people, their history and their aspirations. This exhibit has been a truly wonderful opportunity for us; we’ve already seen a great deal of interest in it, and the fact that it can be viewed by anyone, at any time, is such a bonus.”

The opening ceremony also featured a keynote from Kuninori Matsuda, Consul General of Japan in Detroit, as well as a presentation by professor Ethan Segal that commemorated the year of challenges that have faced Japan since the tsunami in March of last year.

“We wanted the opportunity to remember the devastating events of March 11th, 2011 in Japan. So, hosting Japan Month during March was perfect,” Jablonski said.

Also occurring in honor of Japan Month is the highly anticipated 19th Annual Michigan Japanese Quiz Bowl.  Japanese students in grades K-12 will compete in a quiz-show style competition, allowing students to exercise their knowledge of spoken and written Japanese language and culture.  Since its start almost 20 years ago, the Michigan Japanese Quiz Bowl has grown into quite the competitive occasion, complete with a final awards ceremony.

Jablonski explained, “The goal of the Asian Studies Center is to promote education of Asia topics at Michigan State and across the Lansing Community.  We hope to provide opportunities that allow individuals to partake in cultural exchanges, giving them the chance to learn something that perhaps they didn’t know.”

“One of the reasons that I wanted to attend MSU was for the cultural experience,” said MSU grad Colleen Keehn. “Coming from a small town, I missed out on that and I think it’s wonderful that we are part of such a diverse university that offers opportunities such as these.”

It’s important to celebrate all cultures and learn about each other’s beliefs and cultural experiences.  Understanding others has a variety of benefits; we can become better students, teachers, parents and scholars, and it will ultimately make us better people. A lot of misconceptions exist between groups of people, and learning helps us to better appreciate one another.

“The importance of Japan Month is great,” said French exchange student Mathieu Bouchaud.  “It’s not very often that a culture is celebrated and appreciated for an entire month, and learning about the world and its people is imperative for every individual.  We should feel so lucky to be a part of this.”

As Japanese peace activist Daisaku Ikeda stated, “People can only live fully by helping others to live. Cultures can only realize their full richness by honoring other traditions. And only by respecting life can humanity continue to exist.”

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Going Hard Across the Globe: International Sports Cross Cultural Lines

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Going Hard Across the Globe: International Sports Cross Cultural Lines


By Alex Tekip

Sports are a constant cultural machine in the United States. They posses both the power to excite and the power to disappoint, but also have the ability to unify – to bring an entire school, city, state or nation together. Occasionally, that power travels, crossing borders, oceans, and cultures in the process. International sports have experienced growing popularity in the United States, and the East Lansing are as well as the campus of Michigan State University are not exempt from this trend.

Photo Credit: Jenna Chabot

There are plenty of clubs at MSU that promote awareness of international sports. One such club is the Kendo Club, whose members practice a historical and popular Japanese martial art and compete against other schools.

The basic idea of Kendo is to strike the top of the head, wrists, throat, or abdomen of an opponent with a bamboo sword called a shinai.  In the competition version of the game, each hit earns a player two points, and the player with the most points at the end of a match wins.

The competitive nature of Kendo makes it very popular in its native country.

“In Japan, [Kendo’s] popularity is similar to that of football in America, with about a million people practicing the art,” said Ron Fox, the club’s adviser, who also works as a physicist at MSU’s National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory.

Despite its popularity abroad however, Fox said that kendo hasn’t quite caught on yet at MSU.

“At MSU, only 25 people practice the club, in addition to an introductory one credit class that about 40 people enroll in each year,” he said. “We don’t have much of a fan base.”

Although he wishes more students were currently participating, Fox continues to promote his club and push his students to their full potential.

“[The club’s] participation rate looks to be increasing over the next few years,” said Fox. “We hope that our fan base will increase as well.”

The Kendo Club organizes a yearly tournament held at Michigan State every year: the Midwest Kendo Federation Student tournament, and Fox encouraged those interested to attend.

Photo Credit: Jenna Chabot

Another international sports club at MSU is the Polo Club, which boasts a slightly larger population.

“Our club has almost forty members, the biggest program for a university in the U.S. We have a strong fan base as well,” said club vice president Cassie Scarfone, a senior majoring in human biology.

Scarfone said the club hosts a yearly benefit match against the University of Michigan that “draws in quite a crowd.”

This match, called Poloat the Pavillion, benefits both the polo clubs of Michigan State and the University of Michigan. It is the biggest match of the year for both clubs, and usually provides the polo club with their highest attendance of the season at an affordable cost – tickets are just $5 for students and $10 for other guests.

International sports are also drawing interest in the East Lansing area. West Michigan Capoeira, a martial arts studio that practices an ancient Brazilian sport, has branched off into East Lansing with hopes of sparking an interest wider than just the undergraduate community at MSU.

Capoeira is an art form based on an ancient Brazilian war dance. Individuals who practice capoeria begin by forming a “hoda” circle, then proceed through a series of motions that combine rhythmic dance and martial arts, often in formation with others.

“Right now, we have about ten participants, and most of them are grad students,” said instructor Show Grande . “I’m hoping that eventually interest will spark, and people will investigate and look into capoeira.”

Grande’s biggest wish is that individuals interested in capoeira will have an “epiphany” moment, similar to one he had when he was younger.

“I just walked into a capoeira studio and was amazed at the gracefulness of those involved,” said Grande. “I was so entranced that I had to keep reminding myself that the sport was real, and ever since then I’ve been blown away.”

While international sports clubs are always working to improve their fan base and gain awareness amongst the student body, they are also invested in the passion and drive that team members have.

“I tell my team, ‘Just shut up and do it’. They are all dedicated to the art, and open to what the sport can offer them,” Fox said.

This passion and drive is mixed with a willingness to cross cultural borders. International sports clubs have both American members as well as many who are, of course, international.

“We have had many international students in the kendo club; this year, we have several Japanese members” Fox said.

Many international members are drawn in by their native loyalties to the sport, or want to contribute to bringing the sport into light at MSU, in Michigan, or even the nation, and fight to raise cultural awareness of the sport by changing stereotypes.

“Currently, the polo community is trying to change the stereotype of the sport as an ‘elitist’ game,” said Scarfone. “In reality, anyone can become involved [in polo] and it can be much more affordable than one might think.”

According to Grande, “Investing in an unknown sport is like continued learning.” International sports can help broaden the cultural horizons of students at Michigan State, and, much like American sports, they have the power to bring us all together as one globally united city and campus.

“Practicing a difficult sport gives students confidence in everyday life,” Grande said. “When we all feel like we are accomplishing something together, we become united.”

For more information, contact:

Michigan State University Kendo Club: kendo.msu.edu

Michigan State University Polo Club: msupolo@msu.edu

West Michigan Capoeira: CDOWestMichigan@gmail.com

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International Students Celebrate Valentine’s Day

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International Students Celebrate Valentine’s Day


The International Student Association’s annual Valentine’s Day Ball was held on Saturday, February 12th at the Ballroom in the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing. This year’s theme was Venetian Nights: A Masquerade Ball. A lot of time and effort was put into the event by the ISA. Hear what ISA had to say about celebrating Valentine’s Day together.

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Connecting at the U: International Students

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Connecting at the U: International Students


The legacy of Michigan State University president John Hannah runs long and deep, especially with the international community. In 1956, Hannah created the International Programs, which aimed “to initiate, coordinate, and other wise support internationally related activities throughout the institution”. This program, later renamed the International Studies and Programs, continues to flourish.

According to the annual Statistical Report by the Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS) at MSU, 4,509 international students were enrolled at MSU during the fall 2008 semester, approximately 9.7 percent of MSU’s total enrollment for that that semester. Additionally, the study reported that “International freshman increased by 34 percent over fall 2007. This is extraordinary growth of 67.5 percent from fall 2006.”

The exponential growth of these programs presents new challenges for the university. While international students and American students share similar worries and concerns about adapting to college life, international students face additional burdens.

“It’s even harder than for American students because international students are really far away from home and families,” said Amber Arashiro, international student advisor and orientation coordinator of OISS. Also, there are a lot of pressures such as cultural differences, expensive tuition in comparison with most American students, language barriers and so on. Arashiro added that international students need help assimilating into both MSU and American culture.

How has MSU helped international students?

Over 50 of groups and organizations exist to help international students, scholars and their families. (see the list below) Each group and organization has provided various programs to support them.

The OISS is the biggest organization to help international students and scholars. It focuses primarily on issues pertaining to immigration and documentation. The organization also coordinates programs to help international students such as international orientation, welcome week, weekly ‘coffee hours,’ field trips and essay contests. “OISS tries to promote internationalizing on campus and helps to promote students’ events,” Said Arashiro. If international students have any problems, Arashiro said that “OISS is the first place to come and talk about their issues.” OISS has strong partnerships with other units on campus such as the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions (OCAT).

OCAT focuses on both international and American undergraduate students. “To be successful in college, students have to make changes to adapt totally different expectations and have to transition adapt to new environment culturally,” said Maggie Chen Hernandez, Associate Director of OCAT. According to her, the program “is applied to all students no matter if they are international students or not.” The OCAT has created a Cultural Aides Program to support students’ academic success. The 66 student staff members of OCAT are charged with working in the residence halls and they visit freshmen students to talk and understand some changes and transitions students going though. “Most students make friends who are just like them. It’s human nature,” Hernandez said. “We try to interrupt this and establish interactions between different cultures and give information how to be close each other.”

According to Jan Stacey Bieler, vice president of Community Volunteers for International Programs, American students participate in volunteer activities to help international students, who may need help adjusting to new environments. “Volunteer groups for international students and families were established not by one direction but by mutual interactions,” Bieler said.

Alexandra Albers, a global and area studies and English senior, volunteers with OISS and the TA tutoring program for international graduate students in order to meet new people. Albers said she wanted to have opportunities for new ways of thinking and different ways of living, as well as familiarize herself with international issues she might know nothing about. Albers added that she was satisfied with the programs she’s participating in.

Ann Desiderio, a teaching English to speakers of other languages master’s student and the representative of International Students Association to Council of Graduate Students, said “we have a lot of dedicated people working behind the scenes to help keep MSU diverse and to also assist our international community. And MSU does a great job make the campus more global.”

Problems

Although many events and other activities have been held on campus, many students have missed it because they don’t know events are happening. Also, there are many organizations and groups for students, but there are an insufficient number of volunteers and staffs to support programs for international students. Arashiro said that “even though the international student population keeps increasing, our OISS staff isn’t increasing.” There are a lot of demands for programs but resources are limited. Thus, Arashiro said that OISS has taken feedback seriously and tried out different ideas.

“I wish there were more volunteer opportunities offered by OISS and other departments around campus working with international students,” Albers said. She added that “I know there are students all around campus searching for a way to get involved, and it would be a shame for OISS to ignore this untapped pool of possible volunteers.”

“A lot of students haven’t heard about COGS and other programs at MSU before,” said Robin Blom, the representative of J school to COGS and 3rd year in the media and information studies doctoral program. “So organizations should be more prominent within the beginning of the semester. But it is difficult to reach every student.”

MSU has worked to help international students transition into MSU and American life. However, there are still some problems. Albers said that volunteer experiences are spread directly by word of mouth, and the lack of volunteers is in part due to communication problems. In other words, MSU has to focus on how they can be a strong bridge between international students and American students. Through interactions with people who come from different cultural backgrounds and countries people learn about other cultures, even themselves, and people who are different. By getting different nationalities clubs together and inviting each other to cultural events, international student groups can help students have cultural confidence and to promote cross cultural opportunities, Arashiro said. That’s why MSU has organized many global and international programs. Hernandez said that American culture is egocentric in comparison with other cultures, so through many programs, they want to help students to have cultural confidence when they graduate.

Interested in getting involved?

Most organizations and groups send out mass email to students, put posters and inform mouth to mouth. Recently, they also join Facebook and Twitter to spread out information effectively. Desiderio said that “the possibilities are endless if you want to get involved with international affairs at MSU.” She gave many tips on how to get involved.

1. Check out OISS’ website, ISA’s Facebook and other groups’ internet pages. (See the list)

2. Coffee Hour, which is on every Friday at 4-6pm, International Center Cafeteria, to talk with people from around the world.

3. McDonel Hall’s McGlobe puts on many cultural and international events.

4. A resource fair in the beginning of the school year. MSU holds a resource fair where many international groups provide information about how to get involved.

5. Global Festival in November. It is a big event to help celebrate cultures from around the world.

Associated Students of Michigan State University

African Student Union

Arab Cultural Society

Asian Pacific American Student Organization

Association for Vietnamese Students and Scholars

Black Student Alliance

Brazilian Cultural Association

Caribbean Student Association

Chinese Student and Scholar Association

Chinese Undergraduate Student Association

Chinese Students Coalition

Community Volunteers for International Programs

Comunidad Latino Americana

Council of Graduate Students

Counseling Center

Culturas de las Razas Unidas

Family Resource Center

Filipino Club

Friendship House International Student Ministry

Hong Kong Student Association

Indian Student Organization

(Coalition of) Indian Undergraduate Students

Indonesian Student Association

Internationalizing Student Life

International Athletic Association

International Sponsored Students Association

International Students Association

International Studies and Programs

International Volunteer Action Corp

Japan Club

Kazakh Student Association

Korean Student Organization

Malaysian Students Organization

Modern Greek Club

MSU International Alumni

Muslim Student Association

North American Indigenous Student Organization

Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions

Office for International Students and Scholars

Pakistan Student Association

Phi Beta Delta

Russian Club

Somali Student Organization

Sri Lankan Student Association

Taiwanese Student Association

Thai Student Association

Turkish Student Association

University Apartments Council of Residents

University Housing

Vietnamese Student Association

Visiting International Professional Program

Volunteer English Tutoring Program

Writing Center

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