So why would I leave the northern lights of Canada for the Natchez Trace running through Mississippi?
While most international students choose larger metropolitan cities to pursue work and education, I found the smaller town of Clinton, Mississippi better fit for me. Over my past three years of attending Mississippi College, I have been able to build community and make lasting connections with people who have roots here.
America was special to me because I had visited it many times with my family growing up. The Magnolia State seemed familiar since my sister also went to school in Mississippi. I originally chose a southern school because I wanted to pursue higher education at a private school and be able to learn through the lens of Christianity.
However, beyond my initial pull to the state, I have learned that Mississippi has a unique culture with many different backgrounds coming to an intersection. For myself, I was able to break down a lot of stereotypes that I had coming to Mississippi. International students broaden American minds and in turn, coming to the U.S. broadens their view of Americans. Students are able to return home having a deeper understanding of American values with a lifelong connection to the country.
The rich culture of the state brings a depth that often gets overlooked by those passing through. Many international students, myself included, come to the states in order to explore cultural diversity. The development within the country pulls in people from various backgrounds in order for a diverse expansion to happen over education, economic, and governmental systems. Foreign students within the classrooms and workplaces contribute to the internationalization of the community as a whole.
Mississippi has over 2,500 international students that attend colleges and universities within the state. Coming to a country with such highly formulated governmental, military, and economic systems can be intimidating. With America as a whole being the most innovative country in the world, the south offers a safe place to transition.
Most southerners are curious people and rarely lack questions for internationals. Because of this, it makes it easier for people like me to be able to move into a new place and get to know people. I have noticed Mississippians have a core commitment to helping each other in whatever field they find themselves in.
The main pull that Mississippi offers to foreigners is the initial hospitality and slower way of life.
I have been able to get more interpersonal experience in both my work and my education since I first moved to Mississippi over 3 years ago. Although much of my school experience has been largely impacted by the pandemic of Covid-19, I have still been able to connect with the surrounding community.
Despite all the culture shocks, hard adjustments, and barriers; the American study and work experience is irreplaceable. The challenges that occur physically, culturally, socially, and psychologically when coming to a new country all contribute to the acculturation process. The biggest thing I have learned is that just as our modern society brings out countless dividing factors between us, we also learn there are many more commonalities between us if we are willing to look for them.