There are 911 international students at the University of Mississippi.
It would be easy for some international students to move here for the “American experience,” and remain with friends who share their own language and culture. But Hanna Hullender, Ingrid Alcina, Jenny Le, Mica Endara and Will Gleeson are determined to fully experience American culture.
Hullender, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, is a junior marketing major fluent in English and Portuguese.
Alcina, of Maracaibo, Venezuela, is a freshmen integrated marketing and communications major who speaks English and Spanish.
Le, of Seoul, South Korea, is a freshmen economics major fluent in Korean and English.
Endara, of Quito, Ecuador, is a finance major who is minoring in Italian and speaks English and Italian.
And Will Gleeson, of Melbourne, Australia, is an IMC major.
There are many struggles international students face when studying abroad, but they bring many positives to universities.
“The Australian and American cultures are very similar,” said Gleeson. “However, it was still hard to make friends at first. I honestly didn’t know if people wanted to be my friend or listen to me talk with my accent.”
International students become involved in campus life in many different ways.
Le participates in ballet. Gleeson is on the football team. Endara tutors students in Spanish. Ingrid is in a sorority. Hanna photographs university sporting events.
Ballet is a popular art in South Korea and the United States. Le decided to continue ballet while studying abroad.
“I’m from South Korea, so the dance style is very different back home,” she said. “However, the stage set-up and dance technique are very similar. The dancers both here and at home are lean and have strong muscles to be able to control and contort their bodies. I appreciate my dance class at the university because I am able to learn American-styled techniques, and I can also teach my classmates typical Korean dance moves.”
Hanna Hullender has always loved photography. Since moving to Oxford, she has combined the school’s passion for sports and her passion for photography by going to a lot of the sporting events, cheering on her team, and photographing intense moments.
“The way Americans are with football is equivalent to how Brazilians are with soccer,” she said. “The camaraderie of fans, the intense dedication to one’s team, and the loud game days reminds me of soccer games at home.
“Since moving here and starting to photograph games, I have (become a) photography major. I want to move back to Brazil and be a sports photographer.”
Mica Endara is passionate about languages. She enjoys encouraging fellow students about the importance of languages and appreciating other cultures.
“I like to help others in any way I can because I know the opportunities that can come from being bilingual, and also, because Spanish is my favorite language,” she said. “It is one of the best, most used, and most beautiful languages throughout the world… in my opinion.”
Endara and Ingrid Alcina came to America wanting to embrace all parts of Mississippi culture. They decided the easiest way to become engulfed in the culture was by going Greek. Sorority rush is a foreign process, even for American girls.
For these two, rush wasn’t comparable to anything they have in their Hispanic countries. Alcina describes everyone as being very warm and welcoming during the process.
“Every house was fascinated that I was going through rush, and admired my interest in this part of the campus culture,” she said.
“Being in a sorority gives a new meaning to a home away from home. It is nothing like my home in Venezuela, but after I became comfortable at the AOPi house, it became an American home for me.
“It became a place of belonging. It became a place I loved to go, and my sorority sisters became a family,” said Alcina.
Gleeson is taking some of his friends home with him for a “holiday” over summer break. They will be introduced to life “down under” and see where he grew up.
Gleeson was recruited from Melbourne, Australia, after his outstanding performance in Australian football, which resembles the game of rugby.
He has been an asset to the Ole Miss football team this season because of his punts. Gleeson has been playing Australian football since age 7 and is very thankful for all the opportunities it has given him.
“Australian vs. American football is very similar,” he said. “My experience on an Australian football team prepared me for my position on the Ole Miss team. However, I have improved greatly since training here. Mainly because of my coach.”
These five international students are acquiring a lifetime of assets from their study abroad experiences, and have found a way to appreciate American culture, while maintaining their own national pride.