By Pierce Morrison
The culture shock of living at a college in a foreign country can be challenging to visiting students, so an Oxford resident decided to change that.
A group of 60 or so American and international students recently gathered at Bill McKenzie’s International Guest House to socialize and eat. The house is a place for international students in Oxford to live while they are studying at the University of Mississippi.
McKenzie moved to Oxford in 1982 with the Christian ministry, The Navigators. It was originally introduced to interact with American students.
McKenzie, who once worked as a mechanical engineer for the university servicing the heating and air conditioning units for the school, began inviting students to his home for events. That’s when he noticed more international students coming than Americans. He later decided to offer his home as a place where UM international students could live while studying.
After an increasing number of international students began coming to events at his home, McKenzie converted his barn into apartments for international students. Now, he’s able to offer international students from foreign countries a safe and inviting home in Oxford.
Rebecca Hankins and Tanner Marquis have volunteered at the house three years, and they often attend events at the International Guest House. “You don’t feel like people are different from you,” Hankins said. “It’s all in unity.”
Marquis, a seminary student and UM alumni, said he has made many friends he otherwise would not have met because of his work with the International Guest House. He has also seen the house transform and grow.
“We’ve seen a growth in degree-seeking students, and there is a much larger opportunity for the students to become familiar with the International Guest House.”
Hankins, who has studied abroad, said making friends in a foreign country is beneficial.
“It was important to have local friends when I studied abroad to take us places and to just have when you needed a friend,” she said.
Hankins said McKenzie encourages students who have enjoyed their experience at the International Guest House to tell others.