East Lansing Rolls Out the Red Carpet for International Students

By: Alex Goldsmith Email
By: Alex Goldsmith Email

Kaustav Mukherjee came to Michigan State from India 5 years ago for his education, not East Lansing. But it turned out to be the town that has kept him happy.

"I love the community here," said Mukherjee, a PHD student in the English department. "I've been to New York and I've been to Boston and East Lansing is better."

Onur Agirseven, the International Student Association's former president, wasn't quite sure at first.

"My first experiences weren't the most positive because it was kind of a small town," said Agirseven, who hails from Turkey. "But I figured out there's a lot to do involving the people and community here."

East Lansing city officials are hoping to keep international students satisfied. They took another step in that process with today's event, "East Lansing Welcomes the World." The event is in response to Michigan State's growing foreign student population. In 2009, a total of 5,056 students from outside of the United States attended the university, a 14.2% increase from 2008.

"The community benefits from interacting with international students because we're trying to the internationalize the economy here," said Peter Briggs, head of MSU's Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS). "Everyone who comes into contact has a chance to broaden their world view and build new friendships."

Attendees were given free food and drink and received information about local and city programs designed to help them enjoy life during their time in Michigan.

City officials also wanted students to know about local services as well.

"While they're here, they're residents," said Marie McKenna, East Lansing's Assistant City Manager. The city is here to serve them."

East Lansing residents were also recruited to meet, greet and build new friendships with the students. Christine Van Nada has volunteered her time with Community Volunteers for International Programs (CVIP), a group that promotes international friendship.

"We want to give international students a chance to get in an American home and to gain an American friend," said Van Nada. "International students want to learn about Americans and the benefit I've gotten is I get to travel without leaving my home."

There were more than 400 people in attendance. This was the first time the event has happened in East Lansing, but city officials say they plan on making it a new tradition.

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