International students who graduate from Mississippi University for Women leave the school with two things: a degree and a newfound family. For some, one is as valuable as the other.
Nadeema Appukutti, 29, is a chemistry major from Sri Lanka. Appukutti came to The W from Nepal to join her husband who was a student at Mississippi State University. Her husband has since graduated and moved back to Sri Lanka. Appukutti will join him once she graduates in December. In the meantime, her fellow classmates have served as a second family, she said.
“He was here for two years when I came here, so he already knew stuff,” Appukutti said, speaking of her husband. “When he left, I was like, ‘How am I going to survive?’ These people, they are there for me for everything … because of them, I don’t feel like I am away from home.”
A report by the Institute of International Education, in partnership with the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, said nearly 900,000 international students were studying in the U.S. during the 2013-14 school year, up 8 percent from a year earlier. At The W this year, there are 57 students from 11 foreign countries, according to MUW Fact Book.
Like Appukutti, Adedoyin Adedowle sees her fellow international students as a family as well. Adedowle moved to the U.S. to join her older brother in Mississippi. Her brother was studying at MSU. Adedowle applied to MSU but earned more scholarship money from The W. In her fourth year at the liberal arts college, the biology major feels she made the right decision to choose MUW.
“It’s been a very, very good experience,” she said. “The W is like a family school. Everyone knows everyone and you have your international (students) who are like your immediate family over here so it’s been a very good experience.”
Once she graduates, Adedowle plans to move to Canada where most of her family now resides.
Sumigra Karki and Shristi Khati, both from Nepal, said the small class size and promise of financial aid helped lure them to MUW. Both girls used an education coordinator in their native country to match them with a university that fits their needs in the United States.
“It’s a small university, they are more concerned about you,” Karki said. “People know you rather than (a) big university so, it’s so much like home in here.”
Khati, 22, who is studying nursing, said she has received a better education in the states than she could ever receive in Nepal. In part, that’s due to the positive influence of her instructors.
“The professors here really want you to succeed,” she said.
Appukutti agreed, referencing lab courses at MUW versus universities in Sri Lanka.
“Back home, you have to share one instrument,” she said. “Here, everyone has one.”
Sadhana Thapa, a senior in women’s studies, said she hopes to use the clout of an American degree to earn better opportunities in her home country of Nepal. Thapa wants to pursue her graduate degree and eventually work for the United Nations.
Thapa has attended several universities in the U.S. and said she was attracted to the size of MUW’s campus.
“Your professor knows you by your name,” she said. “It’s really a family setting.”
Whens she returns home, Thapa said she would encourage her friends and family to look into what The W has to offer.
“I’m definitely marketing (the) W. It’s a great university. I’m going to take flyers and everything. They should experience W’s education.”
Adedowle agreed saying, “Coming from international countries, you need a place that everyone will be around you, not a place where you will get lost. So coming to here first was really, really good because I kind of grew to know people and people were concerned about me but if I had gone to a much more bigger school I probably would have just been over there, another student. Here it’s really, really different.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.