As I accepted and started working in the role of the Assistant Director of International Recruitment position at the University of Missouri (Mizzou), I was told that my first trip abroad would be China. With the highest number of international students currently at Mizzou being from China, it made perfect sense to visit the leading country in terms of outward student mobility in global education. Also, the focus in the spring semester for the Office of International Admissions tends to be visiting those students and schools where we have received a number of applications for the upcoming fall semester. Again by reaching out to the students in their schools, Mizzou is able to build a personal relationship with the student and thus answer all questions concerning the transition.
On March 6, 2016, as I reached Beijing, China., I had many emotions going through me and I was equally nervous and excited. My basic perception about China was that not being able to speak Mandarin may lead to some challenges in regard to communication, however, everyone that I met in China was so helpful that even though I didn’t speak their language, they were always willing to help me through with hand gestures and smiles, and of course when all else failed there was google translate!
During my visit to China I attended 15 schools, 3 college fairs as well as had many one-on-one visits with students and parents in over 6 different cities and it all was fantastic. Initially during my visits the students tended to be a bit shy, often this was due to the fact that English is not a native language for these students and they felt slightly conscious about it. However, whenever I shared with the students that I too, like them, wasn’t a native speaker of English and had arrived in the United States as an international student, they started to open up. I felt with the sharing of this information a certain bond of trust was established with them. In a certain sense they looked at me after that not just as a representative of Mizzou, but also as someone who had lived the life of an international student and had been in their shoes at one point in time. Personally, this also helped me connect better with many of the counselors, principals, as well as the parents, many of who had also been an international students in the United States at once upon a time.
One of the best parts of the visit was when I visited the relatively smaller towns of Yangzhou and Lanzhou in China and found that many of the students from schools there too had previously or were currently attending Mizzou. Again, we often think that it is a huge world and yet even on the other end of the world you see Mizzou signs and banners and it makes you really appreciate the presence of global Tigers all around the world. Two such amazing global Tigers that I met in Beijing, China, were Amy and David, who have been living in China for now about a year. Amy who is a graduate of the School of Nursing at Mizzou is currently working as a school nurse at the Beijing International Bilingual Academy and David a graduate of the College of Education at Mizzou is a fourth grade teacher in the same school. One of the most inspiring moments in China was when I walked into David’s classroom and all his fourth graders welcomed me by chanting MIZ-ZOU! Believe me, as a Tiger the chant of MIZ truly inspires you wherever you may be!
In the end, I will be direct and honest, these maybe challenging times for Mizzou and yet when I see the excitement and hope in the eyes of future Tigers around the world, I know the values of this great institution are far larger than its challenges. Again, I am proud to say that the Tiger Spirit is well and alive around the world!