Marcelo Maziero, contributing writer
In the past two years, the number of Saudi Arabian students at Mississippi College has increased by 2,100 percent. The amount of those from Saudi Arabia attending classes at MC went from five in 2012 to 105 in 2014. Out of the 105 Saudi students, 72 just began their first semester at MC.
This change began in June of 2013 when the director of the Office of Global Education, Mei Chi Piletz, went to Washington D.C. to give a presentation specifically geared towards Saudi Arabians. It was there that these students were introduced to Mississippi College. The following fall, 10 new Saudi Arabian students came to MC. Since then, the number has not stopped increasing.
According to Piletz, it is not hard to find Saudi Arabians around university campuses in the United States. This surge of Saudi students coming to Mississippi College is also mostly because the Saudi government pays for the students to come to United States and have a high quality education, as long as the student keeps high grades. It is also due to Mississippi College’s reputation as a university where studies are taken seriously.
“The Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission is constantly watching over their tests results and GPA’s; if they start getting some low grades or GPA’s, the government stops paying for their studies and they are sent back home,” Piletz explained.
The majority of Saudi students come to MC after completing their undergraduate schooling at other colleges. Seeking a good school where they can continue their studies, they choose MC.
“This is the reason why the other students do not meet them around campus that often. They are grad students, and some of them are married and have kids. We do not have dorms on campus that fit their family necessities,” added Piletz. The students have generally been in the United States for a while before coming to MC, so they are already used to the cultural differences from their home country.
Another person who played an important role in bringing Saudi students to MC was Fahad Alotaibi. He is the creator and current President of the Saudi Arabian Association of Mississippi College. When Alotaibi transferred from the University of Texas in Austin to Mississippi College, the Saudi students did not have a way to connect, so he came up with the idea of creating the group. Alotaibi regularly visits his former college, where he speaks to other Saudi students about MC and his passion for our university. According to him, more than 20 Saudi Arabians came to MC after talking with him about it, but he said, “it is not because I am a good advertiser. It is because the people I talked to about Mississippi College researched about it and found out it is a very respectful school, with strong teaching programs and excellent staff and students. The people from the Office of Global Education are hard workers and they do what they can to give us the best experience of our lives. Ms. Piletz is like my mom here in United States.”
The Mississippi College name has reached even the west coast. Saudi student Ali Asirr started his nursing program last August, after transferring from the University of California to Mississippi College. He heard about MC’s strong nursing program while he was still in California, and after researching about the university, decided to transfer here. “I am happy to be here. The school is great and the other students are really helpful and respectful.”
The great education provided in the United States is attracting more and more students from all over the world. Today, the Saudi Arabians are dominating the international scene at MC, but in a not-so-distant future it will be likely to find even more international students from other countries as well.