JEFFERSON CITY, Mo — Olive Mukabalisa, International Relations graduate student from Rwanda, didn’t expect to meet anyone from her home country at Study Missouri’s International Education Day. However, before lunch that day, she met one other student from Rwanda.
“I got to speak my language, which is Kiwanda,” Mukabalisa said. “It’s much more like talking with somebody from home.”
Mukabalisa said she hasn’t met many students from Rwanda during her time in the U.S. She was one of seven Webster students who visited the state capitol for Study Missouri’s third annual International Education Day. Two Webster staff members also attended.
Students toured the State Capitol Building and ate lunch at the Capitol Plaza Hotel. At lunch, students sat at tables grouped by country instead of by school.
“They’re all separated and split up so that they can bond with people from their home countries, and regions of the world,” Kirstin A. K. Kahaloa, associate director of international recruitment at Webster, said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Video by Megan Favignano
More than 400 students and advisors from 25 Missouri colleges and universities attended International Education Day activities in Jefferson City on Feb. 29. Dr. Chad Stebbins, chairman of Study Missouri and director of international studies at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, said international students are valuable to Missouri.
“They provide about $383 million economically to the state, but more importantly, they help internationalize all of our colleges and universities (in Missouri),” Stebbins said.
Study Missouri, a consortium of Missouri colleges and universities, brought International Education Day back two years ago after it had been discontinued. Previously, International Education Day was hosted by the governor’s office.
This year had the largest attendance since Study Missouri began holding the event. Stebbins said Study Missouri decided to bring back International Education Day because they remembered how successful it had been.
“It helps them (international students) to see first hand the workings of state government,” Stebbins said.
He said visiting the state capitol is something every U.S. citizen should do.
Kahaloa said she plans on attending next year’s International Education Day and wants to bring more students.
A Study Missouri representative announced each country present and gave the students a chance to stand up during lunch, Kahaloa said. Three Webster students in attendance were the only students standing when their countries were called. Kahaloa said she enjoys working with international students because, like her, they are far from home. Kahaloa is from Hawaii, and moved to the Midwest almost 11 years ago to attend college.
When in Jefferson City on Wednesday, Study Missouri took a group picture of everyone in attendance. While they were lining everyone up on the steps inside the capitol building, Kahaloa noticed a student in the group look at her and make the Hawaiian “shaka” hand symbol, a fist with only the thumb and little finger extended.
“For me, just like Olive, I didn’t expect to see anybody remotely from where I’m from,” Kahaloa said. “I was pleasantly surprised to be able to spend 20 minutes talking to students from near where I’m from.”