MS NEWS COLUMN: A journey of kindness and diversity

International student look at CMU

Courtesy of Nelson Phada.

ఈ కథనాన్ని తెలుగులో చదవడానికి క్లిక్ చేయండి

After two connecting flights from Canada, I finally landed in Saginaw and asked whether there were buses to Mount Pleasant.

As an international student coming to Central Michigan University, I had mixed feelings in part because, I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t have any contacts anywhere near Michigan to ask them about the atmosphere there. 

I felt like a blind man in freefall. Finally, I arrived in a small, calm town. It emanated a sense of calmness that quickly put me at rest, providing a welcome break from the hectic voyage.

Ghana beyond stereotypes 

I am from Ghana and I worked as a medical officer at Zunuo Hospital in Techiman Municipality in the Bono region. 

My passion extended beyond the consulting room, as I actively participated in medical outreaches and public health initiatives throughout Techiman's rural districts. These programs aimed to educate communities about illness prevention. 

My field experiences taught me that having an impact on people's lives extended beyond individual sessions. I chose to study public health to expand my knowledge of illness prevention, policy and intervention. 

CMU, with its public health program and health professional courses, became my preferred destination. I had visited relatives in Canada before coming here as a student. 

When I came to CMU, I discovered a common stereotype: people believed Africa was a monolith. To many, it seemed a large, undifferentiated landmass—one country with uniform cultures, languages and landscapes. 

Some people recognize Ghana because of its national football team, the Black Stars and fewer people were familiar with Ghana beyond football. To those few people, it was heartening to see how Ghana's rich culture and history.

For example, some of rich culture of Ghana includes Kente cloth, originating from Bonwire in Ghana, is a royal cloth worn by Asante royalty for special occasions. It was initially worn by royalty, symbolizing wealth and cultural sophistication. 

Kente is meticulously woven on a horizontal strip loom, with multiple strips hand-sewn together to create the desired size. The Ewe people also weave kente, offering a wider variety of patterns and symbolizing daily life. Kente evolved from West African weaving traditions, using French and Italian silks, cotton and wool.

As an international student, I became an advocate for Ghana. 

Conversations enabled me to dispel myths. Ghana was more than simply a label on a map; it was a lively, breathing story—a country where tradition coexisted with modernity. 

As I eased into life at CMU, I felt genuine friendliness. The word "akwaaba"—Akan meaning "welcome"—was inscribed at the Global Engagement office, and I saw it the first day I went there. 

Challenges at CMU for an international student

One of the major challenges for me was transitioning into CMU's academic style, especially since the academic writing standards are somewhat different from those other countries' academic writing skills of graduate students. 

The academics are more robust, and the transition is slower than anticipated. This is particularly challenging because the workload is heavier on students on their first time as graduate students having to adjust.

The unfamiliarity of my surroundings, coupled with uncertainties about what awaits me at CMU left me with mixed feelings.

On the bright side, the moment I arrived, I was also struck by the genuine warmth of the people in this city. Their kindness enveloped me like a comforting embrace. 

Kindness of people in Mount Pleasant

People here go above and beyond to help one another. 

I recall a time when I was lost, searching for a health professions building. Amidst a sea of busy students, I approached one young woman who was diligently working on her assignments. Instead of a mere verbal description or pointing in the right direction, she closed her laptop, gathered her belongings, and showed me the way. I stood there, amazed by her selflessness.

And it wasn’t an isolated incident. Every day, I encounter these beautiful acts of kindness -- from the faculty members to the students, even the workers at Walmart -- they all share this common thread of kindness.

Jennifer Jones, academic advisor, Clint Fitzpatrick, director of Graduate Admissions, and Regan Foster, media director of CM Life, along with the students, contribute to the incredible atmosphere of compassion and generosity. Truly, this city is filled with amazing souls.

Mix of cultures

CMU leaves an indelible impression with its rich cultural tapestry. Here, students from diverse backgrounds — varying races and languages — come together seamlessly. 

The bonds formed are not just academic; they’re rooted in acceptance, tolerance and freedom. The very environment encourages an open-hearted embrace of different cultures and personalities. Students are encouraged to celebrate diversity and engage in meaningful conversations that broaden their perspectives. 

This fosters a sense of belonging and creates a supportive community where individuals can truly thrive. In my class as a master in public health student, I acknowledged how quickly we have bonded in such a short time even when we come from different backgrounds. 

Being exposed to different people and cultures in my class, during orientation and at the basketball court while watching the game helped me understand diverse cultural backgrounds. By embracing diversity, we create an environment that celebrates uniqueness and encourages mutual respect, ultimately breaking down barriers and building bridges between people of different backgrounds. 

The city's quiet atmosphere, civility and social support make it welcoming. Students can find support through various groups, including a counseling center and different student organizations, providing a sense of community and a platform for personal and academic growth.