International Students Share the Impact of MVSU on their time in the Mississippi Delta

November 16, 2021

Fulbright Scholars and Global Undergraduate Exchange Students at MVSU (from left) Heidy Molina, Gardenia Homsi, Mansour Bettayeb, Yuliana Sokolenko, Olga Ponomareva, and Merey Nurgali share how MVSU has impacted them during their time in the United States.

By Donell Maxie, MVSU Communications Director

Mississippi Valley State University is known as the Educational Oasis of the Mississippi Delta. But, While MVSU strives to impact the Delta, its reach goes far beyond the state lines, and in the case of five individuals, the school's reach goes far beyond America's shores.

In recent years MVSU has had the honor of participating in the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Program and the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD). These programs facilitate the institution's vision of introducing Valley students to other cultures and societies.

Participating in the Fulbright program has enabled MVSU to offer critical languages (Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Portuguese) for more than eight years. In addition, the university has invited more than eight scholars for the Fulbright Scholar in Residence Program for short-term visits to the campus and co-hosted Scholars in Residence from Uganda and Cameroon.

Dr. Lokesh Shivakumaraiah, Executive Director of International Relations, said both programs benefit the students and the Valley community.

"Hosting Fulbright Scholars and Global Undergraduate Exchange Students at Valley provide an exciting opportunity to strengthen campus internationalization efforts further and add to our diverse student body at MVSU," said Shivakumaraiah. 

"Students can interact and learn about other countries, culture, food, tradition, and people from our international students, Global UGRAD exchange students, and Fulbright scholars. In addition, MVSU has hosted nearly 30 FLTAs in over ten years to support teaching Critical Languages at MVSU," he added.

Shivakumaraiah said the university would continue to host Global UGRAD students.

"While Fall 2021 Global UGRAD students came from Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Lebanon, and Kazakhstan. Our incoming Spring 2021 Global UGRAD cohort is from Tajikistan, Thailand, Panama, Mauritania, and Myanmar." 

The FLTA is sponsored by the United States Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). As part of the Fulbright Foreign Student Program, the Fulbright FLTA Program is designed to develop Americans' knowledge of foreign cultures and languages by supporting teaching assistantships in over 30 languages at hundreds of U.S. higher education institutions. The program offers educators from over 50 countries the opportunity to develop their professional skills and gain first-hand knowledge of the U.S., its culture, and its people.

The Global UGRAD brings future leaders to the United States to experience U.S. higher education, gain critical professional skills, and explore new cultures and values. The Global Undergraduate Exchange Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government. Global UGRAD alumni receive Fulbright grants, obtain prestigious international internships, and work in business and government in their home countries and regions.

The Fall participants in the Fulbright Program and the Global UGRAD shared their thoughts on how MVSU impacted them during their time at the university.

Name: Mansour Bettayeb

Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant

Sponsor: U.S. Department of State- Fulbright Program

Home Country: Algeria

"I am lucky to serve in such an authentic part of the U.S. Mississippi Valley State University has a friendly atmosphere that helps you to build a better version of yourself. I have always been fascinated by Blues and Jazz music, as well as Black History. Being a teacher and a student at MVSU gives me real exposure to genuine historical insights. My mission as a cultural ambassador has been relatively thrilling since people here are tolerant and welcoming."





Name: Olga Ponomareva

Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant

Sponsor: U. S. Department of State - Fulbright Program

Home Country: Russia

"My experience as a Fulbright Russian language teaching assistant at Mississippi Valley State University has been extremely productive. I am excited to share my culture and let American students see that Russia is not about cold, walking with bears, and playing the balalaika but great literature, music, and art. I highly aI appreciate' caring and sincere attitude, which makes Valley discussions on American literature and history in class so enjoyable. The experience I get at Valley is precious, and I am looking forward to passing my knowledge of the U.S. higher education and culture onto my students in Russia when I come back."



Heidy Molina

Global Undergraduate Exchange Program Student

Sponsor: U. S. Department of State

Home Country: Dominican Republic

"I have had a good experience at Mississippi Valley State University as an international student. I enjoy being on campus and meeting new people. My courses are also interesting. A good experience. I am glad to be here."





Yuliana Sokolenko

Global Undergraduate Exchange Program Student

Sponsor: U. S. Department of State

Home Country: Ukraine

 "MVSU gave me the opportunity to develop my knowledge in my major and present my potential in science. The most important thing for me is discussing different questions with my professors who are masters in their fields. I appreciate the chance to study here, to understand my potential and gain personal career goals."





Gardenia Homsi

Global Undergraduate Exchange Program Student

Sponsor: U. S. Department of State

Home Country: Lebanon

 "Being part of International students in the USA, especially in Mississippi Valley State University, enriches my cultural awareness and opens different perspectives about different cultures with students at Valley and with the other international students. In addition, I was able to share my passion in Zumba with students and contributed to the community where I felt I am part of."






Merey Nurgali

Global Undergraduate Exchange Program Student

Sponsor: United States State Department

Home Country: Kazakhstan

"Studying at MVSU has allowed me to experience American culture, be involved in various college activities. But the most important is that it gave me the lifelong friends I will be in contact with even after I leave."