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International Influences

KSMU is bringing you a month-long series called Diversity Dialogues as part of Black History Month. This week, we examine international influences in the Ozarks. KSMU's Emily Nash talked with several international members of the community and reports their perspectives on the issue.

When you think of diversity, perhaps you think of the variety of international influences and cultures around us.

We asked several members of the international community to give me their perspectives on the influences they have in the Ozarks.

" My name is Pascal Hamon and I am the ESL instruction Specialst at Missouri State University. Being a foreigner or having a different perspective, especially at a university gives you a lot of opportunities, because faculty members are usually very interested in other perspectives. Because they teach so many local students that having a few foreigners in there will bring something new to their class. So, I always tell my students, you know you have to use that. Use your heritage and your background to kind of stand out of the crowd and say. 'I am coming from this different place and I have this different story to tell.' "

International Students at Missouri State talk about their experience living here.

Armelle Dassin is a junior from the Ivory Coast and Kelechi Iheukurmere is a freshman from Nigeria.

Armelle Dassin speaks first.

"People get to ask you a lot of questions...questions you would never imagine that you would meet other people."

"People think because you are from a country or whatever, you don't know like about America or about anything that is going on here. But I think, we actually know more about this country than most Americans because before you come here you have to inform yourself about where you are going what's going on around you. So I think that is the biggest misconception."

"I think most of the time it is the language barrier because they cannot understand the accent, which I totally understand. I even have trouble understanding other people. So I can imagine how it is even more difficult for someone who has never met an international student who is not familiar with all the languages I can understand how it can be tough."

"Some people I have been received quite well, but some people like you still have some people who are still not open to such diversity and new cultures so they still hold back. Most of them are from small towns. And in their towns they don't have black people. And then its like, I'm an international student so that's even more diversity."

Yolanda Lorge is the president of Grupo Latino Americano.

Lorge and Hamon explain why international perspectives and influences are important to a growing community.

"Now with Global Economy, and with countries being more and more interconnected, its uh very very important and helpful to be able to have a knowledge about other cultures of other countries, their systems, their histories, and certainly about their people. But now, those countries are coming here, meaning their people. And so, you have a contact as customers, as clients, as patience, from diverse groups, that come from other countries and therefore from other cultures. And so, it is very helpful, if you have a knowledge of where they come from and certainly a certain knowledge of their culture."

"I don't think we can honestly survive without considering multiple perspectives. You know it we stay on one idea of what the world is and where we are going, we are going to head straight for the wall. Because we have to acknowledge that there are other people out there that think differently and live differently and we need to learn what they do and can learn from us as well. And there is to be some exchange. If it doesn't exist, we cannot live together. I mean it just is not going to work."

"It s a process for the community, because in this case it has been almost suddenly, talking about you know states like California, Texas, New York in which generations and generations they have been exposed to new people in immigrants and so forth. In this area, it is of course something that has been happening like I said in the last decade even. I have seen a great change, for the most part for the better in the reception, in the acceptance and even if we want to use this term that uh, we should be using, tolerance, you know of people of different from the uh, established community, You know, just see it as a natural growth, as a natural evolvement of things, and then you don't feel forced. We don't like that. Nobody likes that. So just go with the flow."

Join us next Wednesday as we continue our month long series, Diversity Dialogs.

We'll look at Diversity Policies like affirmative action in the Ozarks.

I'm Emily Nash for KSMU News.