SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — November is International Students Month. To celebrate, Missouri State University’s International Office is hosting its annual Tour of the Globe, a cultural bazaar for the community to see the students and for students to share their cultures.

“The music and the food that will be coming from the Nigerian room,” said Evi Otungi, adding that Nigeria will be the life of the party at the event this year.

“We love to plan, we love to party,” she said.  

Otungi came to the U.S. in December of 2021 to pursue a Master of International Affairs degree.

“It’s one of the best decisions I have made,” Otungi said.  

At first, she was skeptical but says the diverse environment at Missouri State made her feel welcomed.

“I didn’t feel so alone,” Otungi said. “Missouri State allows you to express your culture and be yourself. There are so many events where you get to see international students participate. This inclusivity made me feel relaxed and happy to be here.”

Missouri State has about a thousand international students on campus and 800 more attending classes virtually.

“The numbers have for sure increased,” said Daezia Smith, the leadership program specialist for international programs at MSU. “These are more than what we have ever really had before.”

Nationwide, international students contributed $28.4 billion to the U.S. economy in 2021 and filled more than 306,000 jobs.

According to the latest data from the Department of Homeland Security, there are 22,582 international students in the state of Missouri. Around 58% of them pursuing a master’s degree, 21% a bachelor’s, and 14% a doctorate.

International students in Missouri contributed about $447 million to the economy in 2021. Missouri is home to students from all over the world, with a majority of them coming from Asia, which is the case for the country as well.

Smith says during the pandemic, the needs of students on campus changed.

“Which means we’ve really had to change things to promote their academic success, but also supporting their emotional well-being and their mental and social well-being while they’re here,” Smith said.

Some students, like Giang Duong, would say those efforts were successful.

“I was amazed by how MSU helps international students to be a part of the community and to engage in all the activities the school hosts,” Duong said.

Duong is from Vietnam and chose Missouri State to pursue her Master’s in Applied Communications. She hopes to pursue a Ph.D. and stay in Springfield after completing her education.

“It’s peaceful and then everyone is so friendly,” she said. “The school makes me feel that I am a part of that, a sense of belonging, that you belong somewhere. I think I belong to Springfield.”

Tour of the Globe is Friday, Nov. 4 at 5 p.m. in the Jim Morris Center. It’s free to attend. This year’s theme is “Festival of Festivals” and 20 countries will be represented.