Starkville, Miss.—On an overcast October day, Mai Hoang Quynh Le adjusted her hair dark brown hair and effortlessly posed for a picture in front of Mississippi State’s red-bricked Chapel of Memories.
Despite the dreary atmosphere, the international student’s timid smile brightened the photograph. She remarked on the peaceful nature of the Chapel, the weather, and began to recall her early days at MSU.
“I came here at first because of my brother,” she said. “He was a Ph.D. student in biochemistry. He talked to my parents and tried to convince them to send me here. I applied for scholarships, and I got them, so I decided to come.”
Mai noted that the most difficult challenge was the language barrier.
“When I first came here,” she said, “my English was not that good, so I couldn’t really make friends.”
As a result, her early days at MSU were marked with feelings of isolation.
”I was really lonely,” said the native of Vietnam. “I was shy, and I didn’t have a whole lot of friends. I hung out with my brother and my Vietnamese friends a lot.”
However, once Mai overcome her shyness, she began to enjoy her time at Mississippi State.
“I didn’t really go out of my comfort zone until the second or third semester I was here,” she said. “I was scared at first, but once I got used to it, it was really, really amazing.”
Mai began to fill her time by serving as a member of the Student Association and the Campus Activity Board. She has also been involved in the Financial Management Association. Currently, she volunteers at the university’s International Institute, is member of Beta Alpha Psi National Accounting Society and Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society.
She already holds undergraduate degrees in Business Administration and Chinese, and she is currently pursuing a third degree in Accounting. She said that she felt as if she was free to succeed in any academic field of her preference.
“I feel like here,” the senior student said, “if you really study, you will make a good grade in the class. In Vietnam, we have to choose the neighbor before we start the university, but here you have more chance to change your major around. When you know what you really want to do, you get to stick with it.”
As she gained confidence and began to step outside of her comfort zone, Mai found romance during her time at MSU.
“I met my boyfriend like a year and a half ago,” she said. “We got to study together for a final exam in April. That’s how we started meeting more often. Then we started having dinner together, going to the movies. Now, it’s been like a year and a half, and we’re still together.”
She said that she would advise any student who wants to study abroad to live in the moment and take advantage of the opportunities the experience has to offer.
“If I could do things differently, I would be more social, more friendly. If you really want to go to a new place, try to adapt yourself. Don’t think about what happened in the past.
A few more things:
What’s the last thing you ate?
A sausage biscuit
Who’s your favorite singer?
Elvis. Definitely Elvis Presley
Where’s your favorite place to hang out in Starkville?
The coffeehouse—929—on Main Street.
What’s the strangest thig you’ve ever been asked?
Are you Chinese?
Where’d you get that dress?