While the International Welcome Picnic at MU had an air of a fresh start for most, it also acted as a reunion of sorts for the Praharajes from Odisha, India.

Sweta Praharaj, 23, is starting her graduate degree in computer science. She is joining her sister, Smita Praharaj, who is earning a doctorate in mathematics 8,000 miles from home.

“This is a very international-friendly university,” Smita Praharaj said. “The student organizations are very active. It feels very inclusive to be in Mizzou.”

Happy faces were the theme of the day Tuesday as friends and families of incoming international students got together for a day of food and fun at the MizzouRec.

Among a diverse group of people from all across the globe, there seemed to be a stunning similarity. Many said Missouri’s welcoming nature, beautiful landscape and the feeling of security that MU exudes had them excited. People interacted with representatives of various campus organizations while having a bite of their pizza. The star attraction of the day, though, seemed to be Truman the Tiger, who didn’t tire from endless photo requests.

William Stackman, vice provost for student affairs, said international attendance is up, reaching almost 2,200, with 300 of them being incoming students. Stackman credited MU’s strong programs and academic reputation for the growth.

“The international students seem to have found a home here and seem to be very happy,” he said.

Michelle White from England, mother of incoming psychology major Neve White, said MU seemed far prettier than Manchester. When asked if she had any concerns about her daughter moving to a new country, she said, “Yeah, obviously, there’s that it is so far away. But I think the college has a very good international resource, and American universities seem a lot more aware of inclusion. In England, I feel kids go and they can be quite isolated at times. There’s a very good infrastructure for support.”

Heidi Kunzel from Brazil, whose daughter, Karen Kunzel, 18, joined the Trulaske College of Business as an undergraduate student, had high praise for her daughter, whom she described as very independent and outgoing.

While most parents were there to rejoice their child’s success, it was a different story for Myoung Jin Nam and family. Nam, 44, moved to Columbia with his wife and two children from South Korea to pursue a graduate degree in public administration. His 14-year-old daughter, Maria Nam, was excited to start school at Smithton Middle School, while his wife, Josephine Park, was thrilled at the idea of not having to work for a couple of years.

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