Animesh Panda has visited cities around the globe – in his home country of India, in New Zealand and now in the United States, where he is an exchange student at the University of Missouri–St. Louis this semester. Two weeks ago he checked one more destination off his list: Jefferson City, Missouri.
“I had been wanting to go there for a while, and International Education Day at the Capitol offered me the opportunity,” said Panda, who is pursuing his master’s degree in business administration from Auckland University of Technology. “Learning about the history of Missouri was an enriching experience, and witnessing the House of Representatives in action was another highlight of the day.”
He and fellow UMSL scholar Jianyu Wang were two of about 300 international students statewide who gathered in Missouri’s capital city April 11 to explore the region’s history and politics – and to send a message to lawmakers.
“It was a great way to teach international students about our political processes as well as a reminder to our legislature of the big impact that these students play in our local economy,” said Jennifer Amatya, who works in International Studies and Programs at UMSL and accompanied Panda and Wang on the trip alongside fellow staff member Gabriela Renteria-Poepsel.
In March, Amatya traveled to Washington D.C. to represent UMSL at Advocacy Day, an opportunity for international education professionals to lobby Congress on behalf of international students. She and others gathered data to show the economic impact international students bring to the U.S. as well as what Amatya describes as the “social diplomacy” that occurs at a grassroots level when students from around the world interact in a classroom.
“I’ve worked in international education for almost seven years, and I’ve seen so many Missouri students touched by international students in profound ways,” said Amatya, who earned her master’s degree in public policy administration from UMSL in 2013. “I’ve seen strong friendships formed and difficult conversations had about religion, culture, politics and more.”
Read more in the UMSL Daily.