Sometimes, it's instructive to listen to someone from a half a world away talk about Southwest Minnesota State. They tend to see things through different eyes.
Meet Karen Huang and Jaynes Chang, two students from Taipei, Taiwan who are part of a 21-student contingent from that Asian country here to complete their MBA degree.
They came to SMSU this past August, and will return in August 2014. Upon arrival, they had all completed four graduate courses in Taiwan. They will take a total of 24 MBA credits in a year at SMSU ? nine in the fall and spring, and six in the summer of 2014.
The agreement came about when SMSU was approached about collaborating with Minghsin University of Science and Technology in Taipei. It had a relationship with another university in Minnesota, but the Taiwan college was looking for a smaller, safer environment for its students in the program.
Graduate Office Director Cori Ann Dahlager and Dean of the College Business, Education and Professional Studies Dr. Raphael Onyeaghala traveled to Taiwan last March to cement the agreement. It appears to be a collaboration that will last a long time.
Both Huang and Chang have been in the U.S. before, but not the Midwest. They've been watching the leaves turn, and they've noticed the dryness of the air. "We have more humidity in our country," said Huang, who said she's had bloody noses because of the lack of humidity recently.
Huang's family owns a pharmaceutical company in Taiwan, and she hopes that earning her MBA will help her if she eventually joins the family business.
She would like to try her hand at speech pathology. "That is my goal, but if that does not work out I will continue with the family business," she said.
Chang is interested in international trade. She would like to stay in the U.S. for a year after receiving her MBA, if possible. "I'd like to get some experience, then go back to Taiwan," she said. "I'd like to start my own businesses."
The two are roommates during their time at SMSU, and both would like to volunteer during the December-January holiday break. "I am a Christian, so I'd like to volunteer at a church," said Chang. She's attended services at several churches in Marshall, including Assembly of God, Grace Life and Evangelical Free. She looks forward to "returning to Taiwan and sharing my testimony," she said.
Huang would like to volunteer at a hospital, probably in Chicago, she said.
A couple of weeks ago they were at the Mall of America and purchased some winter clothing. They've heard the stories; seen some photos. "The weather has been hard to adjust to here," said Huang. Winters in Taiwan mean rain, they said. They have no idea what to expect this winter.
They are enjoying their experience at SMSU. What has struck them so far? The ARAMARK food service people, who have asked them what they'd like to eat and made some special accommodations along the way. They like the accessibility of the professors, and the fact you can talk with them one-on-one at any time.
"We both like to try different things," said Huang. "We like volleyball, and we love to exercise." The two have pedaled their way around town on bikes borrowed from Residential Life. They like the bike paths, and the maps that are available at the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce.
"Transportation is convenient," said Huang. They missed their bus on one occasion and were briefly marooned at Wal-Mart. "We went and talked to people, they helped us." They nod and smile when you mention "Minnesota Nice." They know what it's about.
Community support of the university has also struck them. "The college is a big part of the town. It seems like the town is very supportive ? 'believe in brown,'" said Chang.
They communicate with their families through LINE, a communications app, and are enjoying immersing themselves in the Midwest culture. They appreciate the supportive environment of the university, and the community.
Perhaps their favorite thing so far? "It was at a fire party," said Huang. They both tried to describe the three ingredients that make up the sweet treat. Someone said the word "s'mores," and their eyes brightened and they excitedly said "Yes! Yes!"
"They are super good," said Huang.