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Muslim Student’s Assumptions about Ole Miss Were Wrong

In Mississippi, where racial tensions have been known to be high at times, international student Lillian Maroua, a native of Sétif, Algeria made her journey to the campus of the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
“I was a little bit afraid of how people would react when they see me with my scarf (around my head),” Maroua said.
The university’s headlines of Obama’s re-election night protest, vandalism of the James Meredith’s statue, the university’s first African-American student and other prejudice against other minorities groups on campus would deter some students from ever setting foot on the Ole Miss campus.
After being in Mississippi, Maroua said that she soon realized that her hijab did not “exist” to the Ole Miss students she encountered.
“There are a lot of Muslims here,” Suad Patton-Bey, a Muslim Journalism student from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a close friend of Maroua, said.
DSC_3275“Starting next year, you can even major in Arabic,” Patton-Bey said. “Ole Miss is becoming very international, very open minded.”
Patton-Bey said that Maroua uses various opportunities to inform people about the Muslim faith.
“She does not mind telling people about her religion if someone asks her,” Patton-Bey said. “Things are changing (here). Slowly, but they’re changing.”
Maroua said that after being in Oxford for a while, she soon learned that the atmosphere was not so bad after all.
“We hope that we provide students a well-rounded education that can help them in the real world once they leave Ole Miss,” Regina George, Ole Miss International Programs Advisor, said.
Maroua was the first women to ever travel abroad in her family.
“I miss my family back home,” Maroua said. “But I know they are proud of me.”
DSC_3266After an 11 hour airplane ride from Algeria, Maroua arrived in America for the first time in August of 2013.
“I was really, really terrified,” said Maroua. “I was really tired and really hungry. I did not know a lot of people.”
Maroua was chosen out of 200 students for a scholarship to be part of the international students program at Ole Miss.
Patton-Bey said that Maroua is a unique person because she uses her opportunity in America as a chance to grow in her education.
Maroua did not meet people until her Ole Miss orientation session in August. There, she made friends with the help of her family and the international program advisors.
“We also provide workshops and cultural organizations to help with student development while they’re here,” said George. “We have Cultural Café every Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. during the fall and spring semesters in the Student Union Barnes and Nobles Café for international and American students to come and converse, relax, and wind down from the busy school week.”
Maroua was sad to leave Oxford in May, but she will take a lot from her experience of being in Mississippi.
Michael Fant is a journalism student at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media

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