By Kelsey Banas
The Meridian Times
Meridian Township is riding a wave of international diversity by encouraging and taking advantage of this big magnet for international talent called Michigan State University.
Meridian Township benefits from connections with Michigan State University where international students are renting apartments and purchasing homes.
According to the Office for International Students and Scholars, there were 7,161 international students in fall 2013. That was an increase of 8.5 percent from the year before.
“We like to think that by providing a welcoming atmosphere and providing a high quality of life in Meridian we will keep our international population here,” said Julie Brixie, Meridian Township treasurer.
A critical factor being built at MSU is the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams a nuclear science facility that will draw thousands of academic researchers as well as private companies to the area to use the unique equipment.
“Events are already being held on campus bringing people from all over the world in conjunction with this project,” said Marsha Madle, director of Meridian Community and Economic Development Services.
The Economic Development Corporation has been a sponsor for the last three years for the Chinese New Year held at Meridian Mall. The festival gives the international community a chance to participate in cultural activities and entertainment with student and professional performances.
The surge of international students has brought tremendous changes to the local economy. Yue Fang, Chinese international student at MSU, said she enjoys the Chinese restaurants and shopping East Lansing and Meridian has to offer.
Wan-Ting Huan, junior at MSU, disagrees. Studying abroad from Taiwan and living off-campus in The Lodges, Huan said she “gets bored at school very easily with barely anything to do.”
Huan said she never stays at school on the weekends and instead she travels. She has traveled to Canada to shop at bigger Asian markets and has made her way to Ann Arbor because it has a wider variety in restaurants than in East Lansing.
The township is not only benefiting economically, but also culturally. Rachel Nimsombun, manager of the Oriental Mart in East Lansing, said one reason the market has seen an increase in the international community is because MSU has admitted more Chinese students each year. According to the Office for International Students and Scholars, there are 4,383 international students from China.
Nimsombun said students shop at the Oriental Mart because it has more international goods compared to other grocery stores,Soundcloud Interview with Rachel Nimsombun
Fang finds it convenient that shops and restaurants are close to school and her apartment at the Hannah Lofts, where she lives with three other international students. “If we want to cook by ourselves we will go to the Oriental Mart where the flavor is much better than an American market,” said Fang.
In response to customer requests, Nimsombun orders more of the Chinese products that are not usually carried. Even though there is a large portion of customers in the international community, a lot are non-Asian and local customers that have been loyal shoppers for a long time.
One key factor contributing to the increase in the international population has been “MSU’s strategic and proactive recruitment of international students. In particular, the Chinese student population has been on a steep rise,” said Madle.
According to NASFA Association of International Educators, in 2014 7,839 international students brought more than $270 million of economic income to East Lansing. Also in 2014, MSU is ranked No. 1 out of all institutions in Michigan with the highest number of international students, a total of 7,704.
President of the Greater Lansing Chinese Association, Julie Jiang said in a Study Abroad in East Lansing video, they (Chinese students) really benefit the whole local community. They not only allow the local economy to flourish, they have also become a part of the local businesses. This allows economic growth while also creating jobs for themselves.
Some international students also brought their parents and their family members, which could add even more to the international community.
We know that a high percentage of international students live in Meridian Township and there are students who are renting apartments and also purchasing homes to live in, said Brixie.
“Meridian Township offers a fantastic quality of life for not only those who will be here for just a visit, but for those who will be looking to move here,” Madle said.