International Student Finds Strength in Helping Others

May 11, 2016

After Mariam Alamiri’s first day at Michigan State University, she wasn’t sure she would ever be able to fit in and overcome the cultural barrier that comes with being an international student. In fact, she wanted to go home–but she didn’t.

Four years later, Alamiri has graduated with honors as a 2015-2016 MSU Homecoming Court representative and a national recipient of the prestigious Homer Higbee Award for her work with the international student community. Not only was she able to find her place in Spartan Nation, but she found her purpose in helping others.

“She is somebody who just welcomes you with a huge heart,” said Maggie Chen Hernandez, the associate director of the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions (OCAT) and coordinator of the Mosaic Multicultural Unity Center. “She has an incredible mind. After graduation, she will be not just successful, but successful in the way that she’s going to inspire others. She already does!”

A native of Saudi Arabia, Alamiri met the man who is now her husband during her first semester at MSU through a mentorship program for international students. At that time, he was a Homecoming Court representative and she says she always had dreamed of carrying on his legacy.

Alamiri’s now-husband also introduced her to MSU’s Multi-Racial Unity Living Experience

(MRULE) and Inter-Cultural Aide (ICA) programs. She trained as an ICA in her sophomore year at MSU. As an ICA, she said she was able to use the initial challenges she overcame as an international student as a platform to help those in similar positions. Alamiri said her favorite part of the job is being able to provide that support to students and see their reaction. 

Alamiri (third from right) poses with her husband (fourth from right) and Spartan friends from across the globe.

Alamiri (third from right) poses with her husband (fourth from right) and Spartan friends from across the globe.

Chen Hernandez, who also serves as senior coordinator for the ICA program, said MSU in general has been very fortunate to have a student like Alamiri.

 “She embraces so much of what we’re looking for in ICAs,” Chen Hernandez said. “We consider ICAs to be academic and social role models for students. As an international student, she comes with all of this wealth of experience as well as perspective that we’re always needing in the ICA program. And she came to us wanting to learn more.”

 Alamiri said that her experience working with the ICA program at MSU doesn’t stray far from what she hopes to do for the rest of her life: Serve others. A human resources management major in the Broad College of Business and the College of Social Science, Alamiri said she hopes to start a nonprofit organization in her home country that will continue her work helping others. In June, she will return home to Saudi Arabia to be with her husband, something that she said she’s very excited about.

Alamiri has relished her role representing the university in a variety of capacities–a responsibility she takes very seriously. She attributes her success on campus to her desire to do things to help other people, not just build a resume.

“Take that personal interest out of the equation, and you’re going to gain a lot more.” Alamiri said. “I’ve learned so much about myself. I’ve learned about what I want to do with my life and now I’m graduating with honors. I’ve learned so many things that are very important to me, so I am a winner, but I was able to help so many people win along the way.”

As for her goals for the future? 

“My purpose in life is to be here to help others,” she said.

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