Bahamian exchange student grateful for USM study abroad experience

PINE BELT, Mississippi (WDAM) – The University of Southern Mississippi attracts not only locals but also people from near and far.

“There was an opportunity to get a good education and I took that opportunity and rode it,” said Ka’lon Duncanson.

Many know the main campus in the heart of Hattiesburg. However, Ka’lon Duncanson of Freeport, Bahamas invested in the opportunity to dive deep into marine study and scuba marketing at the Gulf Park campus in Long Beach.

“I went back home [and] I quit my job,” Duncanson said. “By then I had already applied to USM to work out the VISA process and I was back in America in December.”

You probably think Duncanson is a foreign student, which he is, but not of the traditional nature.

The university provides pre-departure preparation and on-site support, but Duncanson took a different approach.

Russ Willis, a management assistant teaching professor, said Duncanson went “all in.”

“So he came to the University of Southern Mississippi as an exchange student,” Willis said.

“He’s a graduate student at Southern Miss, so he’s not just here for a semester or a year because we have students who are here for shorter periods,” Willis added. “He just wanted to experience things like other American students, so he was really interested in pursuing a British degree.”

From the Bahamas to the Gulf Coast to studying business abroad in the UK. Duncanson said he didn’t really want to limit himself to study abroad.

“I just wanted to break down those walls and break those thoughts of ‘I can’t do this’ and show other international students that you can do it, if I can do it, you can,” Duncanson said. “That was a big part of it for me.”

“[I] I did a little crowdfunding and just believed in myself that I would go to London,” Duncanson added. “I just did what I had to do, I worked hard.”

Willis said Duncanson took chances and leveraged resources, and did just that…and more.

“He went to some … Westin plays, which I think are equivalent to a Broadway play, so he had never seen a major musical production like this, and he went to several of them and loved them,” Willis said.

Duncanson said Crusin’ the Coast and Hurricanes really brought him to the Gulf Coast, and when he’s not busy traveling and learning new things he’s busy with several student organizations, including one he founded himself.

“I started a marine conservation and diving group on campus about a year ago because I want to do my business degree there,” Duncanson said. “We like aquarium visits. During fall break we went to the New Orleans Aquarium. So we do a lot of aquarium visits.”

“We’re partners and we participate in the Mississippi State Extension program, they do monthly beach clean-ups, so we participate in that too,” Duncanson added.

Duncanson plans to complete his bachelor’s degree next year in hopes of expanding scuba diving in southern Mississippi and the United States

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