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For international food, students prefer Uptown over campus

By Ellen Stenstrom, For The Miami Student

Each year Miami welcomes an increasingly diverse student body from around the world, which leads to a heightened effort to improve dining variety on-campus.

Some international students, however, feel Miami's efforts aren't living up to the off-campus locations available.

More than 1,500 Miami students are from China alone. Chinese students YuJia Guo and Jiayu Zheng expressed their discontentment with the quality of food offered on campus.

"We're from China so we think the stir fry is better [in China] … it has vegetables and seafood. I think it's more healthy," said Zheng, a first-year.

"Compared to China, it's not good," Guo said.

According to the Office of International Student and Scholar Services, 1,813 international students from 77 different countries were enrolled at Miami in 2014 - a 36.9 percent increase from 2013.

With this sizable international student body comes the demand for a more diverse food selection as well, both on campus and Uptown.

Currently, there are six locations with internationally inspired dining options, including Mein Street Mongolian & Asian Grill at Armstrong and the Asian Market at Dividends.

Zheng said many of the restaurants Uptown offer better Asian food than on campus.

"The Chinese people are cooking it and they know what Chinese food is," Zheng said.

On the other hand, the Miami dining staff believe firmly in the current efforts to create culturally diverse options.

"I think that we do a great job of providing a large variety of tasty, healthy, nutritious food for all of Miami students, and that includes the international population," said Mary Barrera, manager of culinary services.

She discussed recent improvements and additions made by Miami, including the new express items at Pacific Rim and the opening of Garden Commons with made-to-order and express stir-fry.

Beyond campus, Uptown Oxford has a variety of international food, including Chinese, Korean, Indian, German and Mexican options.

Evon Lin is the manager of both Tea Cha House and Phan Shin Chinese and Thai, two popular locations for international students.

She noted the recent increase of Asian restaurants in Oxford - from three to seven - as a reflection of Miami's growing Asian population.

"Every semester we put five to six new items on the menu specifically for the Asian students," Lin said. "I do randomly go around, talk to them and ask them how the meal is."

Miami and the Oxford community continue to strive for improvement. Barrera emphasized the importance of students speaking up and making suggestions for new food.

She spoke of an Indian student association that contacted her and inspired an effort to incorporate some of their ideas.

"If there's an area that a group feels we are lacking or we could improve, we are certainly open to talking with them and getting recipes or getting ideas or doing a special dinner at one of our buffet locations," Barrera said.