Sense of community contributes to rising international enrollment

by Makayla Rinkenberger

Despite a small office staff and not enough funds to send recruiters overseas, the International Student Services office is increasing international enrollment.

“In 2001, we had about 110 to 120 students, international students on our campus, so since 2001 until now, we’ve increased our enrollment up to about 420-425,” Janet Hohenstein, director of International Student Services said.

MSUM boasts 420 international students from 61 countries, according to recent numbers from the Office of International Student Services. The six countries with the highest enrollments include Nepal, Nigeria, Japan, Ethiopia, Ghana and Korea.

Hohenstein is proud of these numbers, especially since the office lacks a formal recruitment base.

“Overall, I think our biggest tool for recruitment is our students,” Hohenstein said, adding the importance of keeping students happy.

Information Technology freshman Rojan Maharjan was encouraged to transfer to MSUM by a close friend.

He did not have it easy when he first came to the United States. He started out in Georgia, where he had to travel one and half hours by train to reach his university each day. He woke up at 5 a.m. for class at 8 a.m. He now appreciates Moorhead’s small-town feel.

Maharjan appreciates how small Moorhead is compared to Atlanta. Whether it is Wal-Mart or a restaurant, he likes how easy it is to get somewhere he needs to go, especially since he doesn’t yet know how to drive.

Since first arriving in the United States, Maharjan has noticed many cultural differences. One of them being driving.

“The culture is totally different here,” he said. “Everybody drives, and I rarely see people walking. In Nepal, people walk more than driving, and they only drive when they are going really far.”

One thing that helps with the cultural differences Maharjan encounters is the great community of international students that he has found in Moorhead. A community that made him want to come to MSUM in the first place.

Hohenstein also thinks students enjoy MSUM because Dragons are “Minnesota Nice.”

She loves telling the story of when she spoke to a student about his transfer to Moorhead. After asking him why he chose MSUM, when he had come from a warmer place,  his answer was simple: “It may not be very warm here but the people are warm.”

History freshman Mayu Ishikawa, from Tokyo, has experienced that warmth for herself.

“I’m so impressed by the kindness of people here,” she said.

Although she sometimes struggles in class with the content, or not understanding what professors say, she always finds people who try to help.

“It’s quite different from Japanese culture,” she said. “Japanese people get used to just listening, taking a note, and trying to do the exam well. But here, I have to communicate with many students, or with professors.”

Ishikawa is still learning and getting used to talking with classmates and asking questions, but it’s a difficulty she has already started to overcome.

Maharjan also found the peers and professors to be really caring, since they help him remain positive about his future. He also found a supportive community of Nepalese students here.

“There is a lot of pressure from my assignments plus work,” Maharjan said. “Sometimes they help me to figure out what’s going on… That is the awesome thing.”

The different kinds of food are another big transition for many international students.

“I miss [the] food,” Maharjan said. “What I used to eat and what I am eating right now is totally different.”

When comparing the food, he explained that American food is much sweeter and less spicy than back home.

Taichi Tomiyasu, a music major who came from Fukuoka, Japan, also enjoys his professors but not so much the food.

“I like [the] professors and people,” Tomiyasu said. “They care about exchange   students like me.”

When talking about his least favorite thing about MSUM, however, he said it was the food here.

“Salty foods are so salty and sweet foods are so sweet. It’s like extreme tastes,” he said.

Tomiyasu didn’t come here for the food though. He came, like many students, to pursue a dream. His dream is to improve his English and study music.

For Maharjan, his dream is three years away from fulfillment.

“My only dream is here, to be a graduate from here and bring my mom and dad here,” he said.

He looks forward to the day he can take a photo with his parents in his graduation cap and gown.

“My only dream is that,” he said.

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