International Students’ unique experience at MSU

Transitioning to a new city independently, let alone a country, is a difficult feat for anyone. With over 1,700 international students enrolled at Minnesota State from roughly 100 different countries, the Kearney International Center is one of the first stops for international students.

MSU is ranked ninth in the nation in international student population among master’s institutions according to the Open Doors Report. One of the main reasons for that is affordability.

“Our price point is attractive to socio-economic classes around the world. We are safe. It’s a big little city,” Jacy Fry, Director of Kearney Center for International Student Services at MSU, said. 

Affordable, yes However, financial struggles remain.

“I think students are finding themselves in some financial crunches, and just getting used to the new environment,” Fry said. “The pandemic has done some damage to different cultures and economies across the world so maybe their currency isn’t exchanging quite as well as it used to.”

One barrier international students face that domestic students don’t is workplace limitations. Full-time students are allowed to work on campus for a maximum of 20 hours. With campus wages varying, financial hardship can still be an obstacle.

Destined Sehgbean, an international student from Liberia, is an advocate for international students among his peers and aims to educate those who may not know much of what international students experience daily.

“We need to have these kinds of conversations so that you can understand international students and their unique perspective,” Sehgbean said. “A lot of domestic students didn’t know that international students can only work on campus.”

Limited to work opportunities, many international students rely on friends or family to help fund their education. Aside from work, food insecurity and the culture shock regarding the American diet also come into play. 

“When you’re an international student you’re in a new environment, and you have difficulty getting the food you’re used to,” Sehgbean said.

Hosting cultural nights put on by students from that country monthly, MSU also hosts the annual International Festival in the fall. 

“I know that international students are eager to get to know American students. They didn’t come here to just hang out with students from their own country,” Fry said. “I wish more people would take that chance and talk to them, introduce yourselves, welcome them here. You might find a new friend.”

To combat the newness an international student might face attending the second largest university in the state, KIC partners with many departments on campus that seek to include international students in campus life and the community.

Language barriers in the classroom also can be daunting for new international students.

“I see that international students don’t participate much in class because they feel like they don’t have the right voice to say or add as much as the American students,” Sehgbean said. “The purpose of being in the U.S. is to learn and to interact. Many international students come from countries that speak different languages so that barrier can create feelings of insecurity, and anxiety.”

Understanding that their experience is different than the average domestic student’s is a message Sehgbean wants to spread.

Aspiring to become an immigration lawyer one day, he said he believes that his experience coming to America can help him connect with others like him.

“I understand the different challenges that immigrants go through here getting permanent resident status and getting citizenship. I want to help people in my cycle to get the help they need to stay in the U.S.,” Sehgbean said.

Header Photo: Ethiopia leads the international student population with 314 students as MSU ranks ninth nationally in international student population among master’s institutions, according to the 2022 annual Open Doors Report.

Write to Julia Lin at

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