Cold weather, safety, academics: UMN Asian international students share reasons for U enrollment

In 2017, more than 6,000 international students from Asia attended the U.

Youngouk Oh poses for a portrait at St. Anthony Village Central Park on Sunday, Sept. 1. Oh is an international student from South Korea.

Nur B. Adam

Youngouk Oh poses for a portrait at St. Anthony Village Central Park on Sunday, Sept. 1. Oh is an international student from South Korea.

Jiang Li

Yixuan Ding, 22, an accounting graduate student at the Carlson School of Management, left Sun Yat-Sen University in China, packed her belongings and boarded her Minneapolis-bound flight on Aug. 11 to start her new life at the University of Minnesota.

Ding is among many University international students who left their home country to seek a new experience in the United States — which many say is a vastly different culture.

As of 2017, about 80% of the more than 6,000 University international students came from Asian countries, according to data from the University’s International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS). Though they moved from the same continent, their reasons for coming to the University are hard to pinpoint and vary from student to student.

Even though many dread Minnesota’s cold winters, Ding said she is excited to experience the season.

“I have been in Guangzhou, a city of southern China for about four years, where there is no snow in winter,” Ding said. “So, I’m looking forward to the beautiful snow in Minnesota’s winter.”

Youngouk Oh, a 25-year-old University economics student from South Korea, also said he is looking forward to the cold. 

“Actually, I don’t like the hot and muggy weather. But as you already know, the weather is freezing cold in Minnesota. I like that,” Oh said.

Besides Minnesota’s well-known chilling weather, the University’s academic reputation and career-oriented programs also drive many Asian international students to pursue better career and academic success.

“My decision to study in the University of Minnesota stemmed from a recommendation [from an upperclassman],” said Boi Pham, a Vietnamese student pursuing a degree in Business and Marketing Education. “But, to nail down the cornerstone that established my pursuit, it would be my realization of the potentials that this University holds.”

Beyond academics, safety is also a factor in many international students’ consideration. 

“I’m quite satisfied with the life in [the University] so far because I feel like Minneapolis is a safe city compared to other cities in the U.S.,” Oh said.

Christy Wang, an 18-year-old Chinese freshman, also shared some of the same thoughts.

“As an international student away from home, safety is the first thing I worry about,” Wang said. “Minnesota is one of the safest states in the U.S. This is probably the biggest reason I choose to stay here for another four years.”

The University holds a variety of activities each semester to help international students deal with culture shock and experience in American culture. The events often win high praise among many international students.

“It’s quite nice, because I could meet diverse friends and know lots of information that I need to know,” Oh said. “To be honest, I feel like there are lots of organizations in the University to support the students who are unfamiliar with this University or suffer from diverse tough situations. It’s quite impressive.”

Fai Slisatakorn, a 21-year-old student from Thailand, said she is a Gophers event lover and has now become a fan of American football.

“I went to the football game on the first match of this season,” Slisatakorn said. “It was crazy and now I love watching it.”

ISSS is a popular resource specifically for the international community. It offers intercultural training and events for students throughout the semester, and it helps them build links between different communities on campus.

This fall, ISSS launched a number of events like “International Tea Time,” “All About American Healthcare Session” and “How to Build Friendships with Americans.”

“So far, so good. I love [it] here,” Slisatakorn said about the University. “People are just nice, and the city is beautiful.”