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Photo by Jim Tate In the photo, Dr. May Lee Moua-Vue serves as director of international student services and global studies.

In many ways, Dr. May Lee Moua-Vue is a surrogate mother for international students at Southwest Minnesota State University.

Moua-Vue is in her second year at university as Director of International Student Services and Global Studies, and after a year navigating the limitations of COVID-19, she is looking forward to a more ‘normal’ experience as she helps international students adapt to SMSU Me

It welcomes 66 first-year international students this academic year. Counting the transfer students and 17 MBA graduates from Taiwan, there are approximately 90 new international students on campus. The total number of international students is approximately 177, she said.

This year international freshmen represent 14 different countries, with Ethiopia leading the way. “Jamaica, Indonesia, Portugal, Tanzania – they are from all over the world,” she said. This number is a big increase from a year ago.

SMSU was ranked the safest campus in Minnesota a year ago “And that’s important for international students,” she said. “They look online and find rankings. SMSU ranks in the top seven in the country in terms of affordability for international students. We offer quality education, in a safe environment where everything you need is right here. We have a “Great community transit system that is free for students and allows them access to groceries, ethnic restaurants and grocery stores. That partnership with the Marshall Area Transport Service has been great.”

International students from SMSU have an economic impact of $ 14.1 million in the area and support 21 jobs, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators. “Some of the international students come here never stepping on campus,” she said. “This is a big step to travel around the world. They come without family members, without being accompanied by anyone. ”

International students arrived on campus on August 16 for guidance.

“When they arrive (at Minneapolis airport) we arrange a fare with nearby hotels for them,” she said. “Then we send a bus to pick them up and bring them to SMSU for guidance.”

International students have concerns that most students do not face, she said. “This year, for the first time, we are working with a mobile phone company to get those phones. Their phones will not work here, and they arrive and have not called home. There is a lot of anxiety and distress. associated with it.

“Moreover, they do not know anyone here, and they have to rebuild their support system, make new friends. One of their biggest fears is who to rely on. There are many cultural differences as well. It’s hard for them to get close to the locals. What are the signs of making new friends? What are the dating suggestions? They all have to navigate these things, “ Tha Moua-Vue.

Domestic students take for granted many things that international students struggle with.

“Living in living rooms, food, mother’s lack of cooking, fashion and the four seasons are a few,” she said.

Several church groups and individuals in Marshall make quilts for international students each year.

“We have wonderful partnerships with them, and the students are very grateful,” Tha Moua-Vue.

She embraces her role as “Mother on campus. I could be an older sister or aunt. I am their best promoter and advocate. I am the first to wish them well, and I also tell them we have high expectations.”

She comes to SMSU from Xavier University in Cincinnati. “Working with international students is my passion,” she said. “I have an international background – my family came here from Laos during the Vietnam War, I was a refugee. I can relate to their needs and concerns. The best part of my job is talking to students from all over the world. “This is amazing. They teach me as much as I teach them.”

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