The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 2, 2012

Our View: International students enrich our community


The Free Press

— Every spring the international students attending Minnesota State University host a festival that showcases the foods and cultures of their native countries. The Mankato community responds enthusiastically, with many people in the area making the festival an annual priority so they can get their fill of ethnic food and entertainment.

The event is just one visible way of highlighting the diverse population of our city. Although students are often temporary residents who graduate and move out of the area, there has been a consistent flow of new international students to fill those spots in the community.

And the community is richer, both culturally and economically, because of it.

MSU has 768 international students this year. With students from 86 different nations, MSU ranked 38th nationally for international student enrollment in 2011.

As a result, the community has an opportunity to learn about people and places around the world through university events, conferences and simply by getting to know our neighbors. Many MSU international students were invited to join local families for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner last month.

Beyond the more global outlook that people gain when learning about different people and their cultures, the area has also benefited financially from being home to a large number of international students. The students and their families contributed $16.2 million to the Mankato economy during the 2011-2012 school year, according to Open Doors and the Association for International Educators. And the competition for those dollars is stiff with a total of $320 million contributed to Minnesota’s economy by those students.

The practical payoff of being good hosts to these visiting students is obvious when you crunch the numbers. When you add that element to the fact that having a diverse population means everyone gains a better understanding of our world, it’s a win-win situation that Mankato is home to such a rich variety of people.