From Nairobi to Duluth

International student achieving her dreams at UMD.

Gloria Tom arrived home from her studies at a university in Kenya, and saw the envelope as soon as she opened the door. She rushed to tear it open. 

It wasn’t much longer before she was on a plane. She looked out the airplane window and thought, “I’m really going to the United States.” Her nerves and excitement kept her wide awake on each of the three planes during her 30-hour journey to Minnesota. 

Tom is an international student at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) and the path to getting here wasn’t simple. She grew up in Nairobi, Kenya with her parents and two brothers. “After high school, I wanted to study in the U.S.,” she says. “I had this innate feeling of wanting to explore the world.” 

Gloria Tom posing for a photo in the sun.

She did everything alone: taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), taking an English test, applying for a student visa, and filling out the application for colleges in the U.S. “When I received the student visa I was super happy, all this work paid off,” she says. “It was a breath of relief.” 

UMD was not on Tom’s radar until she met a UMD alumnus in Kenya while taking her English test. He told her about his experience at UMD and she decided to apply. The process took one year, so she attended a university in Kenya while she waited for her student visa.

Tom is now a senior majoring in industrial engineering. She was drawn to the program because it aligned with her career goals. “I want to work on the human factors side, process improvements, and oversee the safety of workers,” she says. Tom strives to work with a company that deals with safe sustainable energy.

In order to gain experience in her field, Tom worked as an industrial engineering intern in Superior, Wisconsin, the summer of 2023. She worked on documenting what systems work and suggesting improvements for the company. She made sure there was safety gear for the employees, and she handled approvals and training processes. 

Apart from her studies, Tom is involved on campus. She is an International Student Services (ISS) intern going on her second year. She loves to foster relationships and connect with incoming international students. In this role, she helps with events and keeps track of documents.

She is currently the president of the International Club. She was drawn to the position “because I am an international student and I enjoyed their past events,” she says. Tom wants to create a welcoming environment for other incoming international students while pursuing her corporate goals.