It’s a 30-minute trip between University of Minnesota student Eric Hwang and his favorite snack from his home country in South Korea—Homerun Ball.
When he craves the popular chocolate-filled cookie snack, Hwang makes his way via public transportation to a St. Paul Korean shop: Kim’s Asian Market.
“Most of the snacks at the Korean market you can’t get anywhere else,” Hwang said.
Despite the inconvenience, some international students like Hwang take to ethnic markets in the Twin Cities to get their fix of home. For such students, the recent efforts from Student Unions and Activities to feature more products from different countries may bridge the gap between nostalgia and homesickness.
Starting in September, SUA will spotlight and expand its selection of snacks from different parts of the world at the Gopher Express locations on the Twin Cities campus, said Rachel Newman, the marketing manager for SUA. There are three Gopher Express locations: Coffman Union, the West Bank Skyway and the St. Paul Student Center.
“We’ve always stocked a lot of international snacks to serve all students,” Newman said. “We just thought that it would be a fun way to help all of our customers broaden their horizons and serve the international student population.”
The current snack selection at the Gopher Express includes products from Japan, China, the Philippines, Germany and Iceland, but going forward, the aim is to have more continents represented, Newman said.
Though the new products are yet to be determined, the selection process will largely depend on their availability from SUA vendors. However, SUA is taking suggestions from customers via suggestions boxes available at the cash registers, Newman said.
This initiative is part of a larger effort which began last year to coordinate periodical themes to highlight and expand different products available at the Gopher Express locations. The themes are developed by student managers at the retail locations and supported by full-time professional staff.
“Students bring ideas to the table, and we kind of follow their lead and support their ideas,” Newman said.
Though past themes were largely holiday-based, SUA is looking to further develop and coordinate more organized themes. For example, in April, the convenience store focused on sustainability for Earth Day, featuring philanthropic brands. Currently, the Gopher Express is featuring locally-made snacks, marked with a special tag.
In upcoming months, the Gopher Express will anticipate themes such as vegan awareness in November and healthy snacks in January.