Famous World Personalities Who Were (Or Were Kids Of) International Students

Famous World Personalities Who Were (Or Were Kids Of) International Students

Famous World Personalities Who Were (Or Were Kids Of) International Students

Leaders, innovators, and catalysts of change are not born but made. Credit often goes to the environment that they grew up in and their experiences growing up. 

And when we talk about experiences, two things usually figure into what these people become: parental influence and education.

Many world leaders and other notable personalities that have affected change are products of the positive effects of globalization, particularly international education.

They are either international students themselves, or are children of those who chose to venture outside their own countries on the quest for quality education. Here’s a look at some of these famous figures.

MSM Unify Blog_Barrack Obama

Barrack Obama,
44th President of the United States


The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, grew up in a very international household. His father, Barack Obama Sr., came from Kenya, while his mother, Ann Dunham, came from Kansas. The two met as international students at the University of Hawaii before getting married.

Dunham, who became an anthropologist, worked extensively in international development and had a great influence on her son. Obama has described how his mother became the dominant figure in his formative years, stating that the values she taught him became his benchmark when it came to how he carried on in politics.

According to Janny Scott, author of A Singular Woman, a biography of Dunham’s life, her work foreshadows Obama’s in many ways. For instance, Dunham worked on a community development project in Java in 1979, five years before her son got involved in community development himself.

MSM Unify Blog_Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris,
49th Vice President of the United States


The current Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, is also the child of two international students. Harris’ roots can be traced back to Jamaica and India. Her parents both studied as international students at UC Berkeley in the ‘60s, met through a Black study group, and were activists during their time as students.

Harris’ father went on to become an economics professor, while her mother became a breast cancer researcher.

The first woman VP of the United States always credits her mother as the most important influence of her life. In a 2018 NY Times op-ed, Harris thanked her mother for “her commitment to improve health care” for everyone, which then pushed her to continue the fight for a better health care system.

Nikki Haley,
Former Diplomat and Former US Governor


Nikki Haley, the daughter of two Indian parents, was the first woman to serve North Carolina as its governor. She’s also a former ambassador to the United Nations.

Haley’s father first came to Canada after he received a scholarship from the University of British Columbia. After studying in Canada, he eventually got a professor post at South Carolina’s Voorhees College.

After she became the president of the UN Security Council in 2017, Haley said that her quality to speak bluntly and freely was influenced by her Indian parents, who told her to be great in whatever she does and make sure people remember her for that. According to her, her parents raised her to be strong.

MSM Unify Blog_Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi,
Social Activist


The famous social activist and Indian lawyer who preached about non-violence was also an international student during his time.

Mahatma Gandhi finished his law degree at the University College London before returning to his family in India. During his years as a student, he met and interacted with other vegetarians with various ideals and beliefs. The group included socialists, humanitarians, idealists, and even rebels. Being exposed to differing views eventually helped shape Gandhi’s own beliefs and his politics.

MSm Unify Blog_Vera Wang

Vera Wang,
Fashion Designer


The famous fashion designer of wedding dresses, Vera Wang, is the daughter of Chinese immigrants and grew up in a privileged environment in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. She also studied abroad in Paris, expanding her knowledge about contemporary European fashion.

Wang’s father first arrived in the United States as an international student. He studied chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the ‘40s.

He also loved high fashion, sending off his wife and daughter to Paris to buy clothes – inadvertently influencing her choice of career in the process. He would eventually fund his daughter’s bridal dress business, giving the world timeless pieces with the brand Vera Wang.


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