Good education takes you places, literally and figuratively. There are students who have crossed national borders to study. Truly, the many benefits of an international education are well acknowledged — from gaining a competitive edge in the workplace and in society to becoming a better person. Studying abroad has become more popular and less intimidating over the past years. More and more private groups and persons are offering grants and scholarships, and more countries have relaxed their rules to accommodate more foreign students. Many countries like the US has established support centers and even on-campus employment to encourage foreign students to study there.
Latest data from UNESCO revealed that at least four million students went abroad to study as of 2012. The US hosts the most number of international students, which according to the 2014 records of the Institute of International Education, is now close to 900,000. Most students come from Asia. China, India and Korea make up the top three countries of origin. The question is why nations like the US are so passionate about international education? What are the reasons why colleges support international education? What is in it for them?
Teaching the lesson of diversity
Diversity is a very complex subject. It can’t exactly be taught, but it can be experienced. Understanding other people and respecting other’s beliefs, traditions, and even peculiarities are part of the process of diverse education. The US, just like most first-world countries, is a melting pot of all nationalities and races. Welcoming foreign students to their academic institutions give their citizens and students a better perspective of the world in general. Same goes with international students they are hosting.
A valuable investment
Hosting foreign students has costs. Be it hidden costs on study abroad or not, sure enough, they are worth taking. Take Germany for example. In 2011, they spent more than $2 billion to host some 160,000 foreign students. The value is in the 30% of international students who stayed on and worked for at least five years, sharing their talent and skills to the host country.
A boost to the economy
Aside from offering their skills and talents, foreign students also contribute to the economy of the host country. A study by the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors and the Indiana University Office of International Services showed the positive impact of foreign students to the national and state economies. For the academic 2011-2012, some 764,000 international students contributed more than $21.8 billion to the economy, creating nearly 300,000 jobs. For every seven enrolled foreign students, three jobs are created.
Immense cultural contribution
More than just the economic investment, the social and cultural contributions of foreign students are immense. The positive impact extends beyond the classroom to include groups and communities. Referring to a report by Universities Scotland, Professor Sir Ian Diamond acknowledges that the “true value of international students is much greater than can be quantified in monetary terms alone. It reaches into the communities beyond university walls and brings returns to Scotland as a nation.” International students introduce communities and societies to cultures foreign to them and make them love them just the same.
Positive impact to domestic students
Foreign students often say that among the benefits of studying abroad is meeting domestic students who show them life in a different campus. But that benefit works both ways. Domestic students learn from foreign students, too. They learn about history, tradition, and culture that they otherwise would not learn in the classroom and not fully understand. In the US, a foreign student is paired with a student-mentor who will helps with learning the language, arranges study groups, helps in making friends, and even assists in buying groceries. In the process, they build friendships and improve their social life as a whole.
Providing the competitive edge
Any new face in the crowd exudes some sort of threat. With the new sets of experiences, references, and backgrounds, any classroom with foreign students would naturally be more competitive. A new kid in town has something different to offer which everyone should benefit from. After all, one of the reasons why students study abroad is to gain a competitive edge so expect to get that from them, too.
Having a program for international students helps any nation keep track of people coming into their territory. In the US, the first thing that foreign students should do is to report to an international student adviser who will help a student maintain a lawful immigration status and handle all visa-related issues. If a student wants to apply for off-campus employment, advisers help with that too. The presence of a mentor or adviser should be a good way to convince your parents for an international study abroad if they are too scared and unsure with the idea.
Fulfilling a humanitarian responsibility
Education is a priority all over the world. It is the best way to invest in people. Host countries know this all too well and would be glad to help. Providing support for international education is a good way to show just how much a country believes in the abilities of people regardless of who they are or where they came from. Helping make people’s lives better by giving quality education to anyone who wants it should be the main reason why colleges support international education.
Inasmuch as foreign students benefit greatly from international education, so does a host country that creates a program just for them. Having foreign students around helps make the classroom more competitive, enables domestic students and local communities to learn about other cultures, and encourages everyone to gain a more positive perspective of the world. More than giving the economy a boost, the value of foreign students is their social and cultural contribution. They may not be of the same origin, but their true value makes them assets in the most crucial aspects.