Africa: International Students Bring Multitude of Benefits

Washington — Coming to the United States to study can help foreign students become globally minded leaders, says Ann Stock, U.S. assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.

Stock helped kick off International Education Week by releasing the 2012 Open Doors Report during a November 13 briefing at the National Press Club in Washington. The report is an annual survey that tracks trends in international education. It is produced by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

During the 2011-2012 academic year, the report found, the number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities increased by 6 percent to a record high of 764,495.

"Today's youth are tomorrow's leaders," Stock said. "International education creates strong, lasting relationships between the United States and emerging leaders worldwide. Students return home with new perspectives and a global skill set that will allow them to build more prosperous, stable societies."

Despite their impressive numbers, international students still constitute less than 4 percent of all students enrolled in higher education in the United States, the report says.

Many international students come to the United States from China -- some 25 percent. Other nations leading the way in sending students are India (13 percent) and South Korea (nearly 10 percent). Thanks to Saudi Arabian government scholarships, students from that country now make up 4.5 percent of the international students studying in the United States.

Stock noted that women represent 44 percent of the international students in the United States.

California attracted the most international students -- 100,000 this year -- followed by New York, Texas, Massachusetts and Illinois. International students study in all 50 states.

Many international students, nearly 22 percent, come to the United States to study business and management.

"International students are changing the look and business model of American public universities," Stock said.

U.S. STUDENTS STUDYING ABROAD

The number of U.S. students studying abroad is slowly increasing, according to the report. Of the 273,996 U.S. students studying overseas in the 2010-2011 academic year, most went to the United Kingdom, followed by Italy, Spain, France and China, according to the report. Even so, there was a significant increase in the number of Americans studying in "nontraditional" destinations such as Brazil, Costa Rica, India and South Korea.

Many U.S. campus leaders encourage their American students to have an international experience before graduating; Open Doors reported that 33 campuses had study-abroad participation rates of more than 70 percent of their student body.

"We must redouble our efforts to encourage universities to make studying abroad a reality for American students," Stock said, noting that a survey of 1,000 executives conducted by Fortune, a global business magazine, found that 65 percent thought global awareness was a key for success in business.

International Education Week is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education with the goal of promoting programs that prepare Americans for a global environment while attracting future leaders from abroad to study, learn and exchange experiences in the United States.

Information about International Education Week is available on a Department of State website.

For more about the Open Doors report, see the Institute of International Education.

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