International students are key to higher education
In this Friday, Sept. 18, 2015 photo, University of Connecticut sophomore Anyi Yang of Beijing pushes a button at a crosswalk outside her dorm dorm, in Storrs. A surge of students from China is leading U.S. universities to confront the challenges of integrating them more into American campus life, but the presence of international students enriches the college experience for everyone, the author writes. (Jessica Hill / AP) I often worry that our focus on domestic students and their needs is causing an entire, important demographic to feel forgotten and unwanted.
While domestic students are vital to the educational system in the United States, especially in higher education, international students are equally as important and necessary for the growth and enrichment of higher education programs.
College is not a requirement for success, but it can certainly help. Millions of students from all across the United States are graduating from high school every year, with many choosing higher education as their next step.
College plays a huge role in a person’s development; it is a place where many students are away from home, some for the first time, tasked with the goals of self-discovery and independence. During this time of growth, most students get the chance to interact with students who hold different identities from themselves.
It is during these years that students begin to discover themselves and the world in a different way. And while some students think that studying abroad is the only way to discover all that the world has to offer (and I am a huge advocate for studying abroad), I would challenge students to also tap into the cultural diversity that may already exist on their college campuses.
With international student enrollments on college campuses increasing overall, there is a huge opportunity for domestic students to learn from these students, and vice versa. By having international students and scholars on our college campuses, we are exposing our domestic students to new aspects of the world right from the classroom. Having cultural diversity allows students to learn how to collaborate and evaluate ideas that may differ from their own.
It is an important experience that impacts students far beyond the classroom. In today’s workforce, more and more companies are looking to hire students who are well-rounded thinkers and ambassadors of equity and inclusion. It is no longer solely about a student’s grade point average or if they graduated with honors. Students with community service and campus involvement experience, leadership skills and international competency are more desirable in our current world. While I acknowledge that academics are extremely important and vital to student development, there is more to life than academia. Academia along with personal development is a vital combination.
International students and scholars deserve the opportunity to study at American institutions should they so choose, and they should be welcomed. International students come here to be students. They come to study, grow, and learn; often hoping to take that knowledge back to their home countries.
Having international students on our college campuses can bring incredible richness. The welcoming of beautiful cultures and differing world views is vital to everyone’s holistic self-development. We should respect and love those who are different from us, appreciating all that they have to offer and seeing them for who they truly are.