WASHINGTON — Seeking higher education in foreign countries is one of the ways through which nations are able to foster vibrant and beneficial relationships with each other. According to Project Atlas, there were 974,926 international students studying in the US in the 2014-2015 school year. With close to a million people coming from all across the world for education in the US, it is undeniable that international education builds bridges between global communities.
“The world seems like a much smaller place when you have travelled to other countries and experienced different cultures but realize that the drive for education is almost the same in these diverse locales,” said Kwame Gayle, an international educator and graduate student at American University.
“I began my undergrad at Macalester College in Minnesota almost a decade ago and coming from Jamaica, that was my first entry into the world of international education,” said Gayle, 28.
“Since then, I have been to South Africa on a study abroad program, then I went to teach in Japan as a part of the JET program, I followed that up with a year and a half teaching in Botswana as a part of the Princeton in Africa Fellowship. Most recently I spent the last 4 months in Myanmar as an educator at a university monastery.”
Though many international students return home after graduation, there are others who would prefer to live and work in the United States. According to the Institute of International Education, research suggests a low transition rate into the U.S. labor market among international students. The limited availability of work visas and the difficulty in transitioning from a student visa to a more permanent visa is cited as the main barrier.
“While in Myanmar, I noted that many students would love to come and be educated in the U.S. but their primary concerns are the cost of education and what they are going to do in the U.S. after graduation,” Gayle said.
Though the number of international students in the U.S. has increased in recent years, the U.S. share of the global international student population has decreased from 23 percent in 2000 to 19 percent in 2013, per the Migration Policy Institute.
“I’ve been thinking about going to America to do grad school,” said Omar Hall, an undergraduate international student in Germany, “but I might just stay in Europe for the same reason why I chose to come here for undergrad in the first place.”
“Public universities are free for even international students in Germany,” Hall said, “and that was part of the reason why I chose to leave Jamaica and come here. Furthermore, the EU is making it easier for international students to transition into work force here.”
The European Union as well as Canada have indicated that they are putting measures in place to ensure that international students have an easier time transitioning into the labor force.
“I’m happy that other countries are doing that,” said Corey Scott, an international student at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, “I hope the U.S. can do the same because as a senior, the prospect of graduating not being able to stay and work is very daunting.”