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Students must “think globally” – International Education Week

An opportunity to explore study abroad, an introduction to new cultures and a rallying point for US universities to highlight the importance of international students to their campuses – all of these were reasons given to celebrate International Education Week 2018.

IEW 2018 aims to prepare Americans for a global environment as well as attract future leaders from abroad to study and exchange experiences in the US. Photo: Pixabay

IEW serves as a rallying point for US universities to focus attention on the country's internationalisation strategy

Held from November 12-16, IEW is a joint initiative by the US Department of State and the US Department of Education as part of efforts to promote programs that “prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences”.

“Education exchanges are among the most important tools in our diplomatic arsenal”

President of the Institute of International Education, Allan Goodman, emphasised the importance of viewing things from somebody else’s perspective.

“International education is the best investment any of us have to make the world a less dangerous place,” he said.

“It’s so important to not just think about what you feel and what you’ve been taught and try to put yourself in somebody else’s perspective.”

Invented in a presidential summit in Washington 15 years ago, IEW serves as a rallying point for US universities to focus attention on the country’s internationalisation strategy, the importance of international students to its campuses, and the importance of getting US students to go abroad, he explained.

US secretary of Education Betsy DeVos paid homage to a “dynamic and changing” approach to education.

“International education week is an opportunity to rethink and explore, engage with someone from a different background, taste a new cultural dish, study a different language, take a risk in open doors to a world of possibilities,” she said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hailed American students studying abroad as citizen ambassadors.

“Nothing can replace the people to people connections that happen when our young people study abroad,” he stated, calling for more educational opportunities to Americans of all backgrounds.

“International education should be part of every student’s academic career,” he added.

In the same week that IIE launched its OpenDoors report, Pompeo noted over one million international students were in the country for the third consecutive year.

“We are consistently the number one destination for foreign students and we are pleased that young people from all over the world want to experience for themselves the American way of life,” he said.

Education exchanges are “among the most important tools in our diplomatic arsenal”, Pompeo highlighted, saying they “maintain and preserve” America’s competitive edge and leadership in the world.

American universities, businesses, civic groups and NGOs should promote international education and spread the word about the world-class education on offer in the US, he added.

Events across the country ranged from Bengali food tasting in Arizona, third graders in Brooklyn practice Italian hand gestures, celebrating India in Arkansas.

Meanwhile, a project titled “Passport to the World” saw passport offices throughout the US host events to provide the general public with an opportunity to either learn about passports or apply for passports on the spot. Dozens of passport drives were specifically aimed at helping students on US college and university campuses take their first step towards studying abroad, too.

However, IEW was not confined to the borders of the US. Embassies and consulates from Beirut to Perth to Tashkent to Kinshasa promoted study abroad opportunities and its benefits across social media.

IEW also saw the launch of an “Exchange Your Name” game, which was played by Azeri’s in Georgia, IFSA and students in Kenya.

USA’s neighbours to the north in Canada also joined in in IEW, with a multitude of events including Middle Eastern Cultural Night in Waterloo and a Fashion Talk show in Toronto.

NAFSA also awarded eight US higher education institutions with Senator Paul Simon Campus Internationalisation Presidential Awards to honour their achievements in campus internationalisation.

Kent Fuchs is president of the University of Florida, one of the recipients of the award.

“Universities today must be the champions of internationalisation as essential to our nation’s prosperity and security,” he wrote in his column for The Alligator.

“Education and scholarship are our strengths, and so they must also be our solutions. This includes doing more to promote international education for all US students and to promote universities as oases for students from abroad,” he added.

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