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“America is open for opportunity” – International Education Week

Stakeholders have many reasons to celebrate International Education Week in 2022 – with some saying that cultural exchange is the closest we’ll get to having superpowers.

Stakeholders took to social media to share their personal study abroad stories. Photo: iStock

For every three international students in the US, one job is created and supported

Held between November 14-18, IEW is a joint initiative by the US Department of State and the Department of Education which aims to “promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and to attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences”.

“This IEW, and every day, America is open for opportunity,” said US secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, referring to this year’s theme, ‘Open for Opportunity’.

Cardona said he is “proud” to reaffirm a “shared commitment to ensure students succeed in today’s interconnected world, learning about and appreciating diverse languages, experiences and viewpoints enriches our lives”.

International exchanges also enable students to build global competencies while deepening social, emotional, critical thinking and collaboration skills, he added.

“I often say that being multilingual and multicultural are superpowers. These are assets that make our kids and make our country even stronger,” said Cardona.

“International exchanges are a big part of developing global and cultural competencies for US students who study abroad and for communities here in the US who welcome international students to their schools and their homes.”

Each year, IEW coincides with the annual Open Doors Report, which this year signalled a near-return to pre-pandemic numbers for US study abroad.

Antony J Blinken, US Secretary of State, shared his own experience of studying abroad as a teenager. It helped him to see his own country through others’ eyes – a perspective he carries to this day, he said.

“When international students and scholars come to the US and when Americans study abroad, they bring their talents, perspectives and cultures to their new communities,” he said.

He added that international students can advance research and knowledge, sparking innovation and forging long-lasting bonds which span borders.

Such collective efforts are vital to tackle global challenges, from combating climate change and pandemics, to broadening economic opportunity and championing human rights, said Blinken, in a video shared by the The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Across the pond, the British Council highlighted IEW coinciding with COP27 and took the opportunity to spend the week focusing on and collaborating for a cleaner, greener future – offering educators teaching resources and online events and training.

More stakeholders took to social media to share their personal stories and reflect on the experiences which motivated them to seek a career in international education.

“These were my first major international experiences, and were incredibly formative in my life and really led me directly to my career path in international education and exchange,” said Mark Overmann, executive director, Alliance for International Exchange, on his experience as a fresh graduate, working as an English language teacher in North East China.

“On this IEW, I’m really hoping that our collective work is helping more American students go abroad, more international students and young people come to the US, and that we’re helping those participants come from an increasingly diverse set of backgrounds to provide opportunities for for those who might not otherwise have that opportunity,” said Overmann.

NAFSA released new data highlighting international students contribution to the US economy – a staggering $33.8 billion per year. The data also stated that for every three international students in the US, one job is created and supported.

“These students are a well-spring of fresh ideas”

“These students are a well-spring of fresh ideas and have fuelled American innovation for generations” said Esther Brimmer, executive director and CEO of NAFSA, in a Twitter post.

Cardona was not the only leader to compare our sector’s skills to superpowers this IEW. In a LinkedIn post, Lily Lopez-McGee, executive director, Diversity Abroad, highlighted the timely coincidence of IEW taking place in the week following the release of the new Black Panther movie which has themes of cultural engagement, research exchange and language learning.

“I’m thinking about what it means to see these examples of global learning on the big screen and am hopeful that seeing language study, international research, and international travel in these ways might encourage younger viewers to consider these as real life possibilities,” said Lopez-McGee.

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