International students are often associated with the financial benefits they bring when they study in the U.S., but how else do they positively contribute to the country?
According to the latest numbers from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), more than 1.2 million international students study in the U.S. Most of them from China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada.
Needless to say that international students benefit tremendously from studying in America; they get higher education, experience different cultures, make new friends and so on, but have you ever thought about what do these international students bring to America?
“I guess, the new sports field on campus is funded by the tuition mostly from international students.” Li, a Chinese international student joked. Indeed, international students usually pay more tuition fee than American students and they are not only spending money for education, they buy cars, go to restaurants, go shopping, go to movies, and travel around the country. All of these things help the U.S. economy enormously. According to the data from Institute of International Education, international students contribute $30.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy.
Boosting the economy is something tangible international students bring to this country yet, there are also many invisible benefits from international students.
“International students are great living textbooks for American students,” said David Liu, the assistant professor of management at George Fox university. He mentioned international students teach American students how to deal with people from different perspectives and bring them global mindsets, enriching their lives. He also acknowledged that international students contribute to American human capital. Eighty to 90 percent of international students who got doctorate degrees mostly in science, engineering, and mathematics stayed in U.S and help the U.S in different technological fields. “Without international students some American research programs could not even function,” Liu said.
Professor Liu came to U.S. from China as an immigrant and now he is teaching different business courses at George Fox University. By bringing his unique and international perspectives in his classes, he help his students to evolve skills in order to survive in a more globalized society.
Like Professor Liu said, international students are living textbooks. A lot of times when students learn about a different culture there are things they could learn from books or see things through movies. But when they actually meet people from other cultures and share perspectives, what they have already known may or may not be accurate and this will give them a whole different idea of that culture. They learned to not see stereotypes but to see people.
“Once students meet people from other country, they feel a more personal touch to that country ,” said Alex Pia, the Director of International Student and Scholar Services at George Fox University. “And that also offers them to go abroad and meet more people from that country.”
People often find that when they are immersed in a different culture, what is initially strange becomes familiar and what was once familiar begins to seem strange. Experience in other cultures can help open our eyes to the uniqueness of what we take as “just normal” in our own world.
My Japanese friend made a joke that international students actually are preventing “World War 3” and that joke became my initial reason to start this article.
“Unless we know others we can’t understand to what it is to build peace together,” said Rebecca Hernandez, the Director of the Center of Peace and Justice at George Fox University. “To create peace in the world we have to do it together, not separately.”
International students can be both windows and mirrors: windows that offer glimpses into other ways of life, and mirrors that help American students to see themselves more clearly. They can be ambassadors and bridge to help America have more connections with other countries. They can be the message of peace and build peace together with America. They can also be challenges, because sometimes they revels things that American do not really believe. But if everyone is the same, then how bored this world would be, eventually they are contributing the diversity not only the campuses but also the whole country.
Maidina Tuohuti is an international student from China studying journalism at George Fox University, a private Christian university in Oregon. Maidina is a journalism intern with ISV Magazine, writing about her own experiences as a Muslim student in the U.S. as well as writing feature articles on topics important to all international students.
Maidina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org