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What is NAFSA and Why You Should Care

NAFSA is the largest non-profit organization that advocates for international education in the United States and around the world. Learn more why international students and American students should care about NAFSA.

The International Student Voice Magazine team will be traveling to Denver, Colorado to attend the annual NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference May 29-June 3.

First of all, what is NAFSA? This is kinda a long article, but keep reading. 

To explain, let’s start with your own journey.

As an international student, your journey to come to the United States begins before you even get on the airplane. When you decide you want to study in the U.S., there are administrators working at universities and colleges who serve as liaisons between the institution, U.S. government, and the student. They make sure the student stays in compliance with U.S. immigration regulations and also provide programs, such as an orientation to help the student adjust to a new institution and culture, activities to make the student feel at home, and other support services while studying in the country.

In order for these administrators to stay informed about international student needs and immigration procedures, they receive support from NAFSA.

NAFSA is a professional organization for international educators, meaning people who work in your international office. That includes international student advisors, study abroad advisors, admissions, etc.

NAFSA provides resources for these administrators, one resource being conferences. Several conferences are held throughout the year for administrators to get together to discuss best practices, the evolving needs of students, how to recruit international students to attend their universities, etc.

NAFSA is also supposed to serve as an advocate for international students and American study abroad students. Often NAFSA representatives lobby and push for regulations that can positively influence international education. You can see some of the advocacy projects by clicking here.

What happens at a NAFSA conference?

The largest event each year is the annual national conference. That’s where NAFSA members from all across the country and the world gather for a week to attend sessions, network with colleagues, meet colleagues from different companies and universities from around the world hoping to establish new business relationships, and lots and lots of receptions. RECEPTIONS every single night.

What kind of receptions? Well, here is an example. Companies want to thank universities for using their services. Let’s say a university uses agents from a company to recruit students to attend their university. This means the staff doesn’t travel abroad to talk with students about attending the university, they hire a company who then employs agents to meet with potential students. That company will be at NAFSA and to say thanks, they host a reception with complimentary beverages and food.

There are also keynote speakers throughout the conference. This year the speakers include:

  • David Brooks, New York Times columnist, best-selling author and senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.
  • Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of Equal Justice Initiative, professor of clinical law at New York University.
  • Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, journalist and best-selling author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.
  • Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel peace laureate and children’s rights activist.

Click here to see what else is happening at the conference.

The conference opens up with a concert by Aloe Blacc, an international music superstar. He’s most known for the song “Wake Me Up” (watch video below).

Why should students care?

There are a few reasons why. First and most importantly–MONEY.

Students should care because INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ARE A MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY. In 2014-2015, international students brought $30.5 billion to the United States. Click here to see how international students impact the economy of each U.S. state. 

NAFSA is the organization that advocates to keep international students in the United States because there is a TON of MONEY involved. Of course other benefits of international students include all the new perspectives they bring to U.S. campuses, educating domestic students, and just bringing overall more diversity to the country. BUT let’s be real…there are also billions of dollars at stake.

It’s in the best interest of the U.S. to keep international students in the country and that is why NAFSA is a powerful organization. This is the organization that is supposed to be advocating for YOU. So you should have an idea what NAFSA is and what they do.

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