US colleges regain luster for foreigners
After a post-9/11 drop-off, the State Department has taken steps to ease foreigners' concerns.
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Bernard Londoni is one foreign student who testifies both to the value of an American education and to the new effort US officials are putting into attracting foreign students. "I was interested before I came here, but it was really the 'USA Education' session I attended at an American embassy that convinced me this was possible," says the native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, now a senior at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.Skip to next paragraph
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What sold Mr. Londoni on US higher education was the information he received that at an American liberal-arts college, he could take classes in a wide variety of subjects while earning a degree.
"That was not possible in my country, and in Europe as well, you must stick to your major area of study. But the US offers foreign students the chance to broaden their mind and broaden their knowledge," says Londoni, who was elected Lynn's student-body president last year. "That was very important to me."
The "Open Doors" report finds that the largest portion of foreign students in the US comes from Asia – with India topping the list (for the seventh year in a row). But the report also chronicles a significant increase in students from the Middle East, a region that experienced a particular drop-off in interest in the US after reports of visa denials and anti-Arab discrimination after 9/11.
As for American students, the IIE reports that 241,791 studied abroad in the 2006-07 academic year, up 8 percent over the previous year – and a 150 percent increase over the 99,000 who ventured overseas a decade ago.
Many of the Americans studying abroad exemplify both the attraction of foreign study and some of the factors that still limit the overall numbers. "I'm from a family from Texas, and I'm the first in my family to study abroad, but I also grew up understanding that there is more to the world than what we may know in a five-mile-wide town," says Johanna McCrehan, a senior in architecture at Clemson University in South Carolina.
Her interest in the world was piqued by growing up in suburban Washington, D.C. That curiosity, coupled with Clemson's emphasis on study abroad, led her to spend a semester last year in Barcelona, Ms. McCrehan says. "It really expanded my understanding of other cultures," she says.
Mr. Goodman of the IIE says it's encouraging that more Americans are choosing to study in "nontraditional" regions like Africa. And Ameri of the State Department notes the interest in new programs that offer minority students foreign-study scholarships and that encourage study of languages crucial to national security.