For decades, American colleges and universities have been a favorite choice for international students. The Migration Policy Institute notes that even though our global share has decreased, the number of international students has increased. Historically, schools and businesses understand that international students are helpful to the economy. Different perspectives create space for new, innovative ideas, which benefit people everywhere. International students who go on to leadership positions at home also build bridges of goodwill between countries.
Speaking of the current political climate on a public radio program, NAFSA president Esther Brimmer observed that “there is a connection between the United States’ policies on immigration and its face to the world.” Students and their families are worried about their ability to finish an education in the United States. Her last question, however, caught my attention. “Are we seen as welcoming?”
The news coverage about our newly elected President, Donald J. Trump, has created more heat than light, it seems. With lots of mixed signals, this year has been confusing, even for Americans. I hope you will ignore all the noise and remember that we are having an internal dialogue about the best way to balance our safety and welfare with helping others, both American values. International students embody the best of what the United States hopes to bring to its people and give back to the world.
Despite the ongoing national debate, I hope you will indeed find that American people are welcoming to international students. Open Doors calculates that there are over 1 million international students in the United States. Many come to the well-known schools in California or New York. However, Tennessee is growing its international student population. Across the state you will get to know the meaning of “southern hospitality,” especially to strangers. If you are looking for a place to be able to think deeply and find yourself as an individual Tennessee is a beautiful, safe place for you to do so.