About the Author: Catherine Stearns is a Public Affairs Advisor in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
People around the globe celebrated the tenth annual International Education Week (IEW), November 16-20. This joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education underscores the benefits of international exchanges in fostering mutual understanding. The celebration will be highlighted in the coming weeks as participants log their activities and share their photos on the IEW website.
The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) marked the week with numerous activities in Washington, D.C. and around the United States -- involving exchange participants and alumni, students, community groups, associations, universities, schools and the news media.
The State Department kicked off International Education Week at the National Press Club, with the release of Open Doors 2009, an annual survey of student mobility and international education trends published by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with support from ECA.
“We have been setting records for international educational exchanges,” said Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith A. McHale. “As the title of the report says, we have ’Open Doors’ and we will be working to open them even wider,” she added. Read her entire remarks here.
According to the report, a record number of U.S. students are studying abroad, up by 8.5% to 262,416 in the 2007-08 academic year. The report also indicates that an all-time high number of international students are at colleges and universities in the United States (up 8% to 671,616). Read more at http://opendoors.iienetwork.org.
In conjunction with the Open Doors 2009 report, ECA launched a newly redesigned EducationUSA website, www.educationusa.state.gov, where international students can learn about study opportunities in the United States, select appropriate institutions and navigate the admission process. Among other site features are a “one-stop shop” new media-based student page and a searchable database of EducationUSA advising centers around the world.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton launched ECA’s second annual ExchangesConnect Video Contest, “Change Your Climate, Change Our World,” on November 17, with a video message on ECA’s social network. Running through January 12, 2010, the contest calls on global citizens to engage in cross-cultural community building for positive change. People all over the world, ages 14 and older, are invited to enter their 2-minute videos for a chance to win an all-expense-paid two-week international exchange program.
As a leader in reaching out to people with disabilities, ECA was also pleased to announce the annual A World Awaits You Journal, published by Mobility International USA’s National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE). This special issue features 21 stories about ECA exchange program alumni with disabilities who participated in a range of programs -- from youth exchanges, to Fulbright academic exchanges for college students and faculty, to the International Visitor Leadership Program, to citizen exchanges in sports, culture and the arts. Read the AWAY Journal at http://www.miusa.org/ncde.
In several U.S. cities, participants in ECA’s International Visitor Leadership Program celebrated International Education Week. For example, four professionals from Western Hemisphere countries focused on public health. They visited East High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, to observe physical education classes and ways that U.S. schools encourage healthy lifestyles among teens. Those exchange visitors took that opportunity to make brief presentations to students and teachers about their own cultures and their impressions of the United States.
Across the United States, thousands of ECA-sponsored international high school students -- participating in the Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES) program, Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX), American Serbia and Montenegro Youth Leadership Exchange (A-SMYLE), and Congress – Bundestag Youth Exchange Program (CBYX) – delivered presentations to school and university classrooms, civic, professional and religious groups. In Anchorage, FLEX and YES program participants visited the University of Alaska to talk about their home countries to professors, staff and students. The exchange students also shared their experiences living with U.S. host families and attending high school in Anchorage.
International Education Week is the perfect moment to celebrate international exchange. Yet the effort to increase mutual understanding takes place every day of the year, across the United States and around the world, one participant at a time.