About the Author: Ann Stock serves as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.“Diplomacy does not just happen between government officials. It also happens between individuals, through people to people connections and student exchanges. These are some of the most important people to people connections we can have. For hundreds of thousands of students each year, exchanges promote mutual understanding and bring people of different nations together to share ideas and compare values.”
-- Hillary Rodham Clinton
This week, the Department of State celebrated International Education Week by highlighting the people-to-people connections made through educational exchanges.
On Monday, we released, with the Institute of International Education, the Open Doors annual report on international student mobility. This report outlines a couple of key trends. Worldwide, American and international students continue to seek educational exchanges. The report also indicates that the United States remains the preferred destination for international students seeking higher education. In fact, international enrollments in U.S. education institutions are at the highest levels ever.
Close to 700,000 international students attended U.S. colleges and universities, adding nearly $20 billion to the American economy. After their studies here, these students return home to become leaders who understand our society and values. In turn, as Americans study abroad in a growing number of countries, they are better prepared to compete in a global economy.
In addition to the Open Doors report, there have been more than 500 events throughout America and around the globe to celebrate International Education Week. For example:
• In Mobile, Alabama, the Mobile International Festival celebrated the breadth of global heritage and international diversity of the Mobile Alabama Region and U.S. Gulf Coast with exhibits, music and cultural performances, and global cuisine;
• In Lynwood, Washington, Edmonds Community College hosted an event for the community to meet 18 students from Brazil, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan -- studying there under the Department of State's Community College Initiative Program -- who shared stories and games from their cultures and information about their countries;
• In Tripoli, Libya, the first-ever two-day Study in the USA Education Fair held at Al-Fateh University drew more than 7,200 Libyan students together with representatives of 32 American universities, colleges, English language schools and boarding schools, who showcased the best of American education and provided Libyan students and parents the information they need to make educational choices; and
• In Lima, Peru, the U.S. Embassy and local partners began the commemoration of the Education International Week with a national English Spelling Contest that included eight Peruvian students in the Department of State's English Access MicroScholarship Program.
International Education Week highlights the importance of citizen diplomacy and student ambassadors. At the 2010 Citizen Diplomacy Summit on Thursday, I discussed 21st Century Diplomacy, and the importance of our educational exchanges.
The students and citizen diplomats I met this week are models of how 21st Century Diplomacy works to create an open dialogue and mutual understanding. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs will build off the success and excitement of International Education Week and pursue ways to increase these vital people-to-people exchanges. They provide extraordinary opportunities for American and international students to work, study and learn together.
If you have a story or want to share a picture about your International Education Week event or celebration, send me a tweet at @AnnatState.