About the Author: Courtney Beale serves as a Spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.
In honor of International Education Week (IEW), the U.S. Embassy reached out to young Pakistanis to say: Study in the U.S.A.! International Education Week is a joint initiative by the U.S. Departments of State and Education to attract foreign students to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States. In Pakistan, we already have the world's largest Fulbright and professional exchange programs, and send over 200 Pakistanis every year on study experiences at high schools and universities around the United States. In total, 5,222 Pakistani students attended college in America last year, but if you figure that since 50 percent of Pakistan's population of 170 million is under 25, there's a lot of room for growth. So IEW was the perfect opportunity to get out the word that the United States of America wants more Pakistani students.
In conjunction with the U.S. Educational Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP), we held two mini-college fairs last week. The first was for top high school students who will begin their bachelor's degrees next year. We also held a separate fair for current university students interested in pursuing graduate school opportunities. American diplomats represented more than 20 alma maters, from big schools like Ohio State University to small schools like Clark University, and many different in cities like Los Angeles and in rural areas like Lawrence, Kansas. Consular officers answered questions about the student visa process and the USEFP provided information about financial aid.
U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter's wife, Dr. Marilyn Wyatt, spoke to students about the benefits of studying at American universities. "Pakistani students who study in the U.S. are well suited for the challenges and opportunities of the global marketplace," said Dr. Wyatt. "Studying abroad also fosters friendship and understanding among students of different countries and cultures."
Students also heard from Pakistanis who studied in the United States and have since returned home. It was inspiring to hear their perspectives on U.S. liberal arts education and how they are bringing their skills and experience back to Pakistan. One woman addressed possible concerns by noting how curious Americans were to learn about Pakistan and the tolerance she found at her university. Another described the pride she felt at being a student ambassador of Pakistan to the United States.
During IEW, we celebrate the diversity that foreign students bring to campuses around the United States. Last year, we admitted nearly 700,000 foreign students, exceeding the number that came prior to the September 11 attacks. Over the next year we will be partnering with USEFP to reach out to more students and spread the word that America welcomes international students. Through our efforts, we hope to encourage more young Pakistanis to bring their ideas, knowledge, culture and perspective to enrich our universities and our country, as they enrich themselves and Pakistan in return.