It's already the top destination for international students!

Despite political obstacles and COVID, the USA is already the top destination for international students. For the fifth straight year, America hosted over one million international students during the 2019/2020 academic year, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the U.S. government. "While pandemics cause tremendous hardship and disruption, there are also strong reasons for optimism," says Allan Goodman, president and chief executive of IIE. "After each, international education exchange rapidly resumes and the number of students involved also grows substantially."

New, international student-friendly policies

President Joe Biden is set to unveil an array of new education policies. He plans to reinstate Title IX policies, which prohibit discrimination in higher education, that were rolled back by the Trump administration, as well as reworking college tuition fees, with the goal of creating more opportunities for students to obtain free or low-cost education. It’s also expected the Biden administration will make it easier for international students to attend college in the USA by repealing many of the restrictive policies currently in place. International student expert Marcelo Barros says, “In general, I think international students felt immense relief regarding the news that Biden won the election.” He also explains that employers, particularly in the tech sector, will mostly welcome new international student policy, since it is likely to become easier to hire talented graduates who have studied abroad in the USA.

Biden has a close connection with education as his wife Jill has worked in higher education for over 30 years. According to NBC News, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden says, "What means the most to me is that it comes from listening to educators and students, not telling them what we think they need. It goes beyond tuition and supports a holistic approach to retention and completion. That's what really makes a difference in my students' lives."

New trends

While COVID didn’t do the higher education industry any favors when it came to staying afloat financially, some universities were already facing financial challenges pre-COVID. However, this can work in the favor of international students, as universities and colleges are now competing hard for international students, particularly undergraduates. This means many international students can take their time to pick and choose amongst universities with the expectation schools will be striving to make the application process smooth and make those who enroll feel welcome when they arrive on campus.

The times they are a-changin'

The fall out from the pandemic is forcing many higher education institutions to get creative about how they continue to do business. With budgets becoming slimmer, schools are going to be thinking of unique or creative ways to get students in the door and continue to provide quality service. Additionally, changing leadership is set to usher in an era of more diversity, which is likely to create more inclusive environments. Finally, institutions now understand the value and importance of online learning, and will continue to work with students to ensure they can receive a quality education, even if that means distance learning for some periods. For students who are international but can’t make it to the US, this is promising. This means they can still benefit from attending an institution based in the US, without having to leave their home soil.

Benefits of studying internationally

Not only is it beneficial for students to study abroad, it’s also good for universities as well to have international students. According to Russell Ford for law firm Ford Murray, universities who welcome international students have a more diverse and dynamic environment. Additionally, students benefit from having international students in their classes, as it helps them learn not only about their peers, but also about the world around them. Students can learn from one another, and cultivate a greater cultural understanding. Additionally, attending a school in the US gives students an opportunity to perfect their English language skills while learning about a new culture, which will give them the advantage when seeking employment after graduation. Anubhav Pramanik, an Information Technology student at the University of Cincinnati, is optimistic about the opportunities afforded by higher education in the US. He says “the U.S. experience will help me achieve my goals as I will be able to pursue a more flexible programme and gain ample practical experience.”

Buzzing cities and amazing scenery

The USA is a vast country, home to many cities which can make the international student experience unforgettable, thanks to thriving culture, cuisine from all over the world, thrilling nightlife, and iconic sights. What's more, the nation plays host to spectacular nature, from the awe-inspiring peaks and waterfalls of Yosemite, the vivid colours of the New Hampshire trees, stunning beaches on both coasts, the hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone national park, the pristine wilderness in Alaska, the tropical paradise of Hawaii, and of the course the Grand Canyon. And that's just to name a few! Many of these sights are accessible even for students without a car, thanks to the Amtrak train service or the extensive Greyhound bus network. Or if you are willing to spend a bit more money, there are tour companies such as Topdeck and Contiki which organize trips for those aged 18 to 30 perfect for students with a few weeks, or even months, time off. On these, students can see incredible sights, do once in a lifetime activities such as going on a helicopter over the Grand Canyon, and have great nights out, as well as make friends with other adventure-loving students and young people.

Networking

Studying in the USA can give students a great opportunity to further build their network. Whether you’re interested in staying in the US after graduation, or moving on, it can only help to meet more people to expand your network. For those that intend to return to their home countries, their experience in the United States can actually make them a more valuable candidate in the global job market, according to Tom Kleber, Director of Enrollment Management at Northeastern University. According to Kleber, “Even if your goal is not to immigrate to the US, having the experience of studying and working in the U.S. could potentially make you a more desirable job candidate when returning to your home country, especially if you’re going to be working for a global company.”

Studying in the US doesn’t mean you’ll just be connecting with students from the United States. In fact, studying in the USA means you’ll also have the chance to connect with students from all corners of the world amongst the one million-plus international students in the States. Last year, there were 372,532 Chinese students enrolled at US universities, 35 percent of the total number of international students, while Indian students made up 18 percent, and the third highest represented nation was South Korea. Meanwhile, the number of students from Bangladesh and Nigeria in the USA rose seven and three percent respectively from the previous year, according to Share America.

International students are part of the vibrant fabric that creates the higher education experience in the United States. Not only do universities benefit from having students from other countries attend their schools, students from the United States benefit from sharing classes, dorms, and creating sometimes lifelong friendships with those from other countries. While there are still some hurdles to overcome in the next few years, the prospects for those wishing to attend school in the USA are good.