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Flooding back: why international students are returning to the US

June 5, 2021BY Admin ( 0 ) Comment

This is a guest article by Adventus VP Global Partnerships, Chris Price.

Chris has over 25 years of experience in the international education sector with Navitas and Westminster University. Member of General Council of the European Association for International Education (EAIE).

After a deeply challenging year, a sense of normality finally seems to be in reach for higher education institutions across the US. 

As vaccinations roll out (many colleges are offering jabs for students on campus), institutions are preparing to open more fully by the fall semester, with face-to-face classes and activities back on the agenda.  

They’ll also be welcoming many of the international students who had to put their study dreams on hold last year due to border and visa office closures.

In fact, US institutions are preparing for a huge intake this fall (perhaps even a double cohort), and throughout 2022. 

The world is beginning to open up, and travelling for a high-quality international education is possible again.

This shows that students around the world are still prioritising their education—perhaps more than ever.

The world is beginning to open up, and travelling for a high-quality international education is possible again.

US remains #1 study destination

I know firsthand how much studying in another country can impact your life. As I often say to my colleagues at Adventus.io, my choice to study in the US was one of the best I’ve ever made.  

As a young man, waving goodbye to my home and family in the UK to start my adventure across the Atlantic was equal parts thrilling and terrifying. But I have no doubt it paid off for me and ended up being one of the best things I ever did.

I landed in the great state of Michigan, which I remember for its bitterly cold winters and hot summers – a bit of a shock for an Englishman. I studied at two, very different institutions: Wayne State University in Detroit and the University of Michigan.

It was a wonderful experience. Alongside intellectual and academic enrichment, I gained lifelong friends (both American and other international students), and racked up close to 8700 miles road-tripping across this awe-inspiring country. 

That was some time ago now (I won’t tell you quite how long…) but even today the US remains the number one study destination for international students. 

I believe this is for several key reasons:

  • US institutions continue to set the gold-standard for higher education globally and attract stand-out educators from around the world. 
  • The country has a strong mix of public and private institutions (and close to a quarter of the world’s universities). The depth and breadth of study opportunity is unsurpassed anywhere else on earth.
  • The US is still the world’s largest economy. Many innovative companies have started there due to the US’s highly entrepreneurial business culture. (Think about it,  you’re probably reading this on a US-designed laptop or software.)
  • It offers a strong, fun, helpful and welcoming student culture where student success is nurtured and celebrated.
  • US institutions offer world-leading advising and counselling services for students once they have arrived. Access to professors is also incredible.
  • There are remarkable financial assistance programs offered to international students. 
  • Invaluable during and post-study working options (CPT, OPT, STEM) are also available.

My choice to study in the US was one of the best I’ve ever made.

Resilience through tough times

Let’s be frank, the last few years have been difficult for many Americans. Along with the previous administration that wasn’t shy about making unfriendly noises about foreigners, there were challenges and tragedy that have come with COVID-19.

You may think international students would reconsider studying in America. But it’s not the case. Through all this, there’s been a remarkable sense of resilience across US higher education institutions. 

They have remained determined to let international students know that they belong. Initiatives like #YouAreWelcomeHere have sent a clear message to current and future students.

Of course, the Biden administration has dramatically shifted the diplomatic tone. But I don’t believe the previous administration – try as they might – managed to change the face or welcoming culture of US universities. 

Moves to cut international student numbers, as well as restrict working rights and access to Optional Practical Training (OPT) were repeatedly blocked by the Supreme Court, demonstrating the strengths of the American system.

Speaking to students and educators, I get the sense that their time in the US hasn’t been impacted by the tone of the previous administration. They’ve still experienced the same warm, friendly American culture that I did during my own time as an international student.

There’s been a remarkable sense of resilience across US higher education institutions.

US poised for international education golden age

Regardless of who is in office, I believe the on-the-ground student experience will remain consistently welcoming in the US. But Biden does represent a hugely positive philosophical shift, for the country and for our industry, which will help solidify student sentiment. 

In fact, I don’t think it’s an overestimation to say that the US could be entering a golden age of international education. 

The US continues to dominate world education rankings. Students know that they’re signing up for world-class education and postgraduate working opportunities. 

Biden does represent a hugely positive philosophical shift, for the country and for our industry.

Personally, my time there set me up for a highly successful career in higher education marketing and academia. As a direct result of my time in the US,  I’ve spent nearly 30 years advising international students, using my own experience to help find the best institution for them. 

I continue this in my current role at Adventus.io, by connecting quality universities and recruiters, and bright and enthusiastic international students. Adventus.io has over 450 US institutions on our online marketplace, ready and willing to welcome students from around the world. 

As life rolls on, students remain prepared to take on one of the biggest, most rewarding challenges of their lives. They’re eager to embrace all the promise that America holds – just as I did all those years ago. 

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