Nearly 1.1 million international students — a record number — attend American colleges and universities, most drawn by stellar programs in engineering, the sciences, math and computer science as well as business degrees that are a passport to success in the corporate world.
But they come to prepare for careers in a myriad of other professions, too, from the performing arts to legal studies to architecture to fire fighting.
To mark International Education Week, the U.S. Department of State and the Institute of International Education on November 13 released Open Doors 2018, their annual student census.
Americans, too, are keenly interested in international study; a record 332,727 studied abroad.
The international students at U.S. schools hail from 200 countries.
While students fan out to 4,000 U.S. higher education institutions, 10 percent can be found at eight large research campuses where international enrollments top 10,000. New York University (17,552) and the University of Southern California (16,075) draw the most.
American colleges welcome these students for contributions they make in the classroom and research laboratories and also for their tuition dollars.
“The United States is the world’s leader in hosting talented, international students,” says Marie Royce, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs. The U.S. attracts twice as many as its closest rival, the United Kingdom.
International students not only “engage with their American classmates and improve the learning environment on campus,” says Royce, but also “take the American experience home with them, which serves to strengthen civil society and democratic institutions in their own countries.”
The State Department employs 550 counselors in 430 EducationUSA Centers overseas to provide free guidance to prospective students and families.
For undergraduates, American higher education offers two distinct differences from institutions back home. American colleges allow students to select a wider range of courses before settling on a major.
They arrange research opportunities and internships and offer a myriad of extracurricular activities and volunteer opportunities.
Beatriz Gil Gonzalez, 21, of Barcelona, Spain, recently became the first international student elected president of the student body at University of Rochester.
“I’ve always wanted to go into diplomacy,” says Gil, who is double-majoring in political science and economics, with minors in Chinese and international relations.
She came to Rochester excited about getting involved in campus activities. “All (those) experiences are what really made me develop a lot as a person, not just what I studied,” she says.