By Lily Abromeit, The Daily Iowan
Studying abroad, both to the United States and overseas, has increased nationally and locally — which some University of Iowa officials say is due to a more interconnected world.
“The world is getting smaller,” said Georgina Dodge, the UI chief diversity officer and an associate vice president. “It is becoming easier to travel abroad … [and more] information has traveled between countries.”
Influx of international students
According to the UI International Students Fall 2013 Enrollment Statistics, the number of international students attending the university has almost quadrupled from 1,792 in 2000 to the 4,049 students this fall.
Nationally, according to the 2013 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange released by the United State Department of State, the number of international students studying at colleges and universities has increased 7.4 percent in the 2012-13 academic year.
China, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia contributed greatly to the record high of 819,644 students, a number that has been building for the past seven years.
Lee Seedorff, the senior associate director of UI International Students and Scholar Services, said many students, particularly from Saudi Arabia and Iraq, come to the United States to attend intensive English studies to take back to their home countries to rebuild the higher-education system.
“Countries need to work together,” she said, adding it should be for all reasons, from economic to security.
Dodge said countries working together to benefit students plays a role in developing programs at the UI focused on supplying the international demand. Such programs, she said, include the Friends and Neighbors pen-pal program, teaching professors how to pronounce Chinese names, and a Thanksgiving dinner.
“[It creates] opportunities for us all to make connections with people from other countries,” she said. “If employee markets continue to internationalize themselves, it’s going to be great for students to have international connections to global careers.”
Downing Thomas, an associate provost and dean of International Programs, said the UI has worked to increase available connections by drawing more students to the state of Iowa.
“Having a global population in Iowa City … provides us with an ability to give global exposure to students,” he said. “Iowa is deeply imbedded in the global economy, so we’re connected to the rest of the world; it’s important for students to be aware of that and take advantage.”
Ruth Seaborne, a second semester junior from London, said she thinks the mindset about studying abroad has changed.
“The younger generation wants to be more diverse and in touch with the other countries around the world,” she said.
Seedorff said this influx of international students also brought change to the local economy, because most of them pay out-of-state tuition.
According to the Open Doors report, in all 50 states, international student spending contributed to $24 billion for the U.S. economy.
For Iowa, the most recent report shows more than $101 million contributing to the economy during the 2011-12 school year.
Thomas said not only do these students affect the economy of Iowa but the knowledge in the state as well.
“[There’s] also a benefit to the knowledge economy,” he said. “To develop our global ties, which will be a benefit to the state of Iowa and the UI.”
U.S. students studying abroad
Elizabeth Wildenberg De Hernandez, the associate director of UI Study Abroad, said studying abroad is important to teach students “skills related to intercultural communication, flexibility, and living with ambiguity.”
According to the Open Doors report, the number of U.S. students who study abroad has also increased. A record high number of 283,332 students resulted in a 3.4 percent surge.
Additionally, the range of where U.S. students travel has broadened to include nontraditional locations such as Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa, the report said.
Wildenberg De Hernandez said the UI has implemented efforts to support and encourage students who want to study in foreign countries.
“We have a newly revamped website and a new online application procedure to make it easier for students to find information and apply to our programs,” she said. “We also began last January to offer a spring semester study-abroad fair in addition to the fall fair.”
She said studying abroad is beneficial for students at the UI and elsewhere.
“I believe that education at Iowa is enriched when there is a diverse group of students in the classroom including study abroad and international students,” she said.