Countries join together to celebrate benefits of international education

By Christa Romano

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Educational institutions from over 100 different countries joined together this week to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.

The University of Massachusetts hosted various events in recognition of International Education Week, which ran from Sunday, Nov. 15 through Friday, Nov. 20. Events included presentations featuring Cambodian dancing, live speakers from Afghanistan, films from Africa and East Asia, as well as multiple workshops and fairs to aid students in their quest to study or work internationally.

“The whole point of this is to say, ‘There is more on this Earth than you can possibly imagine,’” said Assistant Director for Career Planning Caroline Gould during the International Opportunities and Careers Fair on Wednesday. Gould was also a contributor to the production of the fair.

“Living in another part of the world is horizon expanding. Whether that means being an au pair in Germany or working on a dude ranch in Nebraska, it’s all about tasting life,” Gould said.

According to Gould, the week-long celebration of International Education was not only intended to spark an interest in going abroad for students, but also served as a way to promote the importance of an international education.

In a world that gets smaller every day, Gould said the need to communicate in other languages and with people of other cultures is becoming necessary for students entering into business and service industries in order to reach their maximum potential success. International education is a substantial service industry in and of itself, contributing more than $15.5 billion to the U.S. economy.

“Students seem very interested in learning about international opportunities for after they graduate,” said International Programs Officer Laurel Foster-Moore in regards to the large turn-out the fair received.

Gould added, “I think that the economic situation in America is really pushing a lot more students to find international opportunities.”

Many students have expressed an interest in an international education, Gould said, adding that the opportunity to travel abroad is especially important now regarding the state of the U.S and global economy.

Daniel Stone, a senior at UMass, said that he hopes to spend some time working in a Latin American country to teach English after graduation.

“I’m not sure what I want to do for grad school yet and this economy is not the best to look for a job,” Stone said about his decision to work abroad. “I want to travel before I’m locked down with a real job or with school. I like traveling and I think it would be beneficial to my career to become fluent in Spanish by working in a Spanish-speaking country.”

Stone realized his desire to work internationally after spending the last spring semester studying abroad in Mexico. In addition to this program, UMass offers more than 100 study abroad programs and has also established new partnerships this year with colleges and universities in South Africa, China and India. According to the news release, over 1,300 UMass students attended various colleges and universities around the globe last year.

UMass is not the only university that is dedicated to offering students the opportunity to gain an international education. According to the International Education Week factsheet, about 242,000 U.S. students studied abroad and 624,000 students from other countries studied in the U.S. during the 2006-07 academic year.

The International Education Week is currently in its 10th year of tradition, gaining much support from high-ranking government officials.

In an official statement from Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton, she said, “Together, we must respond to the challenges of poverty and hunger, climate change, public health and economic revitalization. Education is an engine for change in all countries and for all people … whose potential to contribute to global progress and prosperity is enhanced when they participate in educational opportunities. Through international educational exchanges, we can build bridges of respect and understanding that will connect people and enable us to work together, now and in the future for a better world.”

Christa Romano can be reached at [email protected]