In the final installment of our series this week taking a closer look at the positive impact of foreign students on state economies and featuring real-life stories about their presence on campuses and communities around the country, we turn to the northeastern states. There, foreign students spent more than $5.2 billion during the 2008-2009 academic year across the region, according to NAFSA's Economic Impact Statements released Monday. Overall, foreign students and their dependents contributed $17.6 billion to the U.S. economy in the same time period.
See how each state benefited in this chart and keep reading for a first-hand account of how international students have brought a refreshing sense of culture to one campus in New Hampshire.
Measuring the True Impact of International Education on Our Communities – One Hindi Rap Song at a Time
By Renee Capicchioni Vannata
This week, schools around the country are offering events to exhibit how international education advances learning, builds understanding and respect among different peoples, and enhances constructive leadership in the global community. And New Hampshire Governor John Lynch has declared this week to be International Education Week in the Granite State.
On Sunday I attended Diwali at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). UNH has a small international student population compared with most other state universities, so these types of events don't happen often on our rural campus. This year, I saw something I never thought I would witness in a small town near the New Hampshire seacoast. One of our Bulgarian students actually performed the lead in a Hindi rap song, while three other international students and one American student provided the backup vocals. The most remarkable thing is – the Bulgarian student didn't know a word of Hindi, but was able to learn enough to rap in Hindi and the ecstatic crowd requested an encore! Even more remarkable were the Chinese students who performed traditional Indian folk dances. This is the beauty of our international students; they bond as friends, colleagues, cohorts and family while they are away from their homes.
Last spring, I was a participant in an incredible international education community event. The Moharimet Elementary school in Madbury, NH conducted a night of West African Drumming and Dance, where each kindergartner through 4th-grader performed. As part of UNH's Office of International Students and Scholars, we were thrilled to help elevate the exposure of international education outside of the higher education community. We worked together to engage every student, and now these children have a better understanding of a culture they would have previously only known from books.
Providing dollar figures of the economic impact of international education is essential in proving the worth of international education for businesses as well as for academic and government entities. But these numbers aren't the only measure of the true impact of international education on our communities. Each of the international and American students who performed at the West African Drumming and Dance, Diwali celebration, or any other International Education Week event has changed their learning experience and, therefore, has changed international education at UNH. As international educators, we are privileged to be part of that change.
Renee Capicchioni Vannata works in the Office of International Students & Scholars at the University of New Hampshire. These reflections are representative of her personal views only.