This month on college campuses across Colorado and the nation, we welcome students who are beginning — or returning to — a two-year, four-year or even longer educational journey that will shape the rest of their lives. And this week — September 14-23, dubbed Welcoming Week by Welcoming America — Colorado welcomes 12,000 international students to our campuses.
These students come to Colorado to learn and contribute. They come because of the opportunity that Colorado higher education promises, whether they are from Brazil, China or South Africa. And they come because they want to share their unique cultural perspectives and ideas to the benefit of our own students, who more than likely will work in a global environment. They come because of all this; but this year more than ever, they come despite the challenges and obstacles that our government is increasingly putting in their way.
International students come to the U.S. despite rumors that visas are fewer and more difficult to obtain. Students continue to apply for visas, even though scrutiny has increased and they are sometimes labeled as “economic spies.” In some cases, students come knowing that they will not be able to return home on holidays or during the summer, because the possibility of being readmitted can be denied with the stroke of a pen on an executive order.
They come knowing that the opportunity to supplement their education through experiential learning programs is under threat by U.S. policymakers who believe international students are stealing American jobs. And they come knowing that anti-foreigner rhetoric in the U.S. is emanating from the very top of our government and present throughout all of our communities.
But they come. They come with the hope that Colorado will welcome them. And thankfully we do welcome them with open arms. Because the overwhelming majority of international students come for the right reasons and they bring numerous benefits to our students, our campuses and our communities.
As the head of StudyColorado, a state initiative that supports the internationalization efforts of Colorado’s colleges and universities campuses, I have witnessed countless stories about international students who have led groundbreaking research efforts, become heads of campus organizations, tutored and helped their American peers and encouraged them to travel or participate in study abroad. Students who have gone back home to start businesses, lead companies and eventually become partners with Colorado businesses. International students who, because of the positive experience they had in the U.S., are now working at home on our behalf and spreading positive messages about the friend the U.S. could be. International students also benefit our economy — they contributed $430 million to Colorado’s economy last year and supported 6,000 jobs (according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators).
Remaining open and welcoming contributes to our national security, economic wellbeing and academic leadership; it does not threaten it. That’s why StudyColorado works year-round with our colleges and universities to ensure international students are welcome here. During Welcoming Week and beyond, let’s all commit to welcoming students on our campuses.
Inta Morris heads StudyColorado, a state initiative that supports the internationalization efforts of Colorado’s colleges and universities.
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