Editorial: International students integral to diversifying college communities

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

In a survey released Tuesday, The Institute of International Education announced that in the 2012-2013 school year, the United States housed 819,644 international students. That’s a 7 percent increase from the previous school year, with a total of just more than 21 million students overall.

Currently, Pennsylvania ranks sixth among U.S. states with 37,245 international students, also an increase from the previous academic year. At the University of Pittsburgh, we rank fifth among schools within Pennsylvania with 2,961 international students at our Oakland campus.

This increase is good news for many reasons: International students not only contribute to the economic prosperity of institutions and the surrounding community, but also engage college communities to foster a more diverse setting in which students, both native and abroad, can engage in an interdisciplinary, intercultural environment.

According to the Department of Commerce, international students contributed about $24 billion to the U.S. economy from 2012-2013. In Pennsylvania, international students contributed about $1.2 billion, along with supporting 18,963 jobs last year, ranking the demographic fourth in the nation, according to the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors.

The association’s analysis shows that international students supported approximately 313,000 jobs nationally, which is an incredibly significant impact on both the Pennsylvanian and the U.S. economies.

From a cultural perspective, the thousands of students who enroll at Pitt from countries abroad bring along with them more than just their intellectual curiosity. Although a majority of international students here at Pitt hail from South Korea, China or India, the demographic encompasses a wide array of nationalities that cannot be overlooked.

As these students bring a multitude of cultural perspectives with them to Pitt, our University seems to encompass a rich network of customs and traditions that can only add to the cultural diversity to which U.S.-native students should be receptive.

This week, Pitt’s University Center for International Studies hosts its annual International Week, which “aims to expand the awareness of and interest in global learning opportunities by celebrating the intercultural diversity on campus,” according to its Facebook profile. The week is dedicated to discussing issues such as global health, economy and security.

As Pitt’s International Week carries on, we encourage everyone to immerse themselves in the diverse event offerings and attempt to participate in the rich and intercultural environment that provides experiences that facilitate a broader, more adept sense of the world.