I can’t tell you how many world leaders I meet who tell me how fondly they remember studying at an American university – and the connection they’ve felt to the United States ever since. International education creates lifelong friendships between students and strengthens the bonds between nations.
Those connections are especially helpful in diplomacy, which is rooted in relationships between people and seeks to develop them between countries.
When the challenges of today – whether climate change, youth unemployment or global health – transcend borders, international education has become more vital. We need the leaders and innovators of tomorrow learning, communicating, and confronting challenges across borders.
International education prepares our youth for the globalized 21st Century workforce, whatever their field of study. Students with experience overseas gain the skills, self-reliance, and worldview they need to compete in a global economy.
Close to 300,000 Americans study abroad during their college career and nearly one million international students pursue their studies in the United States. The streets of my hometown, Boston, are filled with such collegiate visitors, their native tongues blending with our beloved local accent.
These students, and others like them around the country, contribute more than $22 billion to the U.S. economy each year and create a strong bond with our nation for years to come.
While these numbers are good, I think we can do better, particularly right here at home. As Secretary of State, I call upon all U.S. universities—students, faculty and administrators—to prioritize international education. Let’s work together to make study abroad—be it in person or virtual—a reality for all students, regardless of their socioeconomic background or field of study.
Let’s connect our campuses with universities overseas so that Americans can learn from their peers and globally recognized scholars. Let’s make sure that everything we teach in our classrooms, whether it’s political science or neuroscience, integrates a global perspective.
International students comprise 3.5 percent of all those enrolled in our universities, the same share they represented in 2000. To make sure our universities keep pace with the world’s changes and meet the modern needs of our students, we need to be on top of our game. We need stronger, more successful programs and a greater level of exchange.
From all of the people I have met throughout my career, I can tell you this: no matter where we’re from, we share the same basic aspirations for education and opportunity. We all want to know that a better future is within our reach. International education helps make this future a reality.
So this week, as we celebrate what international education provides students, let’s recommit to even greater exchange in the years to come. Thank you.