International students add cultural and economic strength to K-State
By Rachel Potucek
Maria Beebe's 10-year-old daughter has a lot of friends from all over the world.
"She has had friends from Sri Lanka, Taiwan, India and Korea," Beebe said. "She has learned a lot from them. She can pick out those countries on a map, and if she sees someone of another skin color, it's no big deal to her." Beebe, program coordinator for Kansas State University's International Student Center, said her daughter attends elementary school with children whose parents are international students at K-State.
Since many international students attending K-State are older graduate students, they often have young families who travel with them to the United States.
"When international students bring their children to elementary schools, it offers a whole different perspective," said Donna Davis, director of K-State's International Student Center. "International students help all local students become more aware of the world. As a society, we don't study the world very much. It helps to have a student from Kenya or Japan in your class or in your dormitory.
"International students also offer a goodwill exchange," Davis said. "They can have a good experience in the United States and take those feelings back to their home country."
International student enrollment levels have remained steady at K-State since 2000, said Linda Bottom, assistant director for the center. Enrollment has increased slightly from 1,016 in the fall of 2000 to 1,023 in the spring of 2003.
An Economic Advantage
Although student visas account for 2 percent of the 30 million temporary visas administered each year in the United States and international students comprise less than 7 percent of K-State's student population, international students offer sizeable economic advantages to American communities.
In 2001, international students brought more than $17.6 million to Manhattan, according to the Jones Institute for Educational Excellence at Emporia State University. Of that figure, 80 percent came from overseas sources and the remaining 20 percent came from scholarships and tuition waivers.
Nationwide, 75 percent of international students are self-sponsored or fully funded by overseas sources. Last year, international students and their families contributed more than $11.95 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers.
"Even if you look at it just from an economic perspective, international students bring a tremendous amount of money into our community, state and country," Davis said.
But economic impact is not the only impact international students make on the university. For anyone interested in learning more about the world, the International Student Center hosts a variety of programs designed for students and community members to learn about other languages and cultures.
The Basic Language Program, classes taught by international students, teach the basics of a student's native language. Common languages offered include Czech, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and French. The center also hosts five "Coffee Hour" sessions each semester, where an international student can give a presentation about his or her country.
"Sometimes people do other things at Coffee Hour, like tae kwon do or capoiera," Beebe said.
The Speaker's Bureau, a lecture series funded by the International Student Center, connects volunteer speakers with groups wanting to attend a lecture about foreign cultures and languages. Most lectures are 45 minutes long, said Beebe.
"Student lectures and presentations are often given to elementary students," Beebe said. Anyone wanting to share an international experience is allowed to give a lecture, including returning Peace Corps volunteers, former foreign exchange students and international students and their families.
"We have International Week each April," Beebe said. "This includes a cultural exhibition in the Union. People from different countries bring items from their home countries for display. We have a talent show at the end of the week." The center also hosts an annual fashion show and Food Diversity Day.
To learn more about the International Student Center, visit its Web site at http://www.k-state.edu/isss/
Photos by Rachel Potucek.