Students go to school to broaden their horizons as well as to improve their prospects in the job market. Studying abroad, or interacting with foreign students, helps achieve both goals.
Fortunately, Northwest Indiana colleges and universities have an influx of foreign students, and Valparaiso University offers opportunities to study Reutlingen, Germany, and Cambridge, England.
The Institute of International Education recently ranked Purdue University fourth in the nation for the number of international students enrolled.
Purdue University Calumet ranked fifth in the state, with 750 international students enrolled. This fall, it has 659 enrolled.
China accounts for 37 percent of Indiana's international students, according to the Institute of International Education's Open Doors 2012 report. Others in the top five are Indian, 14.3 percent; South Korea, 11.3 percent; Saudi Arabia, 5.5 percent; and Taiwan, 3 percent.
Purdue University Calumet has made a concerted effort to recruit students from China, bringing them to Hammond to polish their English skills while working on their studies.
Peter C. Kafatia, a mechanical engineering major from Malawi, Africa, is studying at Purdue University North Central, one of about a dozen international students there.
"We area nation overwhelmed with bachelor's degrees, but many people are jobless," Kafatia said. "The bachelor's degree there has no more value than a high school diploma."
Kafatia hopes to earn not just a bachelor's degree but also a master of science in mechanical engineering.
"I would like to go back to Malawi, but I'd like to be able to make a difference, and I can only do that by pursuing my education," he said.
It's good to bring foreign students to local colleges, exposing them to the American way of life and exposing students here to foreign concepts.
Those who return to their home country after studying in the United States will, we hope, become ambassadors of good will following their good experiences here.
But let's also work on immigration reform and economic development initiatives that would help convince the best and brightest of these students to stay in the United States and, we hope, create jobs through the innovation that this would foster.
The United States was founded as a nation of immigrants and has achieved its success because of the continual influx of new ideas. The exposure to these ideas, whether through studying abroad or by talking with international students here, or by persuading some of the students to pursue careers here after college, will enrich the quality of life here.