Melissa Branzburg is an International Trade Specialist at the Export Assistance Center in Boston, Mass.
I had the chance to recruit and bring representatives from 29 higher education institutions to Southeast Asia in October, along with my teammate David Edmiston from Minneapolis. This was the fifth education-focused trade mission led by the U.S. Department of Commerce in the last three years.
Missions like these help support a key U.S. export sector. Education exports in 2012 totaled nearly $23 billion. A recent study shows a record number of students are now studying in the United States, so that number could grow even higher in 2013.
This particular mission was by far one of the best projects of my Commerce career. Our goal was to help U.S. schools recruit students from these countries to study here. The delegation included a wide variety of institutions, from the largest state universities to small liberal arts schools and community colleges. It was definitely a showcase of all that America’s higher education system has to offer!
We surpassed our attendance goals for the mission, more than doubling the number of students coming to meet these school representatives than we had expected. Also, part of the program included sessions with the State Department’s EducationUSA advisors and the foreign ministries of education to help us better understand the students. To give the students a leg up, the consular sections held seminars on the ins and outs of getting that ever-important American visa.
But beyond the programming, it was a chance to help amazing students explore their choices that made the experience truly unforgettable.
Carolyn Lanier at Western Connecticut State University later said to us:
“I just wanted to let you know how great the education trade mission to Manila and KL was! Thank you for organizing such a well thought-out trip. We had an amazing time! We learned so much about not only international education programs, but also about our university and what we need to do to offer competitive programs that will be of interest to students in the Philippines and Malaysia. Your efforts in this endeavor were (and continue to be) greatly appreciated!”
Our embassies and consulates around the world are celebrating International Education Week. Our trade mission was just a small part of all that is going on to support international students finding their way to the United States.
Best of luck to all the students we met with on this mission. I hope to see many of you studying here soon!