Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Powell Outlines Higher Ed Initiatives

Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed efforts to increase the number of international students that are able to study in the United States at a meeting with D.C.-area college newspaper editors Friday.

Powell addressed a range of issues of concern to college students in a 30-minute press conference at the State Department, including the decline in international students studying in America after Sept. 11, 2001.

“We’ve made a major effort on speeding up student visas and, if you’ll look at the data, the time it takes [to get a visa] is going down,” Powell said. “It usually takes a year or so, though, for the reality of it going down to translate into people telling you that it’s going down when they get to your campuses.”

Powell acknowledged that the exchange process would “never be as easy or as fast as it used to be.”

He added that problems arise when international visitors violate the stated purpose of their visa by applying to study in the United States and then using the visa to get a job.

“You can’t just slide into the rest of our economy because you came here to go to school,” he said.

Perceived difficulties surrounding entering the United States to study have resulted in international students choosing instead to study at universities in England, Australia and New Zealand, Powell added.

The secretary also discussed the long-term political consequences of having fewer international students studying in America.

“You’d be astonished how many times I’ve gone to a country and I start reading the bios of the leaders that I’m going to be meeting, and so many of them were either Fulbright scholars or were here in one of our international visitors programs, and it makes such a difference,” he said.

Powell noted that the President of the Republic of Georgia, ikhail Saakashvili, had studied in the United States along with many of his cabinet members.

“And so I go to Tbilisi and we sit across the table, and they’re all shouting, `I went to George Washington,’ `I went to -‘ or `I was in -‘ and they came here and got their education,” he said.

More important than the education foreign students receive in the United States, he said, was the experience that they receive from living in America.

“It doesn’t mean they’re going to go back and be Jeffersonian democrats or design a system just like us, but they leave here with far more than an education,” Powell said. “They leave here with, you know, some sense of values and how democracies can be made to work.”

The secretary also responded to concerns from American students’ about studying abroad in areas that have seen increases in anti-American sentiment, including Europe.

“I would have no reservation in recommending that any of you take a fellowship to go to Germany or France, or just pick a European country, go right ahead,” he said. “Within limits, I mean, check to see if you’re not going to a place where there’s a high crime rate or something like that.”

Powell attributed increased anti-Americanism in Europe and the iddle East over Iraq and the Middle East peace process.

“The part of this that you have to understand, though, is that it is principally attitudes against U.S. policies, not necessarily against the U.S.,” he said.

Lori Citti, associate director of overseas study at Georgetown’s Office of International Programs, said more Georgetown students seem to be interested in studying in the Middle East.

“We have not seen a decline in study abroad and our enrollment numbers are roughly the same as they have been for the past few years,” she said.

According to testimony given by Michael Vande Berg, director of OIP, to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Oct. 6, over 10 percent of the student body and over 500 of the university’s faculty and researchers are from overseas.

He also said that nearly half of Georgetown students study abroad at some time during their undergraduate academic studies.

“When it comes to the international character of the Georgetown educational experience, I think you can see that it is most definitely a two-way street,” he said. “And it is a street that we most definitely want to maintain open in both directions.”

Vande Berg referred to Philippine President Gloria Arroyo acapagal (SFS ’68) and Jordan’s King Abdullah, both who studied on Georgetown’s campus, as examples of how international study abroad can increase understanding of the United States and influence the views of world leaders.

Vande Berg said he hoped the government would review visa policy changes made since Sept. 11 that have made it harder for international students to study in the country, calling on the State Department and Department of Homeland Security to make “adjustments which will ease unnecessary burdens on valuable international educational exchanges without lessening needed homeland security protections.”

Powell’s meeting marked the beginning of International Education Week, which began yesterday and runs through Friday.

– Hoya Staff Writer Vidhya Murugesan contributed to this report

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