Cultural Demands of the Host-Nation: International Student Experience and the Public Diplomacy Consequences

By Triana, Benjamin | Journal of International Students, September/October 2015 | Go to article overview

Cultural Demands of the Host-Nation: International Student Experience and the Public Diplomacy Consequences


Triana, Benjamin, Journal of International Students


Abstract

Traditional approaches for hosting international students tend to focus on classroom achievement rather than on intercultural exchange and cultural immersion. Such approaches lessen the possibility of successful educational experiences which also hinders public diplomacy. Two case studies are presented that reveal how structural changes at a southeastern university could be modified in order to address the international student experience and 2.) How the international student experience of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi illustrates the need for increased emphasis on intercultural exchange due to the likelihood of international students embarking on influential political and private careers.

Keywords: international student education, intercultural dialogue, cultural immersion, public diplomacy, international relations, Mohamed Morsi

After World War II, decisions concerning American international education, both for domestic students studying abroad and international students attending American institutions, possessed this underlying philosophy: International education was "a force for peace and mutual understanding and ultimately as the means through which the United States could build and maintain its influence in the world." Through this influence, "world leaders trained in the United States would be more inclined to understand and sympathize with the United States when conducting their international affairs" (Pandit, 2009, p. 647). This ideology assumed that "peace and understanding" would also support foreign policy and security (de Witt, 2002). By the midtwentieth century, international education had become a public diplomacy approach for managing national reputation and international relations (Wang, 2006).

Based on the growth of international education exchange, nations should be aware of its potential impact on international relations. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), there has been an increase from 3.4 million international students to 3.7 million from 2000 to 2009 (Chau, 2011). In 2010, international students attending colleges and universities in the United States increased three percent, with over thirty percent coming from China. In 2011, international student attendance jumped another 5.7 percent from the 2010 numbers (Fischer, 2010; McMurtie, 2012). With economic growth in developing countries, the international student demographic has become an important population to consider for economic and public diplomacy considerations.

Bellamy and Weinberg (2008) and Fulton (2007) have called for a redefinition of public diplomacy and a reforming of the practice of public diplomacy in order to address changes in the world. Public diplomacy can be defined as the ways in which non-government diplomats influence and improve relations with another nation or culture. In support of these calls, this essay argues for a holistic approach to the international student experience at higher education institutions in the United States. A more holistic approach that includes outside of the classroom intercultural dialogue and cultural immersion has the potential to increase the likelihood of successful international student experiences, and these gains are not only educational gains, but also international relations' gains.

Fulton (2007) suggested that international students that enroll in American universities are the ones in society that "make a difference" and have an "appetite for positive change" (p. 314). In the altruistic role education often plays, an improved education experience has the potential to influence the opinion international students have of the United States, and for those students that return to their home countries, these international students may influence the opinions of home country acquaintances. This reasoning is in alignment with the international relations role that both Senator J. William Fulbright and President Harry S. …

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