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Foreign students benefit Utah

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Mike Hutmacher

Historians talk about "primary sources" and "secondary sources." Visiting foreign countries and passing along information once you get home can give your friends a sense of a new place. But getting to know the people from the country itself is true "horse's mouth" information. And Utah, to its credit, is finding many citizens from other nations showing up in its schools.

According to recent reports, enrollment of international students in Utah's institutions of higher education is up 5.5 percent from last year. The state also brings in a whopping $112 million from out-of-state tuition, room and board and, says the Institute of International Education, the state ranks 27th in the country for international recruits.

The benefit is twofold, according to Bill Sederberg, Utah commissioner of higher education. The international students expand the world of homegrown Utah students, showing there are many ways to approach family, careers, religion and life. But more than that, international students take home a better awareness of the state and the people here, making it easier to forge lasting relationships in an ever-shrinking world.

The majority of visiting students are from South Korea, with many also hailing from China, India, Mexico and Japan.

Brigham Young University claims 2,500 of those students, with the University of Utah playing host to 1,693.

But for Utahns — and Americans in general — the best part may be one of perception, the perception of people from abroad regarding the United States. At a time when the United States is floundering economically, is bogged down in wars on two fronts and is often singled out as a major contributor to notions of greed and decadence, just the fact so many bright, young scholars in other lands relish the opportunity to study and live here proves that America still holds an appeal in the world that is unique. The torch of Lady Liberty may flicker in the New York Harbor, but it still beams a guiding light around the world.

Goli Ameri, U.S. assistant secretary of state for education, sums it up this way: "U.S. higher education is unparalleled in its vitality, quality and diversity. As someone who graduated from an American university as an international student, I have experienced America's welcome personally."